Importance of Cultural Philanthropists

I was intrigued to learn while recently shopping at a Bashas’ grocery store in Mesa, Arizona, that this family-owned grocer not only has its own public art gallery, but houses the largest collection of Western American & American Indian Art in the USA.

Eddie Basha Jr. began collecting art as a hobby in the ‘70s under the guidance of his Aunt Zelma.  The hobby quickly grew into a passion that combined his keen interest in the history of the American West, his admiration of the American Indian and appreciation of art.  The official name of the gallery is the - Zelma Basha Salmeri Gallery - in honour of his aunt.

Visiting this gallery reminded me of the important role philanthropists play in shaping the culture of cities.

Alberta's first library, Calgary's Memorial Park Library built in 1912 was funded in part by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  More info at: Memorial Park History

Alberta's first library, Calgary's Memorial Park Library built in 1912 was funded in part by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  More info at: Memorial Park History

The Importance of Philanthropists

The Andrew Carnegie philanthropic legacy is legendary – he helped fund 2,509 libraries around the world from 1883 to 1929, including Calgary’s Memorial Park Library.

In Seattle, Paul Allen funded the entire cost of the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly Experience Music Project) and its Frank Gehry signature building in 2006.

In Mexico City, Carlos Slim did the same - building the striking Museo Soumaya in 2011 to house his 70,000 works of art including hundreds of modern masters. These two iconic museums have been the catalysts for creating urban vitality in their immediate neighbourhoods. The free admission helps the Museo Soumaya attract over 1 million visitors a year.

Then there’s Robert J. Ulrich, former CE0 & Chairman of Target. He funded the creation and operations of the world-class Musical Instruments Museum in Scottsdale and the acquisition of 15,000 instruments from 200 countries. Using the Target design and construction team, it took just five years from conception to completion.

Museo Soumaya is an outstanding building inside and out. Link: Museums of Mexico City

Museo Soumaya is an outstanding building inside and out. Link: Museums of Mexico City

The facade of Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture is an ever changing work of abstract art. 

The facade of Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture is an ever changing work of abstract art. 

Calgary’s Cultural Philanthropists

Perhaps Calgary’s greatest cultural philanthropist is Eric Harvie who helped establish the Glenbow Museum when his Glenbow Foundation donated 200,000 artifacts and $6 million (the equivalent of $45 million today and matched by the Province) to create the museum, which opened in 1966.

Calgary's Jack Singer Concert Hall is part of Arts Commons complex, which is one of the largest performing arts complexes in North America with four theatres and one concert hall. 

Calgary's Jack Singer Concert Hall is part of Arts Commons complex, which is one of the largest performing arts complexes in North America with four theatres and one concert hall. 

In the ‘80s, Max Bell and Martha Cohen each donated $1 million towards the construction of the Calgary Performing Arts Centre (now Arts Commons) for naming rights to the two theatres, while Jack Singer donated $1.5 million to get the concert hall naming rights. 

In 2006, the Taylor Family became Calgary’s biggest cultural philanthropists with a $25 million donation to the University of Calgary to build the Taylor Family Digital Library and Quadrangle (total cost $206 million). This was followed, in 2010, by a $21 million donation to Mount Royal University to build the Taylor Family Performing Arts Centre and Bella Concert Hall at a cost of $90 million.

There are also a number of Calgary philanthropists – past and present - who donate to cultural endeavours without attaching their name to a building.

Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University is one of Calgary's newest cultural gems. Link: TCPA Profile

Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts at Mount Royal University is one of Calgary's newest cultural gems. Link: TCPA Profile

For example, Ron Mannix’s support of the arts began in 1987 with the $750,000 purchase of the Carthy Organ for the Jack Singer Concert Hall. 

That was the genesis for his support of the International Organ Festival and Competition from 1990 to 2002, as well as building a collection of over 1,000 keyboard instruments. In 2003, he funded the creation of the Cantos Music Foundation in the historic Customs House building to house his growing collection and offer music programs. Cantos was the catalyst for the development of the National Music Centre, which houses his now 2,000+ rare instruments and artifact collection.

One of the most unique and ambitious examples of cultural philanthropy in Calgary is that of Jim and Sue Hill who not only built Inglewood’s Atlantic Avenue Art Block with a 15,000 square foot public art gallery on the top floor, but also fund operating costs and the curation, shipping and installation of three impressive contemporary exhibitions each year.  FYI: Admission is free!

