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Realizing the Future Nanaimo Art Gallery

Creating Space for Arts and Culture in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Art Gallery offers something for everyone. Each year the Gallery reaches 22,000 children, youth, adults, and seniors from diverse backgrounds, through exhibitions, programs, and outreach.  

With only one exhibition space and one studio for learning and engagement programs, Nanaimo Art Gallery’s current facility is too small. Other public art galleries in communities of a similar size have at least four times more space. Because there is only one gallery space, there are 12 weeks each year when there is no exhibition to view while the space is changed over. It’s worth noting the remarkable work the Gallery has achieved within these constraints, receiving recognition for our commitment to artistic excellence and community engagement. 

With expanded space, Nanaimo Art Gallery could significantly enhance its contributions, fostering greater cultural enrichment, educational opportunities, and community vibrancy.

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A larger facility will have more exhibition space, ensuring there is always an exhibition to see, and more opportunities to share work by artists from our region and across the country. There will also be more space for our learning programs, which means more opportunities to engage the community through art. 

Beyond being simply too small, the current facility was never built to be a gallery, which poses additional challenges. Nanaimo Art Gallery is housed in a former 1960s bank building and despite renovations, there are ongoing issues with the current facility that cannot be fixed, including accessibility standards for visitors, volunteers and staff. The current building also does not meet the climate and humidity controls necessary to exhibit many artworks and properly care for our permanent collection.

Creating a new purpose-built facility could take five or more years. Therefore, it is important to start the process now, before development costs increase further. The existing facility is not suitable and cannot meet the needs of Nanaimo’s current population. This gap will grow as our population increases as Nanaimo becomes a thriving urban centre.

An expanded Nanaimo Art Gallery supports the goals of the City Plan: Nanaimo Reimagined. It will be more accessible and contribute to community well-being, reconciliation, representation, and inclusion. It will encourage people to visit and spend time in the downtown sector, supporting Nanaimo’s revitalization. An expanded Gallery will contribute to the local economy through employment and tourism. A new facility will have a café run by a local business, a bigger store selling more local artists’ work, more programs, and multiple exhibition spaces, including a curated space that features regional artists.

Together, we will create space for art and community.

Our Path to a New Gallery

Over a decade ago, our journey to realize the future Nanaimo Art Gallery began. 

Starting in 2013, Nanaimo City Council approved a three-phase plan for facility development at 150 Commercial Street. The first two phases included consolidating Gallery operations at this site as well as significant renovations, which were completed between 2014 and 2017. Phase 3,” the expansion of Nanaimo Art Gallery and creation of a Class A Gallery” is still to be realized. The Nanaimo Art Gallery Feasibility Study – Phase 1 Final Report was presented to Nanaimo Mayor and City Councillors on August 29th, 2022. 

The feasibility study investigated how Nanaimo Art Gallery should grow to meet the needs of the community and what the future facility could be like. The study explored the feasibility of 3 development routes, creating high-level architectural concepts for routes 2 and 3:

Route 1: Redeveloping the existing building (a former bank building at 150 Commercial St);

Route 2: Building a new gallery facility on the existing site at 150 Commercial St; and,

Route 3: Building a new facility on a greenfield site.

Following up on the feasibility study in late 2022 and throughout 2023, the Gallery worked with the City of Nanaimo’s Real Estate team on site options analysis, focused on additional community engagement, and completed a high level capital campaign strategy. 

The report on the Future Gallery Phase 2 was shared with Nanaimo Mayor and City Councillors on December 4, 2023. The Mayor and Council voted unanimously to direct City staff to work with the Gallery to identify two to three sites so that we can develop a detailed business plan, a Case for Support, and a Test Case for a Capital Campaign

Help shape the future Nanaimo Art Gallery

We need your help to build the new Nanaimo Art Gallery!

Nanaimo Art Gallery is consulting the community throughout this process. In collaboration with the consulting firm Noridicity, we have hosted round tables, interviewed stakeholders, engaged the public in surveys, and hosted open houses to learn what you want in a new facility.

We’d love your support to unlock the potential of a new Nanaimo Art Gallery! Follow along with us through our social media, enews, future surveys, open houses and at community events.

Show your support for a bright future for Nanaimo Art Gallery by joining our community as a member, and donating to the Gallery! We look forward to connecting with you.

The future Nanaimo Art Gallery will create space for…

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Nanaimo Art Gallery is situated in the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of Snuneymuxw First Nations, and we are grateful to operate on Snuneymuxw territory.



Nanaimo Art Gallery is situated in the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of Snuneymuxw First Nations, and we are grateful to operate on Snuneymuxw territory.