June 27, 2017
A vibrant Arts City is part of an ecology and requires diverse elements to exist. The flourishing of the arts is dependant on place; it shapes and acts on arts production. In cultivating Vancouver’s visual arts to flourish, a number of strategies will be examined to enable production spaces; encourage philanthropic funding; and create collaborative, exhibition opportunities