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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Arts Commons
Registered Canadian charity
Founded1985 (1985)
Key people
Alex Sarian (President & CEO)

Arts Commons (Formerly EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts) is a multi-venue arts centre in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada, located in the Olympic Plaza Cultural District.

Occupying a full city block, Arts Commons is a multi-level complex measuring over 560,000 square feet (52,000 m2).[1] It is one of the three largest arts centres in Canada[1] and is home to six resident companies, including Alberta Theatre Projects, Arts Commons Presents, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Downstage, One Yellow Rabbit, and Theatre Calgary. Approximately 200 community groups make use of Arts Commons facilities every year, hosting everything from annual general meetings, graduations, cultural events, weddings, and more. In addition to a variety of performance and gathering spaces, Arts Commons also houses rehearsal halls, theatre workshops, offices, meeting rooms, a café, and visual and media arts galleries.



The oldest part of the city block that houses Arts Commons is the Burns Building, named after noted Calgarian Pat Burns. Construction began in April 1912 and was completed at a cost of $350,000. In the late 1970s, the demolition of the Burns Building became a possibility, because it was on land needed for the construction of the Calgary Centre for the Performing Arts. Demolition proposals were defeated by the Calgary City Council by one vote, and, along with the Calgary Public Building (built in 1930/31 at a cost of almost $2 million), the building was incorporated into the plan for the Arts Centre. In 1979, the Public Building was bought by the City of Calgary for $3.8 million and its upper floors are still occupied by City of Calgary offices.

The newly created Centre was officially opened on 14 September 1985 by the then Premier of Alberta Peter Lougheed. After a donation by EPCOR, an Edmonton, Alberta-based utilities company, the name was changed to the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts on 1 May 2001.

On 17 December 2014, at the Annual General Meeting, it was publicly announced that the performing arts centre would be rebranded as Arts Commons, the name which represents "the Arts" and which expands the organization's offerings beyond the performing arts to a wider variety of arts and genres. "Commons" is derived from the old town square concept where ideas are shared, people from all walks of life gather, and different perspectives are welcomed.[2]

Amenities offered

Almost 400,000 people attend 1800-plus performances and events each year at the Arts Commons, including productions and presentations by the six resident companies, including Alberta Theatre Projects, Arts Commons Presents, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Downstage, One Yellow Rabbit, and Theatre Calgary. Such events include live theatre, dance, spoken word and readings, children's events, experimental theatre, art exhibits, public forums, weddings, training sessions, meetings, arts education activities, sporting events and competition, award ceremonies and live music concerts ranging from symphonic to jazz, to folk, blues, world, and rock.

Performance and other facilities

  • Jack Singer Concert Hall, with 1,800 seats, “the Jack” is the largest venue in the building. Suspended above the stage is a 185,000-pound laminated spruce-wood acoustical canopy, which can be raised or lowered to tune the hall according to the specific needs of each performer. Named for Jack Singer, the Concert Hall is the permanent home of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, which employs 65 full-time musicians, and the 6,040-pipe Carthy Organ.
  • Max Bell Theatre is a 750-seat theatre and is home to Theatre Calgary.
  • Martha Cohen Theatre is a 418-seat theatre and is home to Alberta Theatre Projects (ATP).
  • Big Secret Theatre is a 190-seat theatre and is home to One Yellow Rabbit.
  • Engineered Air Theatre is used for concerts, films, plays, weddings, receptions, and galas. Can seat up to 185 theatre-style.
  • Motel is a 50-seat black box, multi-purpose venue used for plays, experimental theatre and performance art and is home to Downstage.

Activities and performances

Arts Commons Presents is the presenting arm of Arts Commons. Series presented include the BD&P World Stage, Classic Albums Live, National Geographic Live, PCL Blues, and TD Jazz. Arts Commons also offers Arts Education programs (One Day Arts School, The ConocoPhillips Hub for Inspired Learning and Artist-in-Residence). Arts Commons also houses five additional resident companies, including: Alberta Theatre Projects, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Downstage, One Yellow Rabbit, and Theatre Calgary, all of which program their own individual seasons within the spaces of Arts Commons. Collaboration between companies is common and the 6 companies together form the Arts Commons ecosystem.

Arts Commons also provides free events for the community, including Arts Commons Cabarets, National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations.

Community Engagement

The 2018-19 season marked the official establishment of Producing and Engagement at Arts Commons, which supports equitable and inclusive opportunities for diverse communities in Calgary to converse, create, and celebrate. Through transparent and flexible partnerships, Arts Commons works with established organizations and grassroots groups to create arts-based workshops that create connections to amplify the voices of underserved communities.

