Home » VoCA Wonders…Jeffrey Spalding Mysteriously Leaves the Glenbow Museum

VoCA Wonders…Jeffrey Spalding Mysteriously Leaves the Glenbow Museum

Why would curator Jeffrey Spalding, described as “a genius…a guy who actually gets things done and makes things happen” in THIS Globe and Mail article, recently hired to head up Alberta’s Glenbow museum, leave and be replaced so suddenly? With no explanation?

Jeffrey Spalding. He seems a nice enough fellow, no? Image: cbc.ca

It once seemed a perfect fit. Curator extraordinaire hired to revamp one of the country’s largest institutions not currently on the contemporary cultural map (that we know of). The Glenbow comprises a museum, art gallery, library and archives and holds over a million artifacts and some 28,000 works of art in its vast collections.

Also from the Globe: Spalding, 57, came to the Glenbow Museum from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, where he spent five years as director and chief curator. He is well-known across Canada and has been involved in arts and museum circles since the mid-1970s. Last year, he was appointed as a member of the Order of Canada.


During his tenure as president of the Glenbow Museum, Spalding made it clear that he intended to quickly institute changes to boost the museum’s presence and profile. His reputation as an ambitious and determined professional preceded him. When Spalding arrived at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery in 1982, its collection had about 200 works. When he left in 1999, it had 13,000.

Could it be that the powers-that-be at the Glenbow were intimidated by a curator who was perhaps hell-bent on initiating major changes? The modernizing of a Calgary art institution is much needed. We have Wayne Baerwaldt doing great things at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at the Alberta College of Art and Design, and of course the wonderful Southern Alberta Art Gallery in nearby Lethbridge…

David Spriggs, The Paradox of Power 2007, as installed at the SAAG in Lethbridge.

Part of Graeme Patterson’s installation last January at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at ACAD.
Image: acad.ab.ca

Here is part of the museum’s rather dated-sounding mandate: …Through a variety of dynamic programs and changing exhibitions and programs, and a broad collection of art, artifacts and historical documents, Glenbow Museum builds on a commitment to preserve our cultural and western heritage while simultaneously providing visitors with a glimpse of the world beyond…

It’s reminiscent of the striking lapse in judgment that the University of Manitoba made by refusing to hire the artist AA Bronson as the director of its School of Art last spring. Check out that blog entry – and its many comments – HERE.

VoCA would like an explanation!

Read more from the Calgary Herald HERE.

18 Responses to “VoCA Wonders…Jeffrey Spalding Mysteriously Leaves the Glenbow Museum”

  1. Murray Quinn says:

    If, as Lauchlan Currie, Chair of the Glenbows Board of Governors, states (in the Herald article) ‘there were no major differences in the board and Spalding’s vision for the museum’, then what gives? They owe their members, donors, supporters a clear and concise statement outlining exactly how they now plan on implementing this vision.

    In the meantime, count me as one donor who will be looking elsewhere.

  2. Marlena Fairbourne says:

    Well…such is the case in so many art institutions. They are run by people who make better book keepers and polititians

  3. Would be interesting to arrange for an interview with both parties and get the full story.

  4. Andrea says:

    I’d love to! At the moment, no one seems to be willing to talk…

  5. Andrea says:

    I’m putting in a request…stay tuned.

  6. AA Bronson says:

    If you look at who replaced Jeffrey, the message is clear. The Glenbow has always been a bastion of conservative indifference to art. There is no way he could have survived there. I was surprised that they hired him. He’s not part of the Alberta political network, and he was out-maneuvered, I am sure.

  7. Andrea says:

    Jeffrey Spalding replied to VoCA’s request for a response. Unsurprisingly, he declined to comment on the Glenbow, but he did say:

    “I continue on, as always, as a painter making new work and exhibiting. Specifically, I am charged up about the paintings that I have made in the past year. I am honoured that one of my seventies abstract paintings is featured in a forthcoming exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery opening Feb 14 (reception Feb 27). …and that I have a number of solo shows in the coming year at public and commercial galleries across Canada of both older as well as current work.

    I am engaged in a number of initiatives as President, Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and particularly we are preparing for a grand festival gathering of the RCA in Calgary end of June. I am finishing the final edit for an essay contribution to the Will Gorlitz Catalogue for publication this spring, closing in on the final text for a monograph about fifties painter Oscar Cahen and am engaged as a guest curator for a number of contemporary exhibition projects here and abroad that I think will be exciting, …more on this soon.

    …however, I remain totally open and enthusiastic about considering what the future may proffer, here or elsewhere.”

  8. Paul Bain says:

    Jeffrey Spalding will be fine: he is multi-talented, energetic and has vision. Glenbow on the other hand will drift back towards its natural station: namely moribund irrelevence. I made a gift of works there because I thought it was the start of something important. I would revoke it now if I could.

  9. Art says:

    Head back up to posting #7 and give Bronson’s comments a read. He is absolutely correct. As anyone who has worked with a cultural institution in Alberta can attest, myself included, the outward political stance begins with an all embracing commitment to progress and change until the status quo is challenged. Then the crap hits the fan but you won’t know it, it’s a covert assault where the local’s threatened by change and perhaps relinquishing their jobs to an individual “from way” create a full on seek and destroy mission. The “powers that be” who placed Spalding in the position are no match for the Glenbow board and employees and their commitment to everything Albertan at any price.
    One other issue which no one has dared mention, discrimination. If Mr. Spalding was a hetero married man with 2.5 children he would have had an easier time of it. So before anyone suggests that in this day and age the question of sexual discrimination is not applicable in Canada and certainly not in the Arts – well shake your head and don’t be so naïve as this is Alberta after all.

  10. Lena says:

    In reference to post 10: Mr. Spalding is happily married to his wife Marianne Gerlinger, so I’m not sure about the sexual discrimination you are making reference too. Perhaps you were still addressing the AA Bronsen post?

  11. Concerned says:

    “When Spalding arrived at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery in 1982, its collection had about 200 works. When he left in 1999, it had 13,000.”

    Just because he increased the collection doesn’t mean he did any good work. Maybe he filled it up with crap like”new acrylic” paintings like he did in other institutions. Or maybe even some of those items he aquired that are being investigated by the Canadian government…

  12. Andrea says:

    Do you have any evidence that points to any Glenbow/Jeffrey Spalding involvement in this case?

  13. Murray Quinn says:

    The only ‘crap’ being pedalled here is the ridiculous comments/allegations from Concerned.

  14. jl says:

    with reference to comment #10…fyi, Mr Spalding IS a hetero sexual married man with FIVE children!!!!

  15. AC says:

    Hi Jeffrey,
    Yes I saw that – congratulations! I look forward to seeing what’s next.

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