The Prince Albert Arts Centre was constructed in 1893; and at its completion, was considered “very imposing in appearance” and a “marvel of neatness and convenience”. This historic building has served several purposes to the City and has continually retained its position as a community orientated facility. The two front rooms, as they exist now (despite interior renovations) were utilized as a City Hall and housed the offices of the Mayor, City Commissioner and City clerk and staff. The basement of the building served as a police court, complete with jail cells. The building is, in fact, one of the oldest surviving municipal buildings in western Canada.
Prince Albert combined its civic offices with an opera house. The main part of the building was the cultural centre for Prince Albert in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. This section was designed as a combined opera-threatre house and was the only room in town suitable for staging plays and operas. The beauty of the room was enhanced by a sky light, two huge archways and balconies on both sides, as well as windows through the upper level. Architecturally speaking, the building was a superior example of the architectural style during the period of time in which it was constructed. In addition, the building was equipped with an elegantly designed portico on the north side used by horse and carriage to deliver ladies and gentlemen to the gala evenings. The bell tower, also a highlight of the building was used more for curfew purposes, but also served to inform the public of times for commencing special events, council meetings, etc.
The exterior of the building is very unique. The basement walls are built of huge stones and the remainder of the building is complimented by beautiful woodwork, mostly oak. The exterior of the building is constructed of brick which were baked in ovens in Prince Albert of local materials. Construction of the building commenced in 1891 and was completed in 1893 at a total cost of $13,178.00! As the city expanded, the civic government obviously required additional space. Around 1920, a second floor was added within the threatre area, changing much of the internal architectural characterists of the building, but providing City Council with larger chambers and more office space.
In 1963, the civic administration began rapidly outgrowing the existing City Hall. In 1966, they vacated the building and moved to larger quarters. A group of people head by Joe Oliver, a former City Commissioner, proposed to City Council that they preserve the old City Hall and utilize it as a combined Arts Centre and Senior Citizens Day Centre. City Council accepted this proposal, and through assistance from grants and several interested artists and crafts people, the Arts Centre has grown into an arts and cultural centre for Prince Albert.
The Kinsmen Community Heritage Centre opened its doors for senior citizen activities in 1977 resulting in more space at the Prince Albert Arts Centre for arts and cultural programming. The Prince Albert Arts Centre housed the Little Gallery for approximately twenty years. In 2003 the Little Gallery relocated to the E.A. Rawlinson Centre, and has since been renamed “The Mann Art Gallery”. The gallery space on the second floor of the Prince Albert Arts Centre was renamed the John V. Hicks gallery and currently displays local, regional and provincial exhibitions , arranged by the Prince Albert Council for the Arts in conjunction with the Mann Art Gallery. The Prince Albert Arts Centre currently has studio and program space for artists, artisans and the general public; including, but not limited to, the disciplines of pottery, photography, painting, spinning, weaving, and music, lapidary. There are numerous adult and children programming offered each year. As well, musical events and concerts take place.
Common Weal and IPAC (Indigenous Peoples Artists Collective) currently have office spaces at the Prince Albert Arts Centre and coordinate many arts and cultural events. Arts organizations which meet regularly at the Arts Centre include Prince Albert Council for the Arts, Pottery Guild, Rock and Gem Society, Spinners and Weavers, Watsonaires, and Northern Image Photographers.