Comment 56696

By Robert Emerson (anonymous) | Posted January 17, 2011 at 14:50:54

A Smith: "What if I start an art exhibition store that makes $10,000 a year in profits after tax. Shouldn't I get tax money to expand my store? Why should the AGH, which is selling the art lifestyle, get subsidies, while I do not?"

The hypothetical store sounds like a private entity, one which by virtue of its description is "selling the art lifestyle" more than the AGH, which is a high-profile public, not-for-profit organization. Because of its history and profile inside and outside the city, it has the kind of political heft that influences decision-makers. My guess is that an "art exhibition store" would have a hard time even getting on the radar in the same way – maybe name-checked for creative class cred, but ultimately an entrepreneurial venture in a sector whose workers tend to labour below the poverty line.

Currently the third largest public gallery in the province, the AGH is apparently the most highly trafficked cultural destination in the city and has expanded its reputation since it was established 97 years ago (though, like the Cats, its modern chronology really starts in the early 1950s).

When the time came for its 2003-2005 renovation, it was a humid, leaky 26-year-old concrete bunker home to a $60 million permanent collection (including several significant works of Canadian art). That $22 million facelift was paid for federal and provincial grants as well as regular and proficient fundraising in the community, with the city kicking in $2.5 million from the Future Fund... a little over a tenth of the price tag, certainly less than the ratio we're seeing in the Pan Am builds.

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