The Beaverbrook Gallery was buzzing and busy with finishing touches ahead of a new pavilion opening.
The provincial gallery closed for the pandemic more than two years ago. But now, it’s reopening with a brand new face — the Harrison McCain Pavilion.
“We worked with KPMB, a Toronto architectural firm, one of the best in the country,” said gallery director Tom Smart. “They designed the building that not only embraces the community with its very graceful arc that reaches into the community, it also picks up the architectural vocabulary of the neighbourhood around us.”
The gallery has undergone extensive renovations and additions over the years since it was opened in 1959.
The new pavilion, which includes a cafe and gift shop, will be open to the public. However, visitors will have to pay an admission fee to enter the gallery space.
“It’s not just symbolic that we’re across from the legislature. In fact, right now, I’m looking straight at it,” said John LeRoux, manager of collections and exhibitions, as he peered through the vast windows. “The fact that you have government and culture face-to-face — almost this dancing couple together. I think it is really meaningful because it’s at the heart of who we are as a people.”
In July, Nova Scotia announced that plans for a new gallery in Halifax would be postponed.
“Times are tough and there’s potential restraint after a lot of COVID-19 spending,” LeRoux said, noting that “the time for art is now.”
For LeRoux, it was important that the gallery offer a space to the community.
“If we don’t engage and build on the things that enrich and give our lives meaning, what’s it all for,” he said. “I think it really matters that we can be a leader in visual arts and culture in the Maritimes and Canada.”
The project came in under budget, which was roughly $11 million.
Smart explained that the funding for the pavilion came together through generous donations from private benefactors. Additional funds came from the federal Department of Heritage, the ACOA, the provincial government, the regional development corporation, the City of Fredericton, and the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture.
There’s still work to be done. A full mural in the entrance from the pavilion to the gallery is planned for later this year by Mi’kmaq artist Jordan Bennett.
The official grand opening is slated to take place on Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. There will be Indigenous performances throughout the day.
The free event will also include an outdoor light projection show on Friday and Saturday.