Skip to content

Construction of SFU's new Burnaby art museum to begin in 2020

Total cost of the 12,000-square-foot facility on University High Street isn't yet known, but a "significant gift" from the Marianne and Edward Gibson Trust is behind the project
SFU Art Museum
A rendering of the new SFU Art Museum on Burnaby Mountain. The design is not final.

Construction on a new 12,000-square-foot art museum on Burnaby Mountain is set to begin in the spring of 2020.

Simon Fraser University revealed its plans for the museum on Monday after announcing that it had received a “significant gift” from the Marianne and Edward Gibson Trust and family. An SFU spokesperson said this week that the family has requested that their donation remain confidential, so out of respect for donor privacy the university will not disclose the amount.

The donation will be combined with funding from SFU’s capital development fund.

“The final costs to build the museum are still being determined,” communications associate Justin Wong said in an email Thursday.

The project is currently out for RFP (request for proposals), and, ideally, two applicants will be shortlisted early in the new year and the job awarded by the fall of 2019. Construction would then begin in spring 2020.

The new museum will be built on what is now an empty lot on the north side of University High Street, adjacent to the bus zone.

The proposed facility will allow SFU to display more work from its art collection – currently, only about 1,000 of the 5,500 works it holds are actually on display on university campuses.

But it won’t be just a place for the university’s collection; it will be designed as a teaching museum to create learning and research opportunities for students. The university also plans to partner with other institutions and organizations and to offer programming for the community, and the facility will be open to the general public.

“This new facility will be an exciting addition to the Burnaby campus and will enrich the cultural landscape of Metro Vancouver,” said SFU president Andrew Petter in a press release. “This visionary gift from the Marianne and Edward Gibson Trust and family will enable students, scholars and the public to gain an appreciation and understanding of modern and contemporary art, while enabling SFU to extend its commitment to be Canada’s engaged university.”

The idea of an art museum is something that arose in a report authored by the late Edward Gibson, who joined SFU as a charter faculty member in 1965. He later became director of the SFU Gallery from 1986 until his retirement in 1997. Under his direction, collectors from across Canada donated large canvases that were installed throughout the university, and the value of SFU’s art collection rose from $387,000 to a reported $2.5 million.

“Edward had a great passion in his teaching, research and life for a sense of place intersected with design and style,” said Walter Gibson, son of Marianne and Edward, in a press release. “The art museum represents the culmination of his vision for arts, both at SFU and within the Canadian landscape.”