A historic Calgary landmark is once again seeing a resurgence as a community space, with its doors being opened to storytelling, the arts, and culture of the city.
The Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber building is set to become a hub in the Downtown Core for artists, performers, and under-served community groups until the summer of 2024.
“We are committed as the city to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to create vibrancy in our downtown core, and an investment in the Eau Claire neighbourhood hub is part of that commitment,” said Thom Mahler, Director of Downtown Strategy for the City of Calgary.
The building was moved in October 2021 from its location along Barclay Parade to its current temporary location south of Eau Claire Market. That area is being redeveloped to be more flood resilient.
“Downtown reinvention cannot happen unless everyone who has an interest in downtown’s future and success grows together in the same direction, and the Eau Claire Neighbourhood Hub is a prime example of this,” Mahler said.
He said that cSPACE would be activating a historic resource in the city with local artists to the benefit of community members. It will create a venue for the sharing of new ideas, while at the same time allowing for work to be done on protecting historic resources and the downtown core from climate change.
Deeter Schurig, President and CEO of cSPACE, said that the new space would continue their mission to develop creative spaces for “Calgary’s talent pipeline.”
“I put forward that it lives within a shared vision for our city, one that is creative, one that is vibrant, and one that is vital,” Schurig said.
Keeping the art, and history of Calgary alive
The hub was opened on Thursday, with a reading by Calgary’s poet laureate Wakefield Brewster. There was also an interactive performance by the first artist-in-residence, Kenna Burima.
Burima said that her goal during her time as artist-in-residence is to develop a program where anyone, regardless of musical ability, will be able to participate in the creation of music.
“My plan is that anyone that can, can sign up for an hour and write a song—full stop,” Burima said.
“I am relieved to be able to say that you don’t have to worry about if it’s going to be a good song or not, or if it’s going to be anything other than just whatever is true in that moment.”
Eldon Weaselchild performed a traditional blessing ceremony for the space, and spoke about the importance of the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber as a place for continued storytelling in the city.
“To come back full circle, and stand in a building that Blackfoot people used to come into to barter and bargain on wood products is simply amazing,” Weaselchild said.
He talked about the stories his mother would tell him about how logs would be floated down river from their timber limit near Castle mountain, down the Bow River, and into Calgary. He spoke about how the journey the Siksika people had to take to reclaim their historic right to resources up to the 1960s, and how the smudge he used to bless the building had come from the high alpine forest which was a manifestation of that shared history.
“I thank you all for keeping the arts alive,” he said.
Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong said that the ability to use the space to tell personal stories resonated deeply with him.
“We take a look at Calgary, we’ll take a look at history, heritage, and we take a look at arts and culture—it’s in all of us,” Wong said.
“If we don’t remember that, if we don’t share that, we lose that.”