Thursday, May 26, 2011

Before the shovel hits the ground

The new art gallery started out at $58 million, soon after increased to $66 million and, as of yesterday, stands at $84 million - and the shovel has yet to hit the ground. This project may go down as the biggest white elephant that the Mayor and Council have created to date.

" We won't be increasing taxes to look after the Art Gallery of Saskatchewan. That I know for sure." says Mayor Atch. Okay, where is the money going to come from? And wasn't the public told that River Landing would not affect the tax base because new tax revenue would off set the maintenance? Yet, we the taxpayers, are contributing over $1 million annually for the maintenance of RL because there is no new tax base. Everything is either primarily publicly funded or has been given tax concessions for years to come. And we are already paying tax assessment toward this gallery project.

I heard street talk that a major donor is in the wings and thought that was great, that it would reduce the taxpayers' portion of the project. I truly hadn't dawned on me that it would mean the city would increase the spending as a result of the donation. I know, I know . . my brain wasn't charged at the time.

The math threw me at first. $17 million from the province, 13 million from the feds, $20 million from donors and $21 million from tax base = $71 million. Short a mere $13 million. Then I realized the city is not counting the parkade costs as it hopes to recover that cost through parking fees in the years to come. But in the interim who pays the freight until the capital with interest, operating and maintenance costs are recovered ?

What perplexes me most is the number of councillors who a few years back opposed the Mendel's request for $12-14 million for an expansion and renovation to the existing gallery. One of the greatest concerns voiced at that time was the operating costs of a larger gallery. It would appear that is no longer a concern. I'm guessing they will be introducing an admission fee to off set some of the increased costs. Let the howling begin.

I'm not crazy about the design, but I realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and others will love it. And I understand why they windowed the front to create the river view. But when you're building a space for the specific purpose of displaying art, why waste wall space for hanging that art. I seems from the report (SP May 26/11) that the main floor will hold a small Mendel room and the rest will be foyer space. You can't hang art in spaces that will be affected by sunlight. Weird.

My greatest loss in this project is the conservatory. I loved that spot. For me, nothing offered in the new gallery can compensate for the loss of the conservatory.

Its always sad to have a civic project like this create the feeling of 'winners' and 'losers' yet I get the sense that is what this project represents to many in this city, particularly those who do support the arts. I'm on the losing side of this one so I will do my best to enjoy the Mendel while I can.


  1. The problem with AGS (Atch's Gigantic Scam) is that Atch cooked this whole scheme up in his head with a few pals --- let's face it, he's not nearly intelligent enough to think of a scam of this proportion on his own --- and then shoved it down the public's throat.

    What we have is (now) an $84 million art gallery nobody asked for alongside an Atch-created community rift.

    What a joke.

  2. This Art Gallery is an absolute joke. Why are we spending $84 million (and I suspect we will now be lucky if this thing comes in at anywhere close to $84 mil) when we have a slew of other projects that are NEEDED. We are replacing the current riverbank art gallery with another one, leaving the previous one now empty with no tenant as of yet (unless we jam another public organization in there further diluting the tax base).

    Atch has been doing nothing but spending money we don't have and creating a truck load of debt for the younger generation to pick up. What happens if in 10 years we NEED another major project for the city but are so maxed out and spreading debt over double the usual term that we can't afford it.

    This has me beyond angry right now. This is going to be a $100 million before it even gets started.

  3. Several public responses to the proposed design for the new art gallery are posted on the Mendel Art Gallery’s website, and most of them are not in favour of it.
    “Scandalous. Renovate the Mendel and use the remaining tens of millions of dollars towards expanding the downtown library.”
    “Awful wasteful plan. Agree with previous poster, renovate Mendel, gets the cops to scale back their palace, and expand the downtown library. Everyone benefits.”
    “What an ugly building. I get that you want to be modern, but you are putting a heavy, block jail-like building on our riverbank. Clearly no one thought to look at the landscaping that is already taking place at River Landing. Everything is curved and you are planning to put this huge block structure in the middle of it. Completely uninspired in my opinion.”
    “The Atchison administration is out of control and this is the crown jewel. This will top $100 million and will be a drain on coffers ad infinitum. The Victoria bridge and lights (putting a $100 saddle on a $10 horse), the south bridge (congestion in north end and connection to the Yellowhead is a bigger issue), the police station (satellite stations are needed not a masoleum) and finally this. This is the tip of the iceberg. This guy makes Jean Drapeau look like a spendthrift. I am certain that the electorate did not envision this. It is time all the silent majority to stand up and say enough is enough.”
    “I’m honestly feeling rather cold when I look at this building. I couldn’t find any views looking east and south onto the building – and those are the views I’ll be presented with. It’s not welcoming. Although having a green roof (whatever that means) would be lovely, will it offset the amount of energy needed to maintain a constant temperature (be it heat or a/c) so it won’t damage the exhibitions? And, do we need more concert space? I’m not sure. I appreciate the desire to try something different, but to me, that building doesn’t feel like Saskatoon.”
    “You would never guess from the renderings that an elevated freeway bridge is to the west of this. I guess we can just pretend this doesn’t exist. The pavillion building has been overlooked as well, wouldn’t want the curves to distract from all the austere lines. Renovating and expanding the Mendel was a much better idea.”
    “On the chosen site I think it may come off as a bit of a behemoth, especially as there is a large hotel going to be nearby as well……..the plans for both of which, in my opinion, are not easy on the eye for the developments that are already in place there. I like the plans for renovating the existing Mendel site better than to see this beast at the base of the Victoria Bridge.”

  4. A local radio poll shows what people think about the issue. It asks, “Mendel Art Gallery moving to River Landing. Hot or not?” The poll shows 10% say “Hot -- a big Art Gallery of Saskatchewan in River Landing would be an awesome addition,” while a walloping 90% say “Not -- The Mendel is perfect where it is.” See:


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