Esker Gallery

Esker Gallery

Recently, a philanthropist in Inglewood, Canada truly took the importance of a “room with a view” to heart. When a development company moved in on Jim Hill’s Inglewood art gallery, attempting to buy a lot that would block the gallery’s west-facing view, he did what any art lover with the means would: he bought the entire proposed lot.

The Esker Foundation Contemporary Art Gallery was founded by Hill and his wife in 2012, and is considered one of Calgary’s most important art spaces. The view from the gallery’s window (called “the Lantern”) has been considered a “million dollar view”, which proved true at the $1.5 million price tag he paid to secure his gallery’s perspective.

Upon purchasing the lot, the construction of the proposed 4-storey retail/office space at 923 9th Avenue SE was halted — permanently. The complex was scheduled for completion this year built by Slokker, which was already advertising future retail and office space for lease when Hill intervened.

“I knew that lot would be developed, but it never really occurred to me they’d build something four storeys high on it […],” said the gallery owner.

Hill added that while he might develop the lot someday, for now, he plans to establish a sculpture garden — something he always envisioned as being part of the Esker gallery.

“It was a combination of a sort of selfish reason — wanting to preserve the view to the downtown — but also the thinking that we could use it as an outdoor extension of the art we have indoors,” he said.

Shortly after buying the lot, Calgary artist Dick Averns’ piece, Water Meter was the outdoor continuation of Averns’ exhibit inside the gallery, and there is consideration that the outdoor lot continue as revolving exhibition of a single piece.  For now, Esker still plans to landscape and create a sculpture garden as a green space for Inglewood’s main street, but there’s no ETA as of now.

Inglewood Council member Gian-Carolo Carra said the neighborhood desperately needs residential space and hopes Hill will consider that sometime in the future. However, he doesn’t fault Hill for putting a stop to the proposed Slokker building due to his love of arts.

“He’s been a massive patron of the arts and a benefactor for the area,” said Carra. “I can totally understand, having invested so much and having the wherewithal to do it, why he would say, ‘I want to make sure this is perfect.’ “It’s an interesting and charming story.”

Regardless of what will become of the lot going forward, the story of the art lover who stopped the construction of a commercial building to save a window with a view will go down in Inglewood’s history.

Photo credit Calgary Herald