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Premier vague on VAG funding, officials unfazed

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, left, and B.C. Premier Christy Clark talk before the Vancouver Art Gallery announces the exhibition “The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperors” would be coming to the gallery on Oct. 21, 2013.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says her government is "really excited" about the proposal for a new Vancouver Art Gallery, but suggests an additional $50-million in provincial funding for the project is not forthcoming.

Ms. Clark made the comments at an event to announce that the exhibition "The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperors" will travel to the Vancouver Art Gallery in October 2014 after six months at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. In Vancouver, the exhibition will include up to 200 artifacts from Beijing's Palace Museum, some of which have never left the Forbidden City.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson called the exhibit "monumental," and also seized the opportunity to promote the campaign for a new gallery – and suggest that other levels of government will need to contribute to realize that vision.

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"We need to have good, strong support on that across all public sectors and private sectors, lots of support to make it happen," he said during his remarks.

In the spring, Vancouver city council granted the VAG a lease to part of the block known as Larwill Park, on the condition that by the end of April 2015, the VAG raise $100-million from the federal government and $50-million from the provincial government – in addition to the $50-million the province already gave the project in 2008 under then-premier Gordon Campbell.

When asked whether her government would deliver the additional funding, Ms. Clark focused on the millions the province has already committed to the project.

"We're excited to be able to support it through $50-million of taxpayers' money. I know that the City of Vancouver has been very generous in being able to support it through some land as well. So I'm quite confident that the art gallery will be able to fundraise the rest of the money and find the rest of the money to be able to support this fantastic project."

When pressed about whether the province would offer additional funding, Ms. Clark said the $50-million already contributed is "significant and I'm really proud that we were able to find that money in some very difficult budget years ... and I'm confident that for a project of this size and this importance that the gallery and the hard-working volunteers at the gallery will be able to identify the other $50-million that they need."

Afterward, VAG officials said they were not discouraged by the Premier's comments.

"I thought her comments of support for the new gallery were very positive," said director Kathleen Bartels. "I felt very encouraged by that, that she wants to see it happen and thinks it can happen. That's a very positive sign."

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Board chair Bruce Munro Wright pointed out that the VAG has not yet made a formal proposal to the province for the money.

"Our approach has always been to go the course and get everyone as excited about this project as possible, and we're hoping that our senior levels of government will see the value in this and step up. Our private conversations have been very encouraging so far and I took the Premier's comments today as exactly what I would expect her to say at this point before a formal request has been made."

He added that the Forbidden City exhibition is an opportunity to reach new supporters, donors and audiences. "We see this exhibit as a big part of our momentum."

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More

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