One of Canada's largest art centres, Arts Commons occupies an entire block in the heart of Calgary's downtown core and is home to six performance spaces, art galleries, rehearsal and meeting rooms, theatre workshops and cafes.
Formerly known as the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts, the name was changed recently to Arts Commons to reflect the organisation's expansion into other art forms and to underline its commitment to welcoming people from all walks of life.
More than 1800 events are held at Arts Commons every year encompassing everything from classical music to rock, live theatre to Calgary's International Children's Festival, and art exhibitions to National Geographic Live.
The 1800-seater Jack Singer Concert Hall where the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra performs is the largest venue in the building and is housed in the six-storey Burns Building, built in 1912 by Calgarian Pat Burns as the headquarters for his company, Burns Foods.
This building is joined to the former Calgary Public Building, constructed in 1930, which houses the Max Bell Theatre, home of Theatre Calgary, the Martha Cohen Theatre where Alberta Theatre Projects resides, and the Big Secret Theatre, home of One Yellow Rabbit.
The Jack Singer Concert Hall, Arts Commons, Calgary
Other venues include the 185-seater Engineered Air Theatre, completed in 1994, which incorporates recovered elements from the historic Empress Theatre that used to stand on the site of the current Martha Cohen Theatre. Meanwhile Downstage makes it home in Motel, a 50-seater black box, multi-purpose venue for experimental theatre.
Between the two historic buildings that house Arts Commons are two brass, 86-year-old elevators that have been beautifully refurbished and are among the only manually-operated elevators in Canada. If you need to visit one of the offices on the upper floors to buy tickets for the Calgary Philharmonic, as I did, make sure you take a ride in the elevator!
If you're simply visiting Arts Commons or have time before a show, take a stroll around the five Arts Commons-run art galleries on the ground and upper levels, and the eight window
Detail from one of the art works on display at Arts Commons, Calgary
galleries run by local artists' groups along the + 15 pedestrian Skywalk that joins Arts Commons to the adjacent downtown buildings. These display spaces show a changing landscape of arts and crafts, including videos, sound installations, photography, print works and fine art.
There are two cafes within Arts Commons, Ca'Puccini, which showcases house-made specialities for lunch or pre-theatre dinner from the nearby fine dining restaurant Teatro, and Pita Express, serving pitas, shawarmas and salads.
To find out current and future events at Arts Commons the best place to look is the 'What's On' section of their website, which allows you to search by date, category (such as dance or visual arts), venue or company, making it easy to check out what there is to see, whether you are in town for a few days only, planning a trip to Calgary or you live locally and are thinking about what to do at the weekend.
Located on 8th Avenue SE, also known as Stephen Avenue, Arts Commons is accessible by C-Train (the eastbound Centre Street stop is one block away) and underground car parking is available, costing CN$5 evenings and weekends. The car park entrance is off MacLeod Trail between 9th and 8th Avenues.