While broadly defined, the terms ‘diverse communities’ or ‘underserved communities’ are used in an attempt to describe the complex network of communities that make-up Calgary. The organizations, groups, or participants may self-identify with one or more ‘diverse’ or ‘underserved’ communities, such as: an ethno-cultural community (e.g. Asian Canadians, Indigenous nations), an ability-based community (e.g. deaf/hard-of-hearing, developmental disability), a sexual-minority/gender-variant community (e.g. queer, non-gender conforming), an age-defined community (e.g. seniors), an artistic community (e.g. interdisciplinary performance), and many others.

Jordan Peterson Controversy

After the announcement of the University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson giving a lecture at Arts Commons was announced, several Calgarian art groups addressed an open letter[3] to the Arts Commons' Board of Directors on 24 July 2018. The letter demanded that the event be canceled, that they provide diversity training for their staff, and issue a public apology to the "2SLGBTQIA community".[4] It expressed the "deep shock and disappointment" that the artists and organizations signing the letter felt over Arts Commons' choice to host the speaker, who in the past has been criticized for his online and public arguments against government mandated speech laws[5] and his opposition to Bill C-16.[6] The letter was signed by staff of several small artist run centres, including Untitled Art Society, TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary, Stride Gallery, The New Gallery, other organizations such as the M:ST Performance Artist Festival Society and VOICESYYC, and over 1200 individual signatures.[7] A responding statement[8] written by the CEO of Arts Commons at the time, Johann Zietsman, expressed Arts Commons' support for free speech which meant, "not censoring someone because we don't agree with what they have to say." The event was not canceled and was held on 27 July 2018.

Censorship Controversy

In early September 2018, The New Gallery released a statement[9] on its website and Facebook page describing the circumstances of what it said was censorship of a trans artist exhibiting in a vitrine space within the Arts Commons building and Calgary +15 Network. The New Gallery's said Arts Commons had turned off the 3-channel video work being exhibited in the space because, Arts Commons said, it contained swearing and nudity that had garnered complaints from patrons. On 29 August 2018 Arts Commons sent The New Gallery a letter saying the video work would have to be edited to remove the nudity and coarse language or the artwork would be taken down.[10] In response, on 8 September 2018, The New Gallery provided an open-letter written by the exhibiting artist, B.G-Osborne, in which Osborne stated that "rather than re-edit and censor my work to comfort certain viewers who are offended by the very banal acts of swearing and non-sexual nudity, I have decided to remove the piece from the space entirely." Osborne said it was ironic that an artwork that uses the imagery of cisgender actors playing trans characters to criticize the offensive portrayal of trans people was being criticized as offensive. Arts Commons owns the walkway and vitrine spaces but each is individually curated by a different gallery or art organization. Arts Commons programming director Jennifer Johnson said in an emailed statement to CBC that "while Arts Commons believes the piece, A Thousand Cuts, has merit, the language and images contained in the video and audio component are not a fit with our commitment to creating a public space for all."[11]

In 2006, Arts Commons (at the time the "EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts") also received criticism for censoring a transgender artist who was exhibiting in the same +15 walk way space with another of Calgary's artist run centre galleries, TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary.[7] A temporary wall was installed throughout the length of the walk way that blocked the entire view of the vitrine space save for a smaller entrance that could be accessed on the opposite side of the walk way. This wall was installed without speaking to the artist, Edie Fake, or staff from TRUCK. The art work was titled, 'Gaylord Phoenix in the Flower Temple' and depicted a cartoon of a gender-fluid man, touching his genitals (drawn as a noodle with paisley patterns).[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b "About EPCOR CENTRE". Archived from the original on 2004-12-26. Retrieved 2007-12-12.
  2. ^ "Ep. 4: Johann Zietsman". Artful Conversations. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  3. ^ "Open Letter to Arts Commons re: Jordan Peterson". Google Docs. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  4. ^ 2SLGBTQIA = Two-Spirited, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Asexual & Aromantic, Intersex, and beyond. See, for example: (NSRAP) A similar acronym 2SLGBTQQIA means Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning,intersex, and asexual.
  5. ^ "'I decided a long time ago that I was going to pay for saying what I thought' | CBC Radio". CBC. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  6. ^ "New words trigger an abstract clash on campus: DiManno | The Star". Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  7. ^ a b "Arts Commons accused of censorship for removing LGBTQ artist's work". CBC. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  8. ^ "'We value diversity': Controversial professor will speak despite petition, says Arts Commons". Calgary Herald. 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  9. ^ "A Thousand Cuts / The New Gallery". Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  10. ^ "Calgary venue accused of censorship for removing transgender artist's work | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  11. ^ "Calgary venue accused of censorship for removing transgender artist's work | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  12. ^ "Arts Commons accused of censorship for removing LGBTQ artist's work". Retrieved 13 September 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 January 2021, at 20:42
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