Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Strategic initiative


The Winnipeg Art Gallery is currently housed in a modernist building, which is considered by many one of the most significant structures built in our community since the Second World War. A bold triangular form that juts out at a major intersection, it is also beautifully sited on Memorial Boulevard, a few blocks north of our Provincial legislature. When it opened in 1971, it was hailed as a groundbreaking achievement and it has served its purpose well over the last 36 years. The WAG recently completed a major capital renovation that resulted in a retrofitted auditorium (that sits 300 in a very elegant setting) as well as a major overhaul of our art storage vaults and the installation of state of the art climate controls and fire-suppression systems. One liability on this front remains the $1.6 million debt that remains from this period (2003-04). The Board at the time took the decision to postpone a capital campaign to a later date, once we had confirmed the vision for the more ambitious plan.

The WAG, through lack of capital funding and very tight budgets, has not succeeded in properly maintaining the building’s appearance, nor can it successfully provide for a number of vital features that could assist in ensuring our long term financial viability. We will be celebrating the WAG’s centennial in 2012. This is a key moment to engender community support for our campaign. A number of opportunities could be addressed by the proposed renovation/expansion:

Work that could be contemplated:
-improved and expanded gallery space particularly for our Inuit art collection (the signature aspect of our institution) would assist in promoting a better image of the WAG;
-an improved gift shop, with better location, direct access from the street level and visibility, would produce a greater ROI than the current shop;
-improved working environments for staff (most of whom are working in quite awful spaces devoid of natural light);
-improved and energy efficient lighting grids would assist in reducing electrical costs;
-improved and expanded library would provide more space for the growing use by students (this tied to our student membership program and our links to U of Winnipeg and U of Manitoba);
-improved meetings rooms would assist us in generating more revenues through facility rentals tied to our corporate programs and the use of our auditorium;
-improved studio space would allow us to increase our offerings in our art studio and education programs;
-capital campaign potentially twinned with a endowment campaign, and
-a new –and higher end- restaurant at ground floor level would assist us in making Eckhardt Hall (an already great reception area) a more friendly space while increasing revenue potential

-The WAG would benefit from an ability to improve our bottom line (operations have been shrinking since 1993);
-our education partners would be interested in collaborating/informing the work we do in our art studios;
-improved and upgraded gallery spaces would assist in promoting a better image of the institution (we could start “looking like a winner” again);
-the community would benefit with the launch of our renovated spaces to coincide with the launch of the Canadian Centre For Human Rights (another museum set to open after 2010), and,
-our capital campaign may jeopardize our annual giving requirements.

-our core constituencies: members, board and volunteers, artists, and supporters;
-our major funding partners (federal/provincial: Manitoba/Canada Infrastructure Program);
-School boards and the two universities and community colleges;
-agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Manitoba and Destination Winnipeg, and
members of the capital campaign cabinet.

-create sense of renewal and excitement for the organization, including board, staff, volunteers, friends and supporters;
-enhance visitor experience through improved gallery spaces;
-substantially improved studio program spaces (for a program that is already quite successful);
-substantially improved working space for our team may actually assist in improving morale and performance;
-galvanize the team with a sense of momentum (they have “heard this story” for 15 years!), and improved financial performance through greater attendance and increased retail and rental revenues.

-the potentially negative impact of this work on our day-to-day operations;
-no history of successful fundraising with the organization;
-first time campaign for a Director who is relatively new in town;
-we may not have sufficiently lobbied for support of our vision to find willing partners, and
-very difficult context for fundraising (with the “Canadian Centre for Human Rights” looming on the prairie horizon needing more than $70 million to complete their project.

Tomorrow, we meet to start designing our professional development agenda which follows on a 360 degree evaluation that was completed by a number of people we work with and for. I am told this is a humbling experience and that it allow for very truthful feedback on an individual's strengths and weaknesses. But for now, time for bed. (an important footnote: i am finding the time at dinner with conversation with colleagues as informative and stimulating as the course work.

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