A rendering of the new art gallery on the Halifax waterfront
A rendering of the winning design concept for the new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, by KPMB Architects with Omar Gandhi Architect, Jordan Bennett Studio, Elder Lorraine Whitman, Public Work and Transsolar. Credit: Contributed

The decision to postpone the construction of a new home for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is not opposed by the leaders of the Liberal and New Democratic parties. But Liberal leader Zach Churchill and NDP leader Claudia Chender expressed concerns about what this announcement could signal.

On Wednesday, the province announced in a news release that the construction of new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia planned for the Halifax waterfront is on hold indefinitely.

“We value the arts and want to make sure there is a home for art to be shared and displayed in our province,” Premier Tim Houston said in the news release. “But now is not the time.”

Liberal leader Zach Churchill said “it was clear” shelving the new art gallery means the Houston government has no plan to deal with the pressures of inflation.

“We have significant capital projects in our province and Nova Scotians need to know if other major infrastructure investments, like the QEII hospital redevelopment, will also be indefinitely delayed or canceled,” Churchill said.

“It’s also unclear what will happen to the $70 million the province committed to the art gallery. If the government is going to try and save money by postponing this project, where will those funds go? With an affordability crisis on our hands and a health care system deteriorating by the day, that’s a question that needs to be answered.”

NDP leader Claudia Chender said she will be watching to make sure the decision to cut the art gallery won’t be followed by other cuts impacting people who earn a living as artists and musicians.

“While the cost for the art gallery may be higher than we can afford right now, our cultural sector — arts and culture workers and organizations across this province — need support from the Houston government, now and going forward,” Chender told the Examiner. “The Nova Scotia cultural sector, a pillar of our economy and our identity as Nova Scotians, has been decimated by the pandemic and years of underfunding prior to that.”

The Examiner also reached out to Omar Gandhi, the lead architect for the art gallery project, but haven’t heard back. We will update when we can get comment.

The Examiner connected with the spokesperson for KPMB, another architecture firm on the team for the project, who said they aren’t offering interviews or comment at this point.

On Wednesday, the Examiner reached out the AGNS for comment. Grant Machum, acting chair or the board of governors of AGNS, said while they were “disappointed” with the news, they also understood the province’s need to reprioritize.

“I have been personally assured by Premier Houston that his government remains committed to a new gallery but that this was just not the right time,” Machum said in a statement to the Examiner. “We will continue to work with the province and our Capital Campaign Council to bring this important project back online.” 

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Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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