Esker Foundation Art Gallery is located on the top floor of the Atlantic Avenue Arts Block in Calgary's historic Inglewood community. Link: Esker Foundation Art Gallery 

Esker Foundation Art Gallery is located on the top floor of the Atlantic Avenue Arts Block in Calgary's historic Inglewood community. Link: Esker Foundation Art Gallery 

WANTED: More Cultural Philanthropists

The Basha Gallery got me thinking there should be a similar museum at Stampede Park, a “must-see” museum showcasing the Stampede’s 100+ year connection to western art, cowboy art, indigenous people and rodeo culture. An IMAX theatre attached would allow visitors to enjoy the “spills and thrills” of the Stampede experience (rodeo, chuckwagon races, midway, grandstand show) year-round.  You would think in Calgary there would be a few philanthropists who would be all over this idea. 

In reality, there aren’t many cultural philanthropists in our city. Both the Glenbow and Arts Commons have struggled for 15 years to find the funds needed to update spaces to meet 21st century expectations. One cultural champion told me there are probably only a dozen individuals in Calgary who are million dollar plus cultural philanthropists.

The philanthropy world has changed significantly since Eric Harvie’s day. Cultural groups now have to compete with schools, hospitals and illness groups (which used to be fully funded by governments) as well as newer groups (e.g. environmental) that didn’t exist in the 60s.

Free First Thursdays at the Glenbow have become very popular. 

Free First Thursdays at the Glenbow have become very popular. 

Last Word

Great cities have several thriving museums, galleries, libraries, concert halls and theatres, each helping to manifest a sense of the city’s unique past and present.

Great cultural places are critical not only to creating an attractive City Centre for Calgarians to work, live and visit, but are also key to a successful economic development and tourism marketing and branding initiatives.  

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

Postcards From Musical Instruments Museum

Glenbow: Strokes of Genius

Rise of Public Art, Fall of Public Art Galleries

Calgary's 2018 Festival Fun For Everyone!

Cities are often defined by their signature festivals - Edinburgh and Edmonton by their Fringe Festivals, Montreal by its Jazz and Comedy Festivals, New Orleans by Mardi Gras, Quebec City by Winter Carnival and Rio de Janerio by Carnival.

Similarly, Calgary is known internationally as the Stampede City, the result of the 100+ year old Calgary Stampede. However, over the past few decades Calgary has become more than just the Stampede. Spruce Meadows has made Calgary the show jumping capital of North America. Beakerhead celebrates Calgary’s emergence as an international engineering and science hub. And SLED Island reflects Calgary’s evolution as a budding new music city.

For anyone considering a visit Calgary in 2018, here is the line-up the City’s major festivals - something for almost everyone!

High Performance Rodeo, Jan 3 to 28

In 1987, Calgary’s One Yellow Rabbit collective of artists produced the “Secret Elevator Experimental Performance Festival,” renamed the following year as the “High Performance Rodeo.” Over the past 30+ years it has evolved into one of North America’s best contemporary art festivals, featuring local and international theatre, music, dance and visual arts, a true multidisciplinary celebration of the arts.  This year it offers up 23 sizzling shows, 153 performances at 15 different venues.

Link: High Performance Rodeo

Friends highly recommend the 10-minute play festival, they have attended every year for the past 20+ years.

Friends highly recommend the 10-minute play festival, they have attended every year for the past 20+ years.

Big Taste, Mar 2 to 11

Foodies won’t want to miss the Big Taste where 80+ restaurants in City Centre offer special 3-course fix price menus for lunch and dinner.  There is even a Gourmet Big Taste 5-course dinner for $65. The Big Taste is Canada’s oldest restaurant festival and offers a chance to experience Calgary’s contemporary dining scene – Cotto, Pad Thai, Foreign Concept, Yellow Door, Pigeonhole, Bar Vonder Fels, Charbar, Model Milk, need I go on.

Link: Big Taste

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Calgary Performing Arts Festival, April 23 to May 13

In 1931, a small group of Calgary musicians created The Calgary Music Festival held at the Knox United Church. By 1954, the festival was so large the organizers asked the Kiwanis Clubs of Calgary to take ownership of the Festival, and became the Calgary Kiwanis Festival. It continued to evolve into one of the largest amateur competitive music festivals in North America by the end of the 20th century.  In 2014, the festival included theatre, resulting in another name change - The Calgary Performing Arts Festival.

Today, the Festival has over 4,000 entries and 12,000 participants performing in the new Taylor Centre for Performing Arts Centre at Mount Royal University.

