Rendering: Contemporary Calgary, New Gallery Wing

Rendering: Contemporary Calgary, New Gallery Wing


Kent Hehr, Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre announces support for Contemporary Calgary art gallery renovation and expansion

CALGARY August 30, 2019

Modern and effective local infrastructure is essential to keeping our communities strong and vibrant. The Government of Canada is making historic investments in infrastructure to help ensure that Calgary remains among the best places to call home.

Calgary is the only North American city of its size without a major Class A contemporary art gallery capable of hosting significant international exhibitions. Contemporary Calgary is transforming Calgary’s historic Centennial Planetarium into a signature cultural destination that will provide the community with Class A exhibition space, much needed studio space for artists and education programs for youth.

The full cost of the project is $117 million and Contemporary Calgary is seeking support from all three orders of government and private donors. The City of Calgary recently invested $25 million to complete the first phase of the project.  Contemporary Calgary is seeking $30 million in funding from the Federal Government, $30 million from the Government of Alberta and $32 million from the private sector to complete the remaining phases.

Through a bilateral agreement signed more than 14 months ago, the federal government has made available over $140.5 million dollars in federal funding to support improved community infrastructure across Alberta.  Contemporary Calgary’s gallery renovation and expansion is exactly the type of project that the Government of Canada is able to approve for funding under the Community, Culture and Recreation program.

Not only do projects like Contemporary Calgary make our communities stronger and more inclusive, they are also important to our economic development, creating good, well-paying jobs through both construction and operation and they help Calgary to attract talent and investment by improving quality of life.

Federal dollars are available today to fund this $30 million project from the Community, Culture and Recreation program, subject to the project receiving a matching contribution from the Province of Alberta.  We understand that the new provincial government will be reviewing this project and we look forward to working with them to bring this project into reality.  Once we receive and review the formal funding application from the province, the required federal funds are ready to flow.


“The Government of Canada is pleased to support this important cultural project for the visual arts in the heart of Calgary. Contemporary Calgary will become a signature cultural destination in Canada and these types of investments not only enrich our community but help attract business and talent to our city. 
- Kent Hehr, Member of Parliament for Calgary Centre 

“The funding commitment from the federal government is a significant milestone towards bringing a major modern and contemporary art gallery to our city. We are so excited that the Federal government has joined the City of Calgary in making a significant commitment to this project. We look forward to working collaboratively with the new government of Alberta regarding their participation in building a new cultural destination for the visual arts in Calgary.
- David Leinster, Chief Executive Officer, Contemporary Calgary

Quick facts

  • Through the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada’s rural and northern communities.

  • $25.3 billion of this funding is supporting social infrastructure in Canadian communities.

About Contemporary Calgary

  • Contemporary Calgary commenced a long-term lease agreement with the City of Calgary on July 15, 2019.

  • As part of lease, Contemporary Calgary is required to undertake significant tenant improvements to the former Centennial Planetarium to transform it into a gallery for modern and contemporary art.

  • The City of Calgary recently invested $25 million into the project, undertaking significant base building upgrades and modernizations to bring the building up to current codes. Contemporary Calgary’s responsibility is to complete additional improvements to further transform the historic building.

  • Built in 1967 as Calgary’s Centennial Building project, the Planetarium has inspired Calgarians for decades, both as a Planetarium and as Calgary’s Science Centre from 1984 to 2011. It will now inspire new generations of Calgarians through the art of our times.

  • Contemporary Calgary’s project has three parts:

  • North Gallery Renovation: Contemporary Calgary recently began a renovation to a part of the building—the former 7,000 square foot Creative Kids Museum. This initial renovation recently received a $372,025 funding grant through the Ministry of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Cultural Spaces Fund Program. The gallery is expected to be open to the public by January 2020.  

  • Planetarium Transformation: The existing Centennial Planetarium building will undergo a significant renovation to the entire building to transform it into a gallery for modern and contemporary art. Key to this phase of the project is the building of an entrance pavilion that will help restore the original circulation and flow for visitors to the building up to the second floor. New amenities will be included including a café-style restaurant and open spaces for the community to gather.

