Welcome to the Jenny Belzberg Theatre!
November 3, Banff, AB -- Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity announces the completion of its Theatre Revitalization Project and the official renaming of the venue as the Jenny Belzberg Theatre. Banff Centre will be offering free, public tours of the new space with a sampling of live music, information about the history of the Theatre, and behind the scenes glimpses of the renewed space.
Thanks to a transformational gift from the Belzberg family in honour of Calgary-born community builder and philanthropist, Mrs. Jenny Belzberg , CM, LLD, AOE , Banff Centre’s most important training and performing arts venue will continue to serve audiences, artists, creators, and the teams who support their work well into the future. The Belzberg family’s gift, along with support from many other passionate donors, the Government of Alberta, and the Government of Canada, has allowed the facility to be rejuvenated, with significantly improved acoustics, sightlines to the stage, audience accessibility and comfort.
Design and planning work by KPMB Architects and MTa, and construction work by Stuart Olson, has seen the space re-configured from 930 to 638 seats to offer a warmer setting that fosters a more intimate connection between artists and their audiences. Construction of the Jenny Belzberg Theatre began in November 2019 with a planned completion at the end of October 2020. Following the installation of the new, comfortable seats, which arrived in October, the renovation is now complete — on budget and on time.
I’ve seen Banff Centre grow from a little school for young summer students to a global centre for artists who are professionals in their field. Banff Centre has always been at the forefront with a vision for the future – the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Building was built to give artists virtual reality tools when no one else was working in high tech … Banff Centre has been working with Indigenous artists for many years ahead of Reconciliation. Banff Centre has made changes in the world, and these changes are good changes.
As the theatre renovation was fully funded through dedicated investments made specifically to this project, the project was able to continue through the period of stillness for Banff Centre resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are thrilled to announce the completion of the project and to begin welcoming the public into the space as part of the safe, gradual, and phased re-opening of our campus.
Mrs. Belzberg — who has been involved with Banff Centre over many decades as a Governor (1985‐87) and Chair (1987‐91) of the Board of Governors, as well as through the Midsummer Ball for much of the fundraiser’s 40-year history — first attended “Musical Theatre” program opening night performances in the then Eric Harvie Theatre in the 1970s with her husband, Calgary businessman Hyman Belzberg (d. 2017). At the heart of Mrs. Belzberg’s gift — one of the largest private gifts Banff Centre has ever received — is pride in Alberta and a deep appreciation for Banff Centre’s vital role as Canada’s largest postgraduate arts school.
Artists are creators of the future. I am passionate about giving them the tools and support to make change. Banff Centre is in my heart. The renewal of the theatre was my dream — my family’s legacy in the West — to give artists capabilities and possibilities for the future.
In addition to improving the audience experience, the renovation ensures that Banff Centre will meet the needs of artists who will use the space for training, creation, and presentation of their work. Artist and production professionals were consulted during the design phase of the project which provided direction on how the space would be renewed. For example, these conversations led the project team to install conduit and wiring throughout the room beyond current space requirements, with an eye to accommodating future technologies as they emerge. As an important learning environment for production practitioners, the theatre’s technical booths have been rewired and enlarged to allow learners to work alongside their mentors.
For 52 years, the Eric Harvie Theatre has been a keystone of the arts in Canada. Some of the country’s most acclaimed productions were created and staged in the theatre, including award-winning productions The Faerie Queen, Kafka's Chimp, Pride and Prejudice, Filumena, Betroffenheit, King Arthur’s Night, and Orphée+. Banff Centre will be pleased to honour the Eric Harvie Theatre’s incredible history, and the Harvie family’s legacy of support to Banff Centre, by creating a new permanent display and historical timeline in the lobby of the theatre complex.
To be able to celebrate the reopening of our theatre space during this period where so many in the live-events industry are struggling is a physical demonstration of the hope we have for artists, production professionals, and audiences to be able to come together in the future and share in the magic of live performance.
On Public Tours:
With health, safety, and physical distancing measures in place, Banff Centre is inviting community visits to the new Jenny Belzberg Theatre through tours beginning on November 12. The tours will be offered on Thursdays and Saturdays until December 12 and can be pre-booked online. Led by Jim Olver, Director of Customer Service for Banff Centre, the complimentary public tours will take small groups of visitors through the new facility and will feature a live performance with local musicians on stage, as well as a short film screening.
Key project features:
• Re-configured theatre capacity from 930 to 638 seats to offer a more intimate experience between the artist and audience
• Redesigned space to improve intimacy and the ability for artists to feel closer and more connected to the audience
• Upgraded seats with improved legroom, seat width, and comfort
• Improved sightlines for the audience by rebuilding the existing floor and improving the rake to provide greater visibility and connection between the artist and audience
• Broader accessibility through integrated ramps, handrails, tactile surface changes to accommodate people with mobility challenges
• Innovative, custom-designed wood panels cladding the theatre walls, improving acoustics and aesthetics
• Enhanced HVAC and ventilation system, supporting audience comfort and enjoyment
• Enlarged and re-wired technical booths for the production team
• Installed additional conduit and wiring throughout the room with an eye to accommodating future technological needs
• Created an inviting, warm, natural feel, including a balcony with seating that will encircle the room
• Renamed as the Jenny Belzberg Theatre, in recognition of the transformational gift from the Belzberg family