In 1969, the need for an arts centre in Calgary was first documented. Following the study, it was determined that the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Theatre Calgary and Alberta Theatre Projects were in serious need of a proper performance space in anticipation of their growth, as well as the increasing needs of the community. In 1976, The Calgary Centre for Performing Arts (CCPA) was officially registered as a charitable organization. While the Centre was planned in the boom years, it was built during a recession.
Three women were instrumental in establishing and raising funds for the backbone of the facility: Dr. Martha Cohen, Sandra LeBlanc and Vera Swanson. In 1983,CCPA moves into its first official offices, in former City buildings located on 7th Avenue at Olympic Plaza. These buildings have since been torn down. In July 1985, CCPA offices moved into the existing building. For the first two months, staff wore construction helmets, as the building was still a construction site.
On September 14, 1985, the CCPA was officially opened with a televised gala celebration. The entire building was wrapped in red ribbon, which was cut by Dr. Martha Cohen, Vera Swanson and Sandra LeBlanc. In 2001, the Centre’s name changed when EPCOR Utilities Inc. entered into a ten-year naming agreement with EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts that provides multi-faceted support through marketing expertise, technical knowledge in energy management, cash contributions to an endowment fund, and a service relationship for the provision of energy and natural gas.
Through this agreement, EPCOR - an Alberta-based utility supplier - supports EPCOR CENTRE's vision to foster a culture of creativity in Calgary.In 2014, the Centre rebranded to Arts Commons, representing “the Arts” which expands our offering beyond the performing arts to a wider variety of arts and genres. “Commons” is derived from the old town square concept where ideas are shared, people from all walks of life gather, and different perspectives are welcomed – the perfect name for our space.
Federal: $2.5 million
Provincial $48.7 million
City site value $12.3 million
City of Calgary $12.7 million (grant)
Private Sector $11.3 million
Interest $14.9 million
Total cost $102.4 million
The site is anchored by two heritage buildings: Burns Building, circa 1917 and the Public Building, circa 1931
The architect was local firm Raines, Finlayson, Barrett, who also built the Calgary International Airport and Mount Royal College.
The architect’s challenge was to construct the Calgary Centre for Performing Arts while maintaining the heritage buildings on the site.
Theatre designers were Theatre Project Consultants of London, England, and the original acoustical design was provided by Artec Consultants of New York.