  • New Class A Addition: A new addition will be built on the north side of the site, bringing a 10,000 square foot Class A gallery, an adjacent 3,000 square foot Class A gallery, rooftop sculpture garden and event space. This addition to the building will help Contemporary Calgary attract the best in local, national and international exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, and make the facility one of best arts experiences in the country.

SOURCE: Government of Canada

Contemporary Calgary appoints Interim Chief Curator, Ryan Doherty

CALGARY January 17, 2019 — Contemporary Calgary today announced the appointment of Ryan Doherty as Interim Chief Curator. Former Director and Curator of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Doherty has been working in contemporary visual arts for more than 20 years and has organized a host of acclaimed exhibitions, publications, and other cultural productions with artists from far and wide.  

Doherty will provide timely guidance in developing diverse programming as the gallery makes its home in the 1967 Centennial Planetarium.  Additionally, he will bring valuable experience in consultation with Gibbs Gage Architects and KPMB Architects to help transform the Planetarium into a world-class gallery for modern and contemporary art.

“We are delighted to have Ryan on board,” said David Leinster, Chief Executive Officer of Contemporary Calgary.  “Not only has he proven to be a respected voice in the country with a broad network of colleagues and diverse curatorial expertise, but his experience with facility renovations will be an enormous asset.  As Contemporary Calgary prepares to relocate, we have added confidence with Ryan joining the team that we can transition smoothly while offering a host of exciting and engaging cultural experiences in the gallery and throughout the community.”

Contemporary Calgary is eager to present exhibitions and public programs onsite in the interim period before construction begins in 2020.  They will continue to offer cultural events offsite and in collaboration with other organizations in the city such as the exhibition Before Digital: Post-1970 Photography in Alberta now on view at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery, ACAD. 

“I’m very excited and honoured to be a part of this team and to help lay the foundations for what will surely become one of the premiere cultural organizations in Canada,” said Doherty. “As it happens, I helped set up an exhibition for Contemporary Calgary’s predecessor IMCA at the old AGT building as an early effort to generate support for this project.  To finally see it come to fruition decades later is an extraordinary pleasure and I know it will spark the imaginations of our communities in the same way it has mine.  The potential in this unique and reimagined venue in tandem with a vision for Calgary as a radically engaged cultural centre leaves me feeling deeply inspired.”

SOURCE: Contemporary Calgary Arts Society

Please see our news release for full details. 

Contemporary Calgary selects Architect to transform Centennial Planetarium into gallery for modern and contemporary art

CALGARY January 14, 2019

Contemporary Calgary today announced it has selected the team of Calgary-based Gibbs Gage Architects and KPMB Architects of Toronto after an international search for prime consultants to help transform the Centennial Planetarium into a world-class gallery for modern and contemporary art.

“We are thrilled to have the talents of Gibbs Gage Architects and KPMB Architects collaborating on this next phase with us,” said David Leinster, Chief Executive Officer of Contemporary Calgary. “The transformation of the iconic 1967 Planetarium into a destination for modern and contemporary art will be a dynamic catalyst for the emerging Downtown-West community, providing an important cultural anchor in the Centre City. The project will both reflect and enrich the evolving values of Calgary as a sustainable, creative and entrepreneurial city.”

In June 2018, The City of Calgary and Contemporary Calgary announced its intent to partner on a new world-class gallery for modern and contemporary art to be opened in the Centennial Planetarium. Following this announcement, Contemporary Calgary issued a Request for Proposals for architectural design services that drew significant international interest.

“The quality of the submissions and the enthusiasm of the respondents was impressive,” said Douglas Olson, Contemporary Calgary Board member and Chair of the Building Committee. “We were unanimous in our decision to hire this very capable team, given their proven design acumen and the close match of their approach with the vision and values of our organization.”

The design will be led by KPMB Partner Bruce Kuwabara. Bruce and the team at KPMB have a depth of experience designing award-winning galleries and museums including the recent success of the Remai Modern in Saskatoon, the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, the Ottawa Art Gallery, and the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

Contemporary Calgary expects to be underway with design in the coming weeks, and looks forward to sharing concepts in the spring.

