Petition demands gov’t scrap national gallery contest
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James Maclennan/for metro ottawa
With developers rushing to submit bids to keep the National Portrait Gallery in Ottawa, a city MP yesterday urged the federal government to scrap the possibility of an alternate site.
Ottawa Centre New Democrat Paul Dewar laced up skates and took to the canal beneath the Bank Street bridge to collect signatures for a petition to keep the gallery in Ottawa.
And with crowds out to enjoy near perfect skating weather, Dewar and his supporters took just 30 minutes to collect 150 signatures from skaters who stopped to admire several works loaned by the portrait gallery that had been temporarily installed under the bridge.
Dewar will deliver the petition to the House of Commons next week. Dewar called on the government to halt the national competition for the gallery, noting that it belongs in the capital along with other national institutions like the National Arts Centre, the National War Museum and the National Gallery.
"It’s not just about the historic and cultural issues either, there are financial considerations as well," Dewar said. "It would cost the government an additional $2.5 million to move the collection from where it is stored now to another city in Canada."
Dewar would like to see the gallery installed in the former U.S. Embassy across from Parliament Hill, where it was originally intended to go in 2001. But in 2006, the Conservatives scrapped that project amid skyrocketing costs at the site.
Last year, the government announced it would be accepting bids from private developers in nine cities to host the gallery. The deadline is April 16.
At least one Ottawa developer, Claridge Homes, has proposed to build the gallery downtown, at a lot by Lisgar, Nepean and Metcalfe streets.
A city staff report said the space at 150 Elgin St. would be ideal for the gallery if a proposed community concert hall there was not built. Concert hall plans were scrapped last week.
Although he does not agree with private developers building the gallery, Dewar said he would support any sound proposal that keeps the institution here.
Lucie Parent, a visitor from Montreal, signed the petition yesterday, saying the gallery belongs in Ottawa.
"It’s important to keep part of our culture in a place where people will come to see it," she said.