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The Clouds & Water Gallery and Visual Production Society opened its doors on March 15, 1975. One of the first artist-run centres to be established in Canada, it immediately provided a compelling alternative to mainstream culture in Calgary. In addition to gallery exhibition programming, the Society operated the Sancious Coffeehouse, where live presentations of experimental performance art (spoken word, experimental dance, theatre and music) took place. This marked the beginning of the Society’s consistent support of time-based and performative arts.

In 1980 the Society moved into a new downtown location and was renamed the OFF CENTRE CENTRE. Collaboration and interactivity were encouraged through events such as the International Mail Art Symposium (1986) and Media Blitz I and II (in 1988 and 1989). Media Blitz were ten day long festivals of experimental film, video and performance art by local artists, produced in conjunction with several other Calgary arts groups.

As a cultural incubator, OFF CENTRE CENTRE fostered the development of several community-based, artist-run organizations over the years: Centre Art Video (now operating as the EMMEDIA Gallery & Production Society), theatre arts company One Yellow Rabbit and alternative broadcaster RADIO/RADIO, among others. Its members also played a significant formative role in the organization of ANNPAC (Association of National Non-Profit Artist-run Centres).

In 1987, fire destroyed parts of the building occupied by the OCC on the Stephen Avenue Mall and the Society was on the move again. It soon reopened as The New Gallery, in a space shared with the Paul Kuhn and Stride Galleries. In the course of an ongoing review of the value and responsibilities of artist-run centres, TNG recognized that many artists in the local community had traditionally felt excluded from the organization. In 1992 TNG partnered with Minquon Panchayat, a national coalition supporting artists of colour, to raise awareness around issues of race and gender, and to actively address these issues in the context of regular TNG programming.

In 1996, The New Gallery returned to its roots, moving back into the original Clouds & Water location. Here TNG maintained three exhibition spaces and a Resource Centre, housing its now significant collection of material dedicated to contemporary art, the development of artist-run culture in Calgary, and TNG’s history.

The New Gallery celebrated its 25-year anniversary in 2000, presenting a major retrospective exhibition at the Alberta College of Art and Design, publishing an accompanying catalogue and developing a new web site. In response to demand within the local artistic community for a venue in which to present spontaneous performative art forms, TNG initiated the highly successful Space for Space project. TNG also spearheaded the development a new city-wide performative arts festival, Mountain Standard Time (M:ST), which was first held in April 2001. This too developed into an independent society, which today manages a high profile biennial performance arts festival.

Faced with the immanent demolition of the building they occupied, TNG was forced to hastily relocate in 2007. Limited time and financial resources necessitated a move to the Ground Floor of the Eau Claire Market. Although the location was centrally located in a high-traffic pedestrian mall, the available square-footage was less than half that of The Gallery’s previous location, so the Resource Centre was relegated to storage and regularly programmed exhibition spaces were reduced to the Main Space and the +15 Window at the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts.

In 2008, as a potential solution to TNG’s space shortage, the Gallery was offered the use of the John Snow Residence/Studio in Lower Mount Royal by the building’s owner. While the historic house was ultimately deemed to be inappropriate for most of TNG’s programming, it was considered a suitable home for the dormant Resource Centre. With this goal in mind, TNG began work to change the municipal zoning of the property so that the house could be used as a Resource Centre, office, and multi-purpose cultural space.

As 2009 drew to a close, TNG’s Board of Directors boldly opted to capitalize on the imminent end of the Gallery’s lease at Eau Claire Market, and move the Gallery to the top floor of Art Central­– an arts-oriented building in the heart of Calgary’s growing Cultural District. Due to the availability of the new space, this move was executed without any interruption of already scheduled programming. In fact, TNG was able to stage its annual Holiday Tree Show fundraiser in the Gallery’s new location, before the final exhibition in the old space came down the next day.

In 2010 The New Gallery (TNG) celebrated 35 years of presenting contemporary art in Calgary. Commemorating an important cultural achievement, throughout the month of January TNG's +15 Window Space in the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts traced The Clouds & Water Gallery and Visual Production Society's history through three and a half decades, drawing on the Gallery's significant collection of archival material. Like the few other artist-run centres in Canada which have endured as long, TNG's history is characterized by multiple locations; more uniquely though, many of the buildings that the Gallery has occupied have been demolished behind it, making way for new development. Characterizing the life of Calgary's original artist-run centre in light of its different physical locations around the downtown core acknowledges one of the persistent challenges TNG has faced and frames some of the many achievements of the non-profit organization since 1975.

By June of 2010, TNG successfully completed the re-zoning of the John Snow Residence and held its grand opening on November 19th. While stewarding the JSH, TNG’s archives were held in the house and were available to artists and community members for inspiration and consultation.

In 2013, TNG moved its Main Space to the historic Canton Block in Calgary’s Chinatown. TNG remains conscientious that their home in Calgary Chinatown is in a culturally specific community, and the organization works hard to be a positive contributor and responsible neighbour. TNG does this work by reaching out and inviting in community members, ensuring materials and programming are accessible and inclusive, and by listening to the community and responding to their needs. Additionally, TNG participates in neighbourhood events, including festivals, celebrations, tours, and has also organized events such as community clean-ups. TNG is in constant conversation and consultation with organizations including the CCECA, Calgary Chinese Community Service Association (CCCSA), Clover Living, the Calgary Chinese Cultural Centre, the Malaysian Singaporean and Bruneian Community Association, the Asian Heritage Foundation, and the Chinatown District BIA. The Chinatown District BIA and Calgary Chinese Community Service Association have been, and continue to be integral consultants with TNG’s renovation plans, providing feedback on designs, and letters of support for TNG’s capital project fundraising. TNG looks forward to continuing to develop these relationships, and fostering new ones over the coming years.

Following the sale of John Snow House, the Resource Centre was temporarily relocated to Ng Tower, directly across from TNG’s Main Space. In 2019, the Resource Centre moved to its present home in Canton Block, directly above the Main Space.

TNG currently operates the Main Space, Resource Centre, and two new exhibition spaces, Billboard 208 and Main Frame. Launched in 2020, Billboard 208 leverages the high visibility of our storefront on the major thoroughfare of Centre St. South and expands the reach of our programming while bringing critical discourse to this public space. TNG is also piloting Main Frame alongside our core programming. This pilot commissions new digital artworks by upcoming artists programmed within TNG’s Main Space, expanding on their original proposals.

Want to know even more nitty-gritty details?

Some of TNG’s archival material (mainly records related to our administrative history) was donated to Glenbow Museum in 2009. Click here to see the online finding aid: ︎https://albertaonrecord.ca/new-gallery-fonds

Transferring TNG’s archival material to Glenbow allows TNG to focus on providing high-quality contemporary exhibits while reducing our need for storage space.  TNG’s material history is now safely stored in a climate-controlled area where it can be accessed by researchers and students.  Admission to Glenbow’s Library and Archives is free, and we encourage you to visit to learn more about The New Gallery’s history!

For information about Glenbow Library and Archives, click here: ︎ https://www.glenbow.org/art-artifacts/library-archives/