Robert Steven: Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People 2013
Art Gallery of Grande Prairie
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When part of the building that held the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie collapsed on March 19, 2007, it could have been the end of plans that were underway to develop the $30-million Montrose Cultural Centre, which was to house a rejuvenated art gallery, the public library and a public gathering space. “Council voted to tear down the old building because of the cost of a rebuild,” says Robert Steven, the executive direct of the AGGP. “But working with community, council and the private sector, we as a community found the money to restore the exterior of the old building, which looks just like it did in 1929, and to completely build a new building on the inside. It’s now, as far as we know, the second largest public gallery in the province by floor area.” It’s not just the gallery’s physical attributes that have improved. Steven has transformed the gallery’s public programs from primarily expensive, exclusive extra-curriculars for school kids to free or low cost programs focusing on serving communities in need, like people with mental illness or physical disabilities. He has built a $1 million endowment even while moving to free admission. And since the gallery’s grand reopening last September, attendance and revenues are up, and the quality of the exhibitions has reached a new high. “Everything we have worked on here has improved dramatically through tough times,” Steven says.