Marc Bence/Metro Edmonton


Premier Ed Stelmach listens to Tony Luppino, executive director of the Art Gallery of Alberta yesterday.

Describing culture as the “soul of society,” Premier Ed Stelmach announced that the province will spend an additional $12 million on the construction of a new art gallery in the city’s downtown core.

“It’s not just a gallery. It’s a place to learn, a place to broaden our perspective on the world,” Stelmach said of the revamped Art Gallery of Alberta, facing a total provincial contribution of $27 million.

Construction crews are already tearing down the old building in preparation for an iconic structure that uses polished glass and steel in a giant ribbon pattern, slated for opening in 2009.

Tony Luppino, executive director of the gallery, said the completed space would become one of the first great buildings of the 21st Century in Western Canada.

The building’s costs have escalated to $88 million, up from $48 million, but the contractors are now locked into a set price, he said.

“We know this building is now on budget, so that’s why we’re starting construction,” he said. “We feel pretty confident that we’ll be able to get the rest of the funding we need to complete this building on time.”

The gallery’s construction is currently short at least $13 million, even with the province paying for nearly a third of its costs. Officials hope to make up the shortfall through fundraising and private donations.

Mayor Stephen Mandel said building the new gallery is an important city project that will establish Edmonton as a leading city in Canada, attracting people from all over the world.

The city is contributing $21 million to the project while the federal government has so far committed a $10-million dollar donation.

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