Everyday Tourist, challenges Calgary's major tourist attractions to have one free admission day per month.
Posted: February 11, 2016, by Richard White, Everyday Tourist blogger
For several years, I have been advocating the Glenbow should have at least one “free admission” day a month (as do most major museums and art galleries). Kudos to Servus Credit Union for stepping up to sponsor a free “First Thursday Night” program for 2016.
Yes, the Glenbow is now free from 5 to 9 pm the first Thursday of every month. From a marketing and branding perspective, this could be a stroke of genius for both Servus and the Glenbow.
Though I missed January’s event, I attended February’s and couldn’t believe my eyes. The Glenbow was packed (people were lined up out the door) with Calgarians of all ages and all walks of life. It was great. The place was abuzz with a festival atmosphere, very different from the typical, rather subdued vibe at major exhibition openings.
Over 3,500 people visited during that four-hour period (while 3,000 took in January’s First Thursday event). And they weren’t just all there to see Paul Hardy’s blockbuster exhibition “Kaleidoscopic Animalia.” People flocked to exhibitions on all floors.
I am also betting these new Glenbow groupies will bring visiting family and friends to the Glenbow in the future, which they didn't do before.
Visiting "Family and Friends" represent 80% of Calgary's annual tourist market.
A Second Stroke of Genius
Whoever came up with the idea of having Calgary fashion designer Paul Hardy be the Glenbow’s artist-in-residence and curate an exhibition using the Glenbow collection should get a big fat bonus check.
As a former art curator, I think this was a stroke of genius. The exhibition is both visually and intellectually stunning. (And having Hardy give a spirited tour himself on First Thursday was icing on the cake.)
It makes connections with everything from Warhol’s Soup Can to the Hudson Bay Company blanket; from nursery rhymes to beastly fetishes. There is surrealism to the exhibition that captured and held everyone’s imagination.
Hardy's microscopic examination of the Glenbow's collection has indeed resulted in a wonder kaleidoscope of past and present images and relationships.
Department Stores Windows & Modern Art
Divided into a series of what looks like early 20th century department store windows (appropriate, given Hardy is a fashion designer), it resonated with me. I have been advocating for years that Calgary’s downtown stores should make better use of their storefront windows as a marketing tool.
Look no further than the television series Mr. Selfridge, based on the life of Harry Selfridge, who in 1909 founded the London luxury department store Selfridges that still exists today. The importance placed on the window displays plays prominently in almost every episode. I believe early 20th Century department store windows were the precursor to contemporary installation art.
You gotta love it when there is a synergy in one’s everyday experiences – like when television watching, museum/gallery visits and my interest in contemporary art and artifacts all connect. Bam!
New Kind of Museum
Back in June 2014, I wrote about Glenbow President/CEO Donna Livingstone’s plans to re-imagine the Glenbow with more flexible programming and a greater diversity of perspectives. By God, I think she has done it!
I also enjoyed the “Recent Acquisitions” exhibition, hung quasi-salon style - not quite floor to ceiling, but with several groupings. There was so much to see. Gone was the “one artwork per wall” approach where there is more blank space than art. And there were some fun surprises - like an early Ron Moppett painting that looked remarkably like a Maxwell Bates. I love it when I make new discoveries.
A Sense of Place
The “Historical Art from the Glenbow Collection” exhibition was also a treat, reminding me of Calgary’s historic sense of place – something only art can do (for me, anyway). The same can be said for “Niitsitapiisinni: Our Way of Life, The Blackfoot Gallery.” Both exhibitions were very relevant and timely given the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report.
And for me personally, having recently worked with two guest bloggers on how Calgary might better celebrate its history through better street and place names using First Nations’ language, these exhibitions struck a chord.
You gotta go!
If you haven’t been to the Glenbow recently, you simply gotta go. There is no excuse. Mark the next Servus Credit Union’s Free Thursday Night (March 3) on your calendar.
You will not only get to enjoy Hardy’s exhibition, but the new “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven” (opening February 20) that promises to be very enlightening.
Livingstone is ecstatic by the response to the Free Thursday night program, saying that many people were returning again to see the exhibitions when it wasn’t so busy.
I put out a challenge to TELUS Spark, Fort Calgary, Heritage Park and the Calgary Tower – how about designating a free day once a month. If not free, how about Toonie Thursdays or Tuesdays.
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