6 Institutions Leading the Cultural Renaissance on the Prairies

Canada’s Prairie provinces have invested in cultural institutions in recent years with world-class museums and award-winning architecture popping up in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton. While the cities are gateways to nearby national parks and natural wonders, these new additions are transforming the Prairies into a hub for arts and culture. Here are six spots worth visiting on your next trip to this region of Canada.
 
 

June 3, 2020

Winnipeg

An exterior view of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights from the skater park
   Photo: Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Canadian Museum for Human Rights 

 Since it opened in 2014, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has welcomed over 1.5 million visitors from across Canada and around the world. The museum is one of Canada’s nine National Museums (the first national museum built since 1967 and the only one located in western Canada), and its distinct spherical building is a focal point on Winnipeg’s skyline. The building itself is designed to take visitors on a journey from darkness to light as they walk up the alabaster ramps, pause at the Stuart Clark Garden of Contemplation and ascend to the glass Tower of Hope for a panoramic view of the city. The museum invites patrons to consider how they can make a difference through their actions to defend and promote human rights using multimedia storytelling, exhibits, public events and educational initiatives.
 

An exterior view of the Winnipeg Art Gallery at night
   Photo: courtesy of WAG

Inuit Art Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery 

 The Inuit Art Centre is set to open in fall 2020 and it will be the largest museum of its kind in Canada. Featuring over 7,500 Inuit sculptures from across Inuit Nunangat, it will serve as a gathering place to share oral tradition and to experience stories and legends that have been preserved through art. Drawing inspiration from the landscape of the North, the 8,000-square-foot Inuit Gallery features skylights and spaces that connect to the existing Winnipeg Art Gallery. The Inuit Art Centre will showcase carvings, prints, textiles, clothing and crafts, alongside multimedia work by young Inuit artists and will provide educational opportunities at the Knowledge and Sharing Centre and outdoor Carving Porch. Visitors can head to the Interactive Theatre for live performances by educators, curators, Elders, storytellers and artists.
 
 

Saskatoon

Large windows illuminate the entrance corridor of the Remai Modern
   Photo: Nic Lehoux

Remai Modern 

 Drawing on a mixture of regional, national and international programming, the Remai Modern offers a Canadian perspective on contemporary art movements. The Remai is attached to the Persephone Theatre, which is situated along the South Saskatchewan River, and was designed to take visitors on a journey through the galleries down to the river’s edge, with floor-to-ceiling windows providing some of the city’s best views of the River Landing neighbourhood. But what has garnered international recognition is the museum’s comprehensive collection of linocuts by Pablo Picasso.
 
 

Calgary

Exterior view of the National Music Centre at Studio Bell
   Photo: Jeremy Bitterman

National Music Centre 

 Studio Bell is home to the National Music Centre, which celebrates the history of music in this country with over 2,000 pieces, including rare instruments, sound equipment and Canadian music memorabilia. Set in Calgary’s revitalized East Village and overlooking the Bow River, the museum boasts interactive exhibits, four Canadian music halls of fame and a 300-seat performance hall. Some of the most iconic pieces in their collection include Randy Bachman’s “American Woman” guitar and performance costumes from artists like k.d. lang, deadmau5 and Shania Twain.
 
 

Central Library 

 The Central Library’s collection includes more than 148,000 literary works and the design-forward building boasts a performance hall, recording studios, outdoor courtyards, 30 free community meeting areas, the 12,220-square foot Jocelyn Louise Anderson Children’s Library and more. The sleek digital learning lab is an innovative space where visitors can design video games and record podcasts, among other creative endeavours, using the library’s free software and equipment. The Central Library’s unique shape was inspired by Alberta’s bow-shaped chinook arch cloud formations and artwork from Indigenous artists is included in their Indigenous Placemaking project.
 
 

Edmonton

Exterior view of the Royal Alberta Museum
   Photo: courtesy of the Royal Alberta Museum

Royal Alberta Museum 

 The Royal Alberta Museum (first built in 1967 as the Provincial Museum and Archives of Alberta) was renamed in 2005 in honour of Queen Elizabeth II and moved to its downtown location in 2018. Spanning 419,000 square feet in a certified LEED Gold sustainable building, the museum is the largest in western Canada with 2.5 million objects in its collections, 13 curatorial programs and four permanent galleries. The museum highlights Alberta’s natural and cultural history, and the building itself is a nod to the province’s natural landscape with floor-to-ceiling windows and a prairie lightning storm art installation behind the admissions desk.

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