Link: Calgary Performing Arts Festival

Last minute practice...(photo credit: Calgary Performing Arts Festival)

Last minute practice...(photo credit: Calgary Performing Arts Festival)

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, April 26 to 29

Calgary Expo is a four-day mash-up of comics, sci-fi, gaming and cosplay fun for all ages. In addition to headliners, hundreds of vendors, workshops and talks and costumes transform Calgary’s Stampede Park into a colourful fantasyland for over 100,000 visitors. Don’t miss the parade on the Friday - everyone can participate as long as you dress-up!

Link: Calgary Expo

Everyone loves a parade, especially one's with princesses and super heroes!

Everyone loves a parade, especially one's with princesses and super heroes!

Calgary International Children’s Festival, May 23 to 26

Established in 1987, the Calgary International Children’s Festival has grown to become Canada’s second largest Children’s Festival. Each year it not only transforms the four theatres and concert hall of Arts Commons into a giant children’s playground, but the surrounding Olympic Plaza as well. A wonderful festival for the young and the young at heart.

Link: Calgary International Children's Festival

Outdoor performances at Olympic Plaza a free and fun for everyone. (photo credit: Calgary Arts Development)

Outdoor performances at Olympic Plaza a free and fun for everyone. (photo credit: Calgary Arts Development)

4th Street Lilac, Festival June 3

Join 100,000+ Calgary in celebrating the arrival of spring at the 4th Street Lilac Festival.  The street comes alive with six stages and 500 vendors creating Calgary’s best street party along 4th Street SW from the Elbow River to 17th Avenue SW.

Link: 4th Street Lilac Festival

Finally Spring has arrived in Calgary (photo credit: Carpe Diem!)

Finally Spring has arrived in Calgary (photo credit: Carpe Diem!)

Spruce Meadows, June to September

Spruce Meadows is one of North America’s most unique festival sites, offering not one, but five major international show jumping events annually – National (June 6 to 10th), Continental (June 13 to 17), North American, (July 4 to 8th) Pan American (June 26 to July 1st) and Masters (Sept 5 to 8th).  If you love horses, this is a “must see.”

Link: Spruce Meadows

Family fun at Spruce Meadows (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Family fun at Spruce Meadows (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Sled Island, June 20 to 24

Sled Island Music & Arts Festival is a curated mash-up of music genres and art with more than 250 events at 35 different venues (record stores to Olympic Plaza) including bands, comedy, films and exhibitions involving local and international headliners and emerging artists.

Link: Sled Island

Crosss @ Tubby Dog (photo credit: Sled Island Photo)

Crosss @ Tubby Dog (photo credit: Sled Island Photo)

Calgary Stampede, July 6 to 15

Billed as the “Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth,” the Calgary Stampede combines a 2-hour long parade attracting over 200,000+ people, as well as a Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Grandstand Show, Agricultural Exhibition, Midway, Indian Village and Music Festival (headliners have included Garth Brooks, Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Reba McEntire) that attracts over one million visitors of all ages and backgrounds to Stampede Park.  

Link: Calgary Stampede

Stampede is seven festivals in one - Agricultural Exhibition, Indian Village, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Grandstand Show, Midway and Music Festival. 

Stampede is seven festivals in one - Agricultural Exhibition, Indian Village, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, Grandstand Show, Midway and Music Festival. 

Calgary International Folk Festival, July 26 to 29

No city can match the pastoral setting of Calgary International Folk Festival held at Prince’s Island Park located in the middle of the majestic Bow River and in the shadows of Calgary’s glittering downtown skyscrapers. It’s a magical place with glowing sunsets each night on the Main Stage headliners like Coeur De Pirate, Tanya Tagaq or Blue Rodeo in 2017. During the day, enjoy the six stages for an up close and personal experience under the canopy of 100-year old cottonwood trees.

Link: Calgary International Folk Festival

It doesn't get any better than this!

It doesn't get any better than this!

Historic Calgary Week, July 27 to August 6

For history buffs, don’t miss the hundreds of lectures and walkabouts lead by local history enthusiasts organized by Chinook Country Historical Society.  Learn all about Calgary’s boom/bust evolution from the Blackfoot nation’s summer meeting place, to the pioneer settlers, to becoming one of North America’s leading corporate headquarters cities.

Link: Historic Calgary Week

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 GlobalFest, August 16 to 25

GlobalFest burst (pun intended) onto the scene in 2003, a collaborative effort that combines an international fireworks competition with a multicultural night market. Held in Calgary’s Elliston Park with its man-made lake, just off International Avenue (aka 17th Ave SE) it celebrates Calgary’s multiculturalism.  The American Bus Association ranked it in the Top 100 Events in North America.

