Artists transform empty corporate offices into gallery space

Vacant offices are just one indicator of tough economic times in Calgary, but Derek Beaulieu’s plan aims to create a positive use for all that square footage — let local artists use it as an affordable gallery or workshop.

Beaulieu, recently named Calgary’s poet laureate, came up with the Artists in the Workplace idea and he’s working with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and Calgary Arts Development to launch the program.

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Calgary has no shortage of new office space and a local program would match businesses with an artist looking for a gallery or workshop. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

It addresses the reality that not only is there a glut of new office space in Calgary, but there are plenty of artists who can’t afford to pay rent for a gallery.

“Artists in a lot of ways are suffering for space . . . and rents are high,” said Beaulieu.

He believes incorporating art into the daily operation of a corporation will have positive spin-offs.  “Our water-cooler  talk is going to improve, the quality of our conversations around different ways of solving problems will improve, and we’ll be able help a thriving arts community here in the city.”

Any business that is a member of the Chamber of Commerce or an artist interested in the program can approach the Calgary Arts Development through its website. Then they’ll be matched up depending on what’s needed.

It’s up to the company to decide whether they want to loan the space for free or for a reduced rental rate, either short or long-term, depending on the needs of the artist and landlord.

Since the program was announced earlier this week, Beaulieu says the response has been good. “There are at least a half a dozen businesses interested in the idea and in the arts community, word is spreading like wildfire.”  

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