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Fifty years before it became the TransAlta Arts Barns, this building was the Southside service garage for Edmonton Transit. After the buses pulled out, this industrial facility saw a number of structural and functional facelifts as various organizations began the gradual process of transforming the barns into a cultural and community space.
This transformation paralleled the rise and development of the culturally diverse area known as Old Strathcona. With great success, the community and cultural groups affectionately adopted the space as the ‘Arts Barns’, becoming home to the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market, the Edmonton Radial Railway Society and since 1995, Fringe Theatre Adventures (FTA) and the internationally recognized Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival.
However, several decades of evolution and growing pains revealed the limitations of the former bus barns and the community felt the “improvised” space needed improvement. In 1998 Fringe Theatre Adventures, with the support of the community and the organizations it served, initiated a capital campaign focusing on redeveloping the Arts Barns.
By 2002 FTA had secured the majority of the funding necessary for the revitalization plan to get underway. Suggestions and feedback for the use of the new building were ascertained from the community and arts groups who would become regular users of the new facility. Parts of the old building were left intact to retain some of the heritage of the facility.
TransAlta Corporation became a fundamental part of the team in 1998 and has maintained its support to this day; thus the new building is named in honour of the partnership that kick started the campaign. In September of 2002 demolition began on the old Arts Barns, and the ground breaking and history making work of creating a year-round multi-purpose community arts complex for Old Strathcona and the City of Edmonton was completed in just 10 months.