“Key to our pre-design work will be engagement with the community and our stakeholders to ensure we understand what is important to them and how the design can reflect their concerns and values,” said Leinster. “The Planetarium has always been a place where Calgarians have come to learn, be challenged and inspired, and we are excited to bring this amazing new experience to a familiar and much loved destination in the City of Calgary.”

Kuwabara’s belief in the power of architecture to implement social and civic change and to maximize cultural potential has earned him impressive recognition, including an Officer of the Order of Canada, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal and the Ontario Association of Architects Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Contemporary art has the power to be a leading force in how we perceive and think about society and the world,” said Kuwabara. “The re-imagination of the Centennial Planetarium—an icon of optimism—into a dynamic, game-changing cultural hub, is an ideal project of architecture in our time.”

Calgary-based Gibbs Gage Architects is proud and honoured to have a leadership role in Contemporary Calgary’s new facilities.

“It’s an exciting time for our city and putting art into the forefront will have a significant positive impact to the cultural make-up of our city and region,” said Chito Pabustan, Partner and Managing Director of Design at Gibbs Gage Architects. “We see Contemporary Calgary as a transformational project for Calgary. We are looking forward to collaborating with Contemporary Calgary in designing a destination that serves the arts as well as the community.”

SOURCE: Contemporary Calgary Arts Society


Contemporary Calgary was formed in early 2014 as an amalgamation of three long-standing visual arts organizations in Calgary—Museum of Contemporary Art Calgary (MOCA), the Art Gallery of Calgary (AGC) and The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Art (IMCA). Our mission is to contribute to a global city of choice by providing Calgary and its visitors a significant visual arts destination dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Currently, Calgary is the only city of its size without a major public destination for modern and contemporary art.


Gibbs Gage Architects is one of the largest architectural firms in Western Canada offering professional services in Architecture, Interior Design and Urban Design. From our design studio in Calgary, we provide; innovative and sustainable design excellence, superior technical solutions and meticulous contract administration services in all project sectors in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

We love designing spaces and places that enrich the quality of our built environment and the quality of human interactions. Our philosophy is rooted in fulfilling the goals and objectives of our clients and in working with them as a part of a team to do so. We work in a collaborative and integrated manner asking good questions and listening carefully to ensure we fully understand the project objectives. We undertake intensive analysis of the site and visit frequently throughout the design process to observe factors like; how people interact, where the sun shines and the wind blows and how materials move. We seek out state-of-the-art examples and case studies of similar projects, locally and abroad. Being locally based, we believe in the social significance of the buildings we design and strive for designs that are "of the place".


KPMB Architects is an international Canadian practice notable for creating architecture that responds to our multi-cultural, dynamically changing world. This is manifested in the diversity of projects for culture, education, healthcare as well as paradigm shifting climate responsive design. Clients include the Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Manitoba Hydro in Winnipeg, Massey Hall in Toronto, the Ottawa Art Gallery, and Princeton University, among others. Many of KPMB’s projects harmonize existing structures of heritage significance with contemporary interventions, preserving memory while creating supportive platforms for culture, creativity and innovation. The firm has earned 280+ awards for excellence including 16 Governor General’s Medals. KPMB’s team for Contemporary Calgary will be led by partner Bruce Kuwabara, principal Chris Couse and senior associate Matthew Wilson.


David Leinster 

Chief Executive Officer 

Contemporary Calgary

 For interview requests, please contact: 

T: 403.770.1353

Please see our news release for full details. 


CALGARY, August 14, 2018

Contemporary Calgary proudly announces the appointment of David Leinster as Chief Executive Officer. 

David joins Contemporary Calgary having built a successful career leading brand strategy, marketing and digital communications for Enbridge Inc. Prior to that, he led a series of high profile corporate and non-profit accounts at local branding firm, Karo Group.

