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CURRENT COLUMN

Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers
September 2013
Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers

Audain Art Museum
June 2013
Siting an Art Museum in a Forest

Gordon Smith Gallery
November 2012
Boosting the Profile of Artists for Kids

Equinox
September 2012
From glacial meltwater to contemporary art

Morris & Helen Belkin Gallery
June 2012
Professional curators of contemporary art were once as scarce as hen's teeth

Equinox Gallery
April 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Equinox Gallery
February 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Jacana Gallery
November 2011
Nothing is certain but death and taxes

Satellite Gallery
September 2011
Hope springs eternal


June 2011
The Hotel Waldorf
reimagined


April 2011
Education for the eye,
soul and mind


February 2011
Fine art inkjet prints
are here to stay


November 2010
SAAG endows the old
with new possibilities

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Gallery Views

Esker Foundation Art Gallery

Esker Foundation Art Gallery in the Atlantic Avenue Art Block, Calgary Image courtesy: Kasian Architecture © 2012

The Esker Foundation:
From Glacial Meltwater to Contemporary Art

By ROBIN LAURENCE

The Esker Foundation, an imaginatively conceived and executed new gallery, opened in Calgary in June of this year to great public and media fanfare – and considerable critical acclaim. The city’s largest privately funded, non-commercial art institution of its kind, it is dedicated to producing “innovative and exceptional temporary art exhibitions and educational events,” and is the gift of local philanthropists, Jim and Susan Hill.

The Esker Foundation is located in the dazzling new Atlantic Avenue Art Block, a mixed-use building located in Inglewood, Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood. Some fifteen minutes from downtown, Inglewood includes an area slated for redevelopment as a new cultural hub for the city.

Occupying the building’s top floor and distinguished by its dramatically curving roofline and a sweeping wall of windows, the gallery boasts 15,000 square feet of environmentally responsible, purpose-built exhibition space. Designed by Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning, it includes “the Nest,” a unique meeting and research space within a spherical network of steel bands. The building’s atrium is also part of the Esker’s public presentation and is dominated by a collaborative steel sculpture by Calgary artists Chris Cran and Gord Ferguson, built into a four-storey glass staircase.

Speaking in a video on the Esker Foundation’s website, president and founder Jim Hill describes being motivated to create an exhibition venue for art by his sense that what was previously available in Calgary was not sufficient. He wanted to see “more space, more art, more frequency,” he says, then adds that he posed the question, “Why not try to make it happen myself?”

Hill’s vision included siting the gallery in a new commercial building of his own construction, so that the rents from the other tenants would fund the Esker Foundation’s programs: “The gallery enhances the experience of the tenants, the tenants… help support the gallery, it’s a very symbiotic relationship.”

Although the Hills are well-known art patrons and collectors, with a special focus on colour field paintings, the Esker Foundation is about exhibition and education, not collection. This fact distinguishes it from other private museums and foundations based on personal art collections, such as the Rennie Collection in Vancouver and the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation in Toronto. Hill explains that the gallery is unique in “not being burdened by a collection and not being burdened by fundraising obligations.”

The foundation’s unusual name comes from a geological formation. An esker is a long, winding ridge composed of sand and gravel deposited during the last ice age by meltwater running through or under a glacier. Hill explains this unusual formation as a metaphor for his vision of the gallery and its programs. “Eskers quite often are pathways in the North,” he says, “They facilitate travel,” Then he adds, “They may take you on a circuitous route, but they still get you to your destination.”

New Alberta Contemporaries

New Alberta Contemporaries, installation view, Esker Foundation Art Gallery in the Atlantic Avenue Art Block, Calgary Photo: Christian Grandjean, courtesy Esker Foundation

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