Charity Spotlight: This post was provided by Lauren Kibler, Marketing and Special Events Manager for Contemporary Calgary, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
As we celebrate International Museums Day on May 18, one may wonder why there is a need for such a day, especially in today’s economic, political, and social climate. In a global social and political climate that is fought with uncertainty, museums are even more important as a gathering place to present and understand different perspectives. The survival of museums relies heavily on government and private sector funding in order to provide this platform. While Canada’s larger federally-owned institutions receive generous funding from the federal government, smaller organizations must diversify where they receive funding from to ensure local and regional stories are shared.
Acting as a central hub of creativity, knowledge, and history, museums bring communities together to contemplate, question, and think outside the box. Here are three ways museums give back to the people and communities where they belong:
1. Museums Engage the Public
This year’s International Museums Day theme, “museums and contested histories: saying the unspeakable in museums,” reminds us that museum collections and gallery exhibitions create opportunities to consider history, especially traumatic histories, from a peaceful point of view to encourage individuals to think beyond their own personal experiences. While museums play a role in understanding traumatic experiences, they also provide a platform for understanding a variety of topics. They transport us to different places, help us experience different cultures and times, and create a mutual understanding of the human experience. Museums are centres for life-long learning and a valuable resource for the preservation and critical interpretation of heritage; in Canada, they provide a better understanding of Canadian life, promote Canadian identity abroad, and help to place us within an international context.
2. Museums are Economically Important
While social implications are important, the economic function of museums is often overlooked. In an economic climate where funding for the arts is usually the first to be cut, museums are not recognized as an important economic driver. There are over 2,600 museums, public galleries, and heritage institutions throughout Canada, these institutions employ over 32,000 people, and 103,000 volunteers.
Aside from the employment side of museums, these cultural institutions are the largest stimulator of tourism around the globe. Incredibly, museums attract over 62 million local, national, and international visitors per year, and museums and cultural institutions—that’s more than live Canadian sporting event attendance combined! Not only are museums important for tourism, they encourage the regeneration of buildings and communities that might otherwise be neglected, and at Contemporary Calgary, we’re doing just that.
3. Museums Bring People Together through Diverse Programming
While museums primarily launch exhibitions to engage the public, most museums also provide a rich and diverse public programming schedule for further education and engagement. From children and adult education programs, art baby tours, film screenings, artist talks, tours, and even late night parties, museums have mastered the ability to interact with diverse groups, both culturally and demographically.
How Contemporary Calgary is Contributing
Contemporary Calgary was established in 2014 as a public art gallery dedicated to researching and exhibiting contemporary and modern art. We currently operate a gallery space downtown Calgary on Stephen Avenue, but we will be making a big move in 2018! Calgary’s Centennial Planetarium will receive a major renovation to expand our current gallery space and rejuvenate a Brutalist architectural structure in the West Village.
While many people view contemporary art as unapproachable and intimidating, we aim to make it as approachable and inclusive as possible through our visitor experience. We believe that art has the power to transform the lives and places we live, not only through exhibitions, but also by continually engaging the public with speaker series, outreach, and educational programs. Contemporary Calgary is free to the public all year-round, allowing individuals of all backgrounds to access an enriching museum experience.
On this year’s International Museums Day, let’s all take action to ensure that Canada’s cultural institutions can continue to offer an important venue for discovery, conversation, and understanding.