But, cases of independent artist communities struggling to stay afloat are unfortunately all too common, and there is a recent example of a beloved local institution going through a similar situation.
The CKUA Story
In 2004, radio station CKUA was in the provincially owned Alberta Block historical building on Jasper Ave. One day, Ty Lund — then-premier Ralph Klein’s minister of infrastructure — sent CKUA a letter saying the government considered the entire building to be “excess inventory,” and that the Province planned to put the crumbling building on the market.
“Of course, we didn’t have the roughly $3 million to buy a crumbling building, but we also had no place to go, and we only had maybe about three months’ notice,” says Ken Regan, who was CKUA’s general manager at the time (he’s now its secretary). “I sent a letter back to the minister’s office saying if you sell the building from under us, you’re going to kill CKUA.”
Three days later, Regan received a surprising and fortuitous phone call. “Klein was kind of winding down the end of his term, and he was doing online courses in communications through Athabasca University. So I come back from lunch one day, and as I’m walking off the elevator the office receptionist points at the phone and says Premier Klein is on the phone, and he wants to talk to you.”
Turns out, the soon-to-retire premier had questions for Regan for a piece Klein was writing on public media. The two talked and Regan passed on a report that examined the BBC and its role as a public broadcaster. Having got what he wanted, Klein then asked how things were going at CKUA. Regan told him about the letter. Klein asked what Regan wanted. “I said, ‘I want you to sell us the building for a buck.’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that.’ But I said the government’s done it before, because I knew that they had actually done it before with some other government surplus to non-profits.”