Link: GlobalFest

GlobalFest fireworks (photo credit: GlobalFest and J&J Photography)

GlobalFest fireworks (photo credit: GlobalFest and J&J Photography)

Shaw Classic / Tour Champions, August 29th to September 2

Calgary is not only home to many world-class golf courses, but also to one of the premier PGA TOUR Champions events attracting one of the best international line-ups of the season.  In 2017, the Shaw Classic had one of the largest audiences of any TOUR Champions event and set a TOUR Champions fundraising record of $8.3 million for local charities.  It is a great opportunity to watch some of the greatest golfers of our time – Fred Couples loves this tournament!

Link: Shaw Classic

The Shaw Classic attracts all of the best players from the Champions TOUR, including Fred Couples, Hal Irwin, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez....

The Shaw Classic attracts all of the best players from the Champions TOUR, including Fred Couples, Hal Irwin, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez....

Honens Piano Competition, August 30 to September 8

If you love classical music and the piano, don’t miss the Honens International Piano Competition. The quarterfinals are in Berlin and New York this spring, but the semifinals and finals are in Calgary.  The winner gets $100,000 in cash and an artist development program valued at half a millions dollars – the largest of its kind. 

Link: Honens Piano Competition

Beakerhead, Sept 19 to 23

Beakerhead, perhaps one of the most unique festivals in the world, is a wonderfully bizarre combination of science, engineering and the arts.  It encompasses 60+ events, installations and shows throughout the City Centre over five days and attracts over 125,000 participants.  Bring the entire family - including grandma and grandpa.

Link: Beakerhead

Beakerhead seems to be especially popular with teens and 20 somethings....

Beakerhead seems to be especially popular with teens and 20 somethings....

Calgary International Film Festival,  (2018 dates needed)

For the past 17 years, Calgary has hosted “the best little film festival on the prairies.”  0ver 200 films in multiple genres are screened over 12 days attracting 40,000 cineophiles.  The Calgary Film Festival is recognized as one of the top “short film” festivals in the world. 

Link: Calgary International Film Festival

Wordfest, Oct 9 to 14

Over the past 22 years, Wordfest has showcased over 900 writers conducting readings, workshops, and panel discussions.  Last year, 70 events attracted 15,000 people of all ages including children.  Its year-round literary program culminates with this October festival featuring international best-sellers, groundbreakers and up-and-coming authors.  

Link: Wordfest

(photo credit: Wordfest)

(photo credit: Wordfest)

Christmas In Calgary

ZOOLIGHTS,  Nov 23 to Jan 5 2019

At Christmas, 1.5 million lights transform the Calgary Zoo into a winter wonderland.  It takes about 90 minutes to fully experience the displays. In addition, there is a mix of indoor (crafts, pictures with Santa) and outdoor activities (skating, fire pits) for all ages.

Link: ZOOLIGHTS

(photo credit: Condo Living Magazine)

(photo credit: Condo Living Magazine)

Spruce Meadows Christmas Market

Nov 16–18, Nov 23–25, & Nov 30-Dec 2

The Spruce Meadows Christmas Market gives Calgarians a shopping experience filled with entertainment, delicious food, and unique gift buying opportunities.  300+ vendors spread Christmas Spirit in the indoor comfort of Spruce Meadows’ various buildings.  Kids love Reindeer Alley, Candy Cane Lane and listening to various choirs, instrumental performances and magical dance displays amongst the 74 kilometres of Christmas lights strung around the grounds. (Seniors (65+) and Children (-12) admitted free.

Link: Spruce Meadows Christmas Market

Spruce Meadows Christmas Market (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Spruce Meadows Christmas Market (photo credit: Spruce Meadows Media)

Lions’ Festival of Lights, Dec 1 to Jan 7

Each year the Lions Clubs of Calgary create a free Festival of Lights in Confederation Park incorporating over 450,000 bulbs on 16,000 strings into various Holiday characters.  The festival is unique as you can enjoy it many different ways – drive-by on 14th St NW, walk, snowshoe, cross-country ski or even toboggan down the hills amongst the display. Lights are on from 6 pm to midnight, 7 days a week. 

Link: Lion's Festival of Lights

Tobogganers having fun at Lion's Festival of Lights

Tobogganers having fun at Lion's Festival of Lights

Last Word

In addition to these signature festivals, Calgary has numerous smaller festivals year round that serve niche groups, especially in film and music. For more information check out Tourism Calgary’s website: http://www.visitcalgary.com/things-to-do/festivals-events

Everyday Tourist Calgary Festival Blog Links:

Everyday Tourist Visits Calgary Expo 2016

Postcards from 2016 Calgary Folk Festival

Calgary Historic Walks