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Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to close until spring for upgrades to fire suppression system

The north building at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, pictured, will be closed along with the south building where the fire suppression system is being replaced. (Brian MacKay/CBC - image credit)
The north building at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, pictured, will be closed along with the south building where the fire suppression system is being replaced. (Brian MacKay/CBC - image credit)

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia will be closed until the spring as the fire suppression system in its south building is replaced.

Officials with the gallery said the closure will begin on Feb. 1 while the restoration takes place "to ensure public safety and the safety of the permanent collection."

Sarah Moore Fillmore, the gallery's CEO, told CBC News on Monday the facility put out a tender for the job in December and recently met with the successful bidder to get the scope of the project.

According to the tender award details, the replacement system will cost about $595,000.

The fire suppression system isn't the only fix needed, she added.

"We are in historic buildings," she said. "The roof needs to be replaced. There's some work on windows and elevators and things to just keep the gallery and the buildings up in working order and to code. Those projects are all being scoped and sequenced as well."

Maud Lewis's house is now part of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which also has a large collection of her authentic work.
Maud Lewis's house is now part of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which also has a large collection of her authentic work.

Maud Lewis's house inside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. It will be covered to protect it during renovations. (The Canadian Press)

She also said measures are being taken to ensure the work is safe while the upgrades are being done, including a protective sheathing for the Maud Lewis house.

Scheduled community and school programming will continue to be offered through its educational initiatives, Moore Fillmore said, including sending staff and artists out for talks and art projects during the closure.

Artwork is already being removed from the building, she added.

Gallery deals with ongoing structural issues

Officials also noted news of the renovation "is not an indication that the gallery will be staying in its current location," because the upgrades are needed regardless of who is occupying the space.

In July 2022, plans for a new art gallery on the Halifax waterfront were put on hold due to increasing construction costs.

The new gallery came with a $137-million dollar price tag when the winning design was announced in 2020. But in 2022, the government said that was set to increase by about $25 million with inflation and rising costs.

Moore Fillmore said despite the fixes to the current location, the gallery maintains that a new building is a "priority."

"It will really invigorate and give life to the arts community and to the cultural economy of our province, which we know, when the time is right, will be a boon to Nova Scotia."

Last year, the gallery announced its current location needed a new roof and more space to store its collection. Previously, Moore Fillmore said more than 90 per cent of what the gallery owns is in storage, making it hard to add to its collection.

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