Yellowknife’s new visitor information centre in the downtown Centre Square Mall will open to the public on Monday, September 12 at 12pm.
The opening of a visitor centre in the mall follows the demolition of the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre, which was vacated in 2017 and demolished in 2020 after structural issues were identified.
A temporary visitor centre has since operated from the ground floor of City Hall.
The new centre was created with federal and territorial funding plus $125,000 from the city’s downtown development reserve fund.
In a news release on Thursday, the city promised “wood accents, a moss wall and large windows” inside a space that the city said had been created with input from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.
The centre will be open from 10am until 6pm daily.
“This is a great milestone,” Mayor of Yellowknife Rebecca Alty said in the news release.
“We are really excited for people to enjoy the space and experience this new direction for Yellowknife’s downtown. Users can enjoy the space to get more information about our spectacular tourism operators, or admire the incredible local art in the art gallery space.”
Describing the new space as “shack-chic” last week, city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett told Cabin Radio the centre would have a “very Yellowknife vibe.”
“We’ve got parts of concrete floor, it’s certainly not covered or painted over,” she said. “We’re wanting it to be a little rustic, but the space is so elegant.”
Bassi-Kellett said the space will serve as an event venue and art gallery alongside its role as a visitor information centre. That gallery will be non-commercial, she said – in other words, it won’t actively sell the works being displayed – and will feature local artists.
“We’ve been very deliberate … in wanting to incorporate a non-commercial gallery space,” said Bassi-Kellett.
“Sometimes, art shouldn’t just be for a commercial market. It shouldn’t be all northern lights and bears doing lovely, dramatic things.
“Art should provoke, art should make you think. Public discourse should involve a discussion around art and its meaning, and sometimes that stuff isn’t commercial.”
The first show, titled Icons and Archetypes, will feature portraits by Melaw Nakehk’o and is curated by Sarah Swan.
The city also promises an “aurora simulator” within the building.
Bassi-Kellett said selling art commercially, as had happened at the Northern Frontier building, was a necessity at the time to support building costs but “was not a good thing because it puts a government-subsidized organization in direct competition with private galleries that are selling things.”
She hopes both visitors and residents will pay attention to the new gallery space.
“We want to make sure that Yellowknifers are saying, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go to the library and I’m going to run down to the bank, but I also want to see what’s [at the gallery],’” she said.
“It’s something else for us as Yellowknifers to be aware of, to be able to experience, and to be able to go see some shows that are curated, and have the opportunity to see some art that we may not see otherwise.”