No stranger to the visual arts community, David has been involved with Contemporary Calgary in a leading role, most significantly with our successful Expression of Interest submission for the Centennial Planetarium in 2013. He has also acted as a strategic advisor for the Institute for Modern and Contemporary Art. 

“The Board is thrilled to welcome David in this capacity,” says Jay Mehr, Chair of Contemporary Calgary. “What we needed was an energetic leader with a diverse skillset who knows how to build bridges, align vision, garner support from the community and manage a complex project,” Mehr added. “We have every confidence that David is the right person to lead us forward, and that our organization will thrive under his leadership.”

The appointment of Mr. Leinster comes at an exciting time for the organization. On June 19, Contemporary Calgary and the City of Calgary announced a lease agreement that will see the organization transform the Centennial Planetarium—former home of the Calgary Science Centre—into a world-class destination for modern and contemporary art. Prior to when Contemporary Calgary begins its transformation of the space, the City will complete a significant renovation to bring the planetarium into compliance with current building codes. This work is expected to be complete by December of this year.

“The planetarium has always been a place where Calgarians have come to learn, be challenged and inspired,” says Leinster, who officially took his post on August 7. “I’m looking forward to working with our team, engaging with our partners—and all Calgarians—to help turn this vision into reality.” 

Contemporary Calgary is actively focusing on a number of priorities, including community engagement and programming, developing a sound business and operating plan, engaging in an architectural competition for the development of the space, and capital campaign development.


Pierre Arpin steps down as Director & CEO of Contemporary Calgary

CALGARY, August 14, 2018

We would like to thank Pierre Arpin for his leadership and commitment to Contemporary Calgary and share that Pierre will be stepping down as Director & CEO effective August 17, 2018.

Over the past two years that Pierre has been with Contemporary Calgary we have had an ambitious and successful public program with more than 2,400 participants in the first year; we secured multi-year operating funding from Canada Council and confirmed an 18.4% increase in Alberta Foundation for the Arts funding for 2019. 

Contemporary Calgary is now moving into a new phase of our evolution that requires building project management skills as we shift our focus to next steps in our Centennial Planetarium project.  We thank Pierre for his leadership over the past two years and wish him success as he continues his journey.  

Pierre is a principled and ethical leader who has managed our planned transition well.


The City of Calgary and Contemporary Calgary announce lease agreement, paving way for new gallery in the Centennial Planetarium

CALGARY,  June 19, 2018

The City of Calgary and Contemporary Calgary are pleased to announce a lease agreement has been reached, enabling a new world-class gallery for modern and contemporary art to be opened in the Centennial Planetarium in 2019.

“This agreement is excellent news for Calgarians and our cultural sector. Our Centennial Planetarium has significant historic and symbolic value to our citizens, and making it the home for Contemporary Calgary feels like a perfect fit. Thanks so much to my colleagues who have worked incredibly hard over the past years to make this happen. Together, we’re helping all Calgarians live a creative life,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Over the past several months, The City and Contemporary Calgary have been negotiating lease provisions and working to confirm requirements for future improvements.

Contemporary Calgary has worked to amalgamate three longstanding Calgary art institutions: The Institute for Modern and Contemporary Art (IMCA), the Art Gallery of Calgary (AGC) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). With a sound financial footing, a strong board of directors and a clear vision for the organization, Contemporary Calgary will transform the Centennial Planetarium into an art gallery that will put Calgary on the map as a destination for the visual arts.

“We are excited to bring new life to the Planetarium—a place with historic significance and where Calgarians have a long history of going to learn, be challenged and inspired,” says Jay Mehr, Board Chair of Contemporary Calgary. “With the clear direction of our organization, the support and commitment from the City in this lease agreement, and the passion in the community to put Calgary on the map as a visual arts destination, we are turning vision into reality.”

Prior to Contemporary Calgary moving into the building, The City is performing a significant renovation to bring the planetarium into compliance with current building codes. The capital spend of $24.5 million is expected to be complete by December of this year. The renovation will support a new cultural space in the building and add to Calgary’s cultural infrastructure, while helping to re-vitalize the surrounding neighbourhood.

Please see our news release for full details.