Reason #77 of '101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton'

Art Gallery of Alberta

By Emil Tiedemann

Shortly before the brand new Art Gallery of Alberta opened to the public on January 31, 2010, myself and a group of fellow bloggers were treated to a private tour of the unconventional structure designed by late architect Randall Stout

We climbed the incurved stairway - aligned with a blue flare and winding steel walls - to the second floor, where we had a better look at the ceiling that fraternized with a surging landscape of precisely-squared windows. On the outside of the glass, snow had collected, an intentional portrait that, like other aspects of the design, can alter how we see the gallery at various states of the day and of the seasons. 

We made our way to the third floor and outside terrace before the group convened in the gallery’s basement, though you couldn’t tell that it was a basement by its sleek walls made up of domestic Douglas-fir, floors of maple wood, and classrooms set up to teach aspiring artists the tricks of the trade. The basement’s highlight is the 150-seat Ledcor Theatre, used for presentations and movie screenings. 

It was an eye-opening afternoon, perhaps the first sign of significant change in Edmonton’s downtown core; and it served as not only a symbol of our city’s growth and refinement, but also as a signature structure that - perhaps with just one glance - will instinctively correlate it with our prideful city. 

New York has the Empire State Building, San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge, Toronto has the CN Tower, and now Edmonton, finally growing into its own potential, has the AGA, a beacon of culture here in Alberta and from around the world. But, in its early days, the gallery was the subject of much controversy over its unsystematic design and construction (& $88 million price tag), as some locals thought it was too different from anything else around here, and others simply thought it was an eyesore. 

By now, I think everyone’s had enough time to realize what this gallery means to Edmonton, to our downtown, and even to Alberta, and have either reconsidered their opinion or just gotten used to it. #youraga


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