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Photo by Debra Downey

Photo by Debra Downey

Construction crews have now moved on to the Carnegie Gallery property to begin renovations that should be complete this spring.

Town with ‘huge heart’ saves Carnegie

Renovations begin to modernize treasured building

By Debra Downey, Senior Editor

Work is now under way to update and modernize Dundas’ treasured Carnegie Gallery.

Crews moved on to the Ogilvie Street site earlier this month to begin construction of an atrium that will eventually provide street level access, a new elevator and handicapped bathroom facility, a long wall for two-dimensional exhibitions and much-needed office space .

Nancy Gray, chair of the Carnegie Gallery’s board of directors, said the work should be complete by early spring.

“We had hoped to start work this past spring, but there were delays in obtaining the required building permits from the city,” she said. “This is unfortunate as it means work will be going on during our busiest and most critical time financially over the Christmas season.”

The gallery will remain open during renovations, but Gray said it will mean some noise and occasional disruptions.

“We hope people will be patient…as the final result will be an improved facility for our artist members and our visitors,” she said.

The upgrades to the Carnegie are being financed through the gallery’s share of $2.45 million in funding from the province, along with money raised over the years through fundraisers and donations from supporters.

And while the renovations may provide some disruption, the sounds of construction crews on the Carnegie property are music to Gray’s ears.

“At our first meeting with the contractor, when we were finishing the order of business, it really hit me,” she said. “It is happening. It is really happening.”

Gray noted it has been seven years since a city official telephoned to say the Carnegie Gallery’s lease wouldn’t be renewed. The gallery was in danger of losing its home because the City of Hamilton acquired more properties than it wanted following amalgamation in 2001.

The city’s tentative plan to sell the Carnegie building came to light in the midst of the gallery’s 25th anniversary and board members did not want to lose the building. The Dundas Arts Community Foundation (DACF) was formed in 2005 to work with the city to retain the 1910 building that once housed Dundas’ first library. The scope of DACF was later expanded to raise funds for the gallery, Dundas Museum and Archives and the Dundas Valley School of Art.

Gray credited many people in the community for coming together to move the Carnegie Gallery project from dream to fruition.

She said Fred Vermeulen, Bob Crockford, Doug Barber, Frances Neufeld, Mark Chamberlain, Tom Van Zuiden are just a few of the many people who have been key to the project’s success. Among gallery members, Gray said the Carnegie is fortunate to have Colin Mercer and David McCann, two engineers who have helped navigate the practical building issues.

Donn Zver’s leadership in fundraising efforts was pivotal, said Gray, and administrator Barbara Patterson has shown “remakrable patience and good humour” in dealing with the consequences of the board’s decisions about the building.

Gray admits there have been “some moments of turbulence and tension,” but added that considering the scope of the project being primarily undertaken by volunteers, it has been a remarkable achievement of cooperation.

“We have achieved a lot these past seven years,” she said. “DVSA is renovated, we at the gallery are nearly finished and soon the museum will embark on their project. I think it is a great story for a community of this size, and as Hockeyville also showed, this is a town with a huge heart.”

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