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Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers
September 2013
Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers

Audain Art Museum
June 2013
Siting an Art Museum in a Forest

Gordon Smith Gallery
November 2012
Boosting the Profile of Artists for Kids

Equinox
September 2012
From glacial meltwater to contemporary art

Morris & Helen Belkin Gallery
June 2012
Professional curators of contemporary art were once as scarce as hen's teeth

Equinox Gallery
April 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Equinox Gallery
February 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Jacana Gallery
November 2011
Nothing is certain but death and taxes

Satellite Gallery
September 2011
Hope springs eternal


June 2011
The Hotel Waldorf
reimagined


April 2011
Education for the eye,
soul and mind


February 2011
Fine art inkjet prints
are here to stay


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SAAG endows the old
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Gallery Views

The Core Artists’ Live/Work Co-op

The Core Artists’ Live/Work Co-op built in 1999 with their two-storey balconies overlooking Alexander Street in Vancouver are integral with the glass and concrete market condos of The Edge

A Tale of Two Artists' Live/Work Communities

By ANN ROSENBERG
annrosenberg@shaw.ca

Artists have always gravitated towards neighbourhoods where rent was cheap or non-existent. These residents (in consort with historians, planners and politicians) have often saved significant buildings and neighbourhoods from complete demolition. In New York City, for example, such concern led to the preservation of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District in the early 1970s. And locally, when Gastown and Chinatown were being threatened with re-development, thanks to public protest in 1971, these areas were sheltered from harm under the Provincial Archaeological and Historic Sites Protection Act of 1960.

In the 1970s, city planners and developers were awakened by the same lightbulb for opportunity. However, their bright ideas did not have tangible results until the mid-to-late 1980s because of the many hurdles that had to be crossed. Whether rescued for restoration or purpose-built, eventually live/work mixed-use structures designed to accommodate artists began to emerge in these districts where zoning laws permitted. Once basic residential standards and occupancy codes were met, units could be rented, sold, leased or turned into artists’ co-operatives. In the lower range, some became subsidized live/work housing with reasonable monthly rents and in the higher range, some larger lofts were marketed as pricey chic places to rent or buy.

This is the case with two artist-occupied buildings on Vancouver’s Alexander Street which overlook the railway tracks and harbour. The Core Artists’ Live/Work Co-op members live and work in a 30-studio building leased from the City, pay manageable subsidized monthly rates, and have maintenance obligations. On the other hand, The Edge has 165 mostly two-level condominium lofts which, this year, are selling at roughly $600 per square-foot. The residents have access to a common roof deck and a 7,000-square-foot amenity building with workshops, rehearsal space, a darkroom and exercise area.

An interesting comparison is Milepost 5 – a “community for creatives” recently developed in Portland. Within a village-like setting there are two live/work buildings with galleries, performance venues and a restaurant. The Lofts building from 1969 was renovated in 2008 and offers artists the option of renting (starting at $650) or purchasing (starting at $84,000). The Studios building has over one hundred work only and live/work studios with rents ranging from $300-$500 per month and provides commercial and common space for tenants.

Although the live/work studios I’ve visited at Core are really small – typically 750-square-foot concrete “bunkers” with windows and balconies at one end – the interior esthetics can range from a monk-like roughness to an almost Edwardian elegance with the addition of real oak floors and velvet drapes. From conversations with residents and from reading postings on the Milepost 5 website, I feel that artists are delighted with their live/work accommodations. Let’s hope that the trend of developing dynamic live/work communities will continue to evolve.

Ann Rosenberg is a freelance curator, critic

The Studios at Milepost 5

The Studios, one of two edifices built as live/work buildings at Milepost 5 overlooking Portland, Oregon

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