History of IAACC

The International Avenue Arts and Culture Centre grew from a series of representations made by citizens of East Calgary communities to the International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone in the late 1990’s.

Original Concept of International Avenue Arts and Culture Centre
Original concept – exterior

The founders of the organization include:

  • Dr. Paul Maas (City of Calgary architect)
  • Alison Karim-McSwiney (BRZ)
  • Mike Pierson (BRZ)
  • Cecelia and David Grimsted
  • music teachers at Forest Lawn High school and Lester B Pierson HS

After seeking expert advice on what to do about these representations, The Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) applied for funding from the Calgary Foundation for a needs assessment.  The IBI group conducted the study in 2000 and results were very positive.

A Board was created and in 2001 the International Avenue Arts and Culture Centre (IAACC) was registered as a non-profit company under the laws of the province of Alberta to lead the creation of an Arts and Culture centre in East Calgary. 

First Executive director of International Arts and Avenue Centre

The first executive director was Doug Lauchlan who came on board in 2001.  Doug brought a tremendous wealth of knowledge to the project as his previous roles as general manager of the Calgary Centre for the Preforming Arts, President of Mount Royal College, Chairman of the United Way and the list goes on.   

Through his leadership IAACC began the process of examining locations, creating a business case, and a strategy to move the project forward. That year IAACC was granted chartable status.  The Engineered Air and RGO were some of the first to donate towards the organization.  An office was opened in the Deerfoot 17 building in late 2002.


In 2002, a conversation with BRZ Executive Director/IAACC board member, Alison Karim-McSwiney and Norman Leach, then President of the Calgary Fireworks Society, led to the eventual creation of GlobalFest.

Karim-McSwiney proceeded to work to secure community support for the Festival with local community associations and the City as well as connected Doug Lauchlan and Lindsey Dann  in what would become a partnership with the Calgary Fireworks Society and IAACC’s idea of a One World Festival.  And GlobalFest exploded onto the festival scene thereafter.   

Global Fest International Arts
One World Festival
One World Festival

IAACC was advised by the then Mayor of Calgary the City would provide support with a land grant, but that the company should not expect direct financial aid for either a capital program or operating costs. With his direction, the company proceeded to make common cause with private sector partners who could participate in a development program based on private and city land gifted to IAACC. The object was to create a project which would include the arts and culture centre and a commercial development. With this objective, both parties could benefit allowing the cultural facility to receive continuing cash flow which would be required to support its operation and program.

Rockmount Corporation was an enthusiastic and constant supporter, and an attempt was made to assemble city land, CN property, the former Hub oil site and several small parcels, to create the land base required to achieve the vision. Solutions to problems of land contamination and diverse interests of owners in the area proved to be unattainable and the project development in that area was abandoned in 2007.


A community consultation supported by the Calgary Foundation in 2006 confirmed that the need was even greater. The work of the newly created Calgary Arts Development Authority led to a dramatic change in city policy regarding support of the Arts. IAACC was able to return its attention to the original area of interest as the proper site for the facility, the escarpment overlooking the Bow River valley at the junction of 17thAvenue and 26th ST SE.  

A separate partnership that had formed with the BRZ and former Environmental Design Professor Robert Kirby created a valuable link with a world class architect.  Prof. Kirby’s first architectural professional project was the Winnipeg Theatre so his interest was peaked.  From there he worked with the Building Committee led by Alison Karim-McSwiney to design a concept of the facility.  A full functional study was also completed to determine a program of 195,000 square feet. 

The team made up of Alison Karim-McSwiney, Robert Kirby, Vinay Dey, Torrey Swan and Don Powers presented to the Land Use, Planning and Transportation Committee of City of Calgary  the need for the subject site to be held for IAACC’s use and a partial request of MSI funds of $10 million towards the project.  Under LPT2011-65 the land was set aside for potential use for the art centre.  Critical to this project was fund development and the estimated cost of a building was $60 million dollars.  IAACC received support from Jaimie Hill & Tammy-Lynn Powers Memorial Foundation(MF) who pledged fundraising dollars to help with fund development strategy and hiring of a fund developer. 


Doug Lauchlan retired and Rose Lamoureux was brought on as Executive Director in late 2012.  Rose was a high energy, organized community social worker who was well respected and known in the Greater Forest Lawn area.  Rose was instrumental in creating the El Sistema musical program called Calgary Multicultural Orchestra and hired Jose Duque, a graduate of the method, to become the Music Director.  (See CMO)  Rose oversaw the transition of the organization and worked to move the project forward.  Extensive community consultation and fund development analysis was done under her guidance.  The Jaimie Hill & Tammy-Lynn Powers Memorial Foundation(MF) chose to put their support with the National Music Centre instead of IAACC.  The organization was in a tenuous financial situation.  


In late 2014 Judy Lawrence was hired as an interim Executive Director.   She worked to rebrand IAACC into ARCH which stood for Arts and Recreation Cultural Hub.  The project expanded to include a recreational component.  To this point the feasibility of the project was in question due to the lack of capital raised.  Judy was well known for her arts management background and worked to activate the site at 2601 17 Avenue SE with a container structure in partnership with the Container group and put on special events.  Many long term Directors left including Vinay Dey, Robert Kirby, and Alison Karim-McSwiney.  

The organization was at a crossroads as the land set aside would not fit the added recreational component and a potential partnership with a foundation fell through.  It became clear that the capacity to raise significant capital to build and operate an arts facility was not feasible. Further, International Avenue was to receive a significant upgrade of infrastructure, a key vision of regeneration advocates, International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone work was soon to become a reality.  The “IAACC” lands were necessary for the new bridge that would connect the BRT to downtown and would require a portion of the “secured” land. 


In late 2017, the organization was being run largely by board members and continued to support the CMO.  Throughout the course of the organization, Michael Pierson, continued to volunteer as a director and/or President which helped to ensure its viability and longevity. 


At the AGM in January 2018,  some previous board members Vinay Dey (left in 2015), Alison Karim-McSwiney (left in 2015) led the charge with new members (Erin Melnychuk, Ann Craig and Diane Danielson) and began to steer IAACC into a more community art and culturally focused organization.  New Co-chairs Erin Melnechyk (Thrive and Momentum manager) and Alison Karim-McSwiney (International Avenue BRZ ED and former founder/Board Director of IAACC and ArtBOX on 17E) began the process of ensuring IAACC was compliant and redesigned into an organization that would advocate for a City operated Art facility being built within the community. 

A Special Resolution was approved by the IAACC Board of Directors on October 25, 2018 to change the objective of IAACC.  
Under Articles of Association of International Avenue Arts and Culture Centre Part 14-1 Amendments we wish to change the Memorandum of Association objective of the International Avenue Arts and Culture Centre from “Developing and operating a performance centre ”  to  “Encouraging and supporting arts and the development and operation of a performance centre” 

In addition, the organization would directly support arts and culture in East Calgary through sponsored artist internships, art shows, music festivals and performing arts. IAACC has a solid future and a strong, professional dedicated Board of Directors.  Further, the new IAACC began work to make the Calgary Multicultural Orchestra self sufficient with a new governance structure to allow it to be totally independent by mid- 2019.  Today the Board of Directors are a strong leadership team who oversee the organization and raise funds to support local artists.  The International Avenue Arts and Culture charity is well on its way to ensuring East Calgary is the foremost area for arts.