The Gibsons Public Art Gallery (GPAG) will get a street level, accessible gallery with more space for exhibitions and a room for a permanent collection in Lower Gibsons before the end of the year.
The estimated $100,000 renovation of the former Bank of Montreal building has been made possible by a legacy from an arts and culture enthusiast, the late Eve Smart, who passed away in December 2011.
“We’re committed,” said project manager Murray Drope. “Pat [Drope, GPAG board member] has had her eye on the old Bank of Montreal building for some time now. It stands out.”
The prominently located space at the Gibsons five corners has stood empty since the bank moved to Gibsons Way. The building, owned by arts supporters, the Maragos family, needs work. Initial plans call for opening up the window areas (one of which housed the ATM machine), turning the giant vault into a kitchenette, turning former offices into space for board meetings and revamping the current 16-stall parking area.
Most importantly, the front doors will be wheelchair accessible and a handicap washroom will be installed on the ground floor.
Smart was a volunteer at the GPAG in its early years and held an exhibition of her paintings in the smaller room of the gallery in 2009, but during the last years of her life, she had difficulty attending shows as she couldn’t manage the stairs leading down to its present location. She was strongly in favour of the gallery moving to street level.
“We’re still at the planning stages now, with a team of knowledgeable professionals,” Murray said.
He pointed out the many local contractors who will be involved: Hinterland, Spani Developments, Olson Electric, DHC Plumbing and Shield Glass. It’s all in the Coast family, he notes, just as the gallery itself was an effort of many of the Drope family at its inception in 2003.
In the coming months, Town of Gibsons building standards may require other work such as the installation of a sprinkler system. Drope is keeping in touch with Town officials and reports them as being cooperative so far.
Clearing the old building will bring challenges. Drope described how, when the time came to remove a large safe beside the front door, workers brought in a winch to hoist the heavy object up and through a window, only to find that because it was the former night deposit vault, it was firmly attached to the front wall with concrete and steel plates. It will be permanent, a reminder of the building’s past.
Pat Drope, a past president and current administrator of GPAG, is hoping that the work will be completed by November when the gallery holds its Leonard Cohen tribute show. Loving Leonard is a tribute to the iconic Canadian songwriter and poet. Submissions will be inspired by his many songs and will include performances and poetry readings. Artists wanting to participate can check the GPAG website at www.gibsonspublicartgallery.ca.