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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


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SAAG endows the old
with new possibilities

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Gallery Views

The Southern Alberta Art Gallery

The Southern Alberta Art Gallery’s redesigned entryway links the original 1922 structure with a 1951 extension

SAAG endows the old with new possibilities

By ANN ROSENBERG

Renovated SAAG

Renovated SAAG exterior with John McKewan’s One and One bronze prancing horses

SAAG endows the old with new possibilities I am not an art historian who thinks that every building from the past should be physically saved, but I think that a few should be preserved because they are aesthetically pleasing examples of a particular style. A case in point is the formal, textbook-perfect, brick Neo-Georgian façade of the Lethbridge Carnegie Library from 1922, that was retained as the focal point in the extended front of the recently completed renovation of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG) in Lethbridge. A typical checklist of Neo-Georgian characteristics are symmetry of all parts, Palladian window motifs, fan lights over doors (as in London's No. 10 Downing Street), quoins on vertical side edges of the structure, a grand stairway to the second floor – you will find them in the old Carnegie exterior.

Nancy Tousley's article, "SAAG Reopening: Prairie Promise" (first published on September 23, 2010 in the online edition of Canadian Art) includes many historical facts about the Lethbridge gallery. The reader learns that it opened in 1976 under director Allan MacKay in the two conjoined buildings which had previously served as the Carnegie Public Library. In 1951 the original two- storey library was linked by a low-rise glass entry to a one-storey brick extension designed by the city's then-leading modernist architect, George Watson. In 1974, the Southern Alberta Art Gallery Association was formed and lobbied the city for the right to inhabit and fundraise for the establishment of an art gallery in the by-then-vacant two-part public library building.

Before the September 17, 2010 grand opening of the revitalized SAAG and the 200-square metre addition that replaced Watson’s structure, Tousley indicates that the Lethbridge-based architects John Savill and Dan Westwood, “tore out the original narrow join between the 1951 and 1922 structures; took interiors down to the studs; updated electricals and mechanicals; reorganized interior spaces (except for the two exhibition galleries); developed a much-expanded new join space; and redesigned the façade of the 1951 extension”. More details about this intricate project are included in Tousley's article.

According to SAAG’s Public Relations Manager Christina Cuthbertson, from the moment it became an art gallery there has been great community support, and the venue’s programs have earned high esteem throughout Canada. Cuthbertson enjoys passing the original Carnegie façade on her way to the main entrance, with John McKewan’s 16 tiny bronze horses One and One frolicking inside the low metal fences as though grazing there. She has words of praise for the way Savill and Westwood transformed an almost ninety-year-old second storey into a beautifully lit show space for contemporary art.

The approach of John Savill and Dan Westwood can be summarized in the words used to promote a lecture they gave at the Lethbridge University’s School of Architecture on September 20, 2010: “This collaboration between Savill Group Architecture Ltd. and Ferrari Westwood Babits Architects preserves the 1920s and 1950s structures and replaces the juncture between them with an open contemporary space…The care and connection with the client and their purpose is evident throughout the design of this project”

Ann Rosenberg is a freelance curator, critic

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