Vancouver: a visual arts scene takes flight
By MARYSE DE LA GIRODAY
Artists, administrators, city bureaucrats, politicians, educators, art galleries, the citys denizens and the real estate industry have collided to create what could be an extraordinary moment for Vancouvers visual arts scene.
As the recipient of a $400,000 grant made possible by a community amenity contribution (CAC) of $4.5 million from developer Rize Alliance, grunt gallery is one of the beneficiaries of the citys policy of encouraging real estate developers to contribute cash or something in kind to arts groups in exchange for rezoning.
Glenn Alteen, program director for the artist-run grunt, which is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, says, Now theres more of everything more artists, more galleries, more opportunities. Its one of the biggest changes Ive seen. Thirty years ago it was all much smaller.
In grunts case, the hope is to use the funds to pay off the gallerys mortgage, freeing the centre to expand and explore new types of exhibitions. (As of August, the city is being sued over the development in question, and monies from Rizes CAC have yet to arrive.)
The public and the city have been very supportive. And, artists have created other kinds of opportunities for themselves too, says Esther Rausenberg, executive director of the citys Eastside Culture Crawl (Nov. 2023, 2014). Held in November of each year, the event dates its history back to 1994. By 2013, the crawl was hosting over 430 artists who opened their studios to 20,000 attendees over four days across three neighbourhoods. The event has spawned imitators in the artistic community and beyond. In October 2014, the technology community instituted a Young Innovators Crawl.
Emily Carr University of Art + Design is preparing to leave Granville Island for one of the last undeveloped tracts of land in Vancouver, the Great Northern Way Campus (jointly owned by the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Emily Carr, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia).
Most city residents are unaware that as Emily Carr nears its 90th anniversary in 2015, it boasts one of the largest visual arts research programs in the country, with two Canada Research Chairs and $3 million in research grants annually.
For an institution with 2,200 students, faculty and staff, this move to the east side of town represents a seismic shift in the citys field of gravity. We think this area will be a new cultural precinct, says Emily Carr president Dr. Ron Burnett, where new businesses catering to our students and the community and new student-created businesses will emerge. Burnett anticipates the move will happen in 2017 (Canadas 150th anniversary). An announcement about the project architects is expected before Christmas 2014.
The citys other big institutional move, by the Vancouver Art Gallery, is far less certain, with approximately $245 million still to be raised ($150 million by the end of April 2015). While the city has donated land, the provincial government has cast doubt on its committing of funds, and the federal government appears unmoved by an August 2014 submission. Nonetheless, executive director Kathleen Bartels and her board have hired architects to develop a plan while a new Asian art initiative could bode major new funding sources for Bartelss efforts.
Clearly, the citys visual arts scene is poised for flight. Whether it will soar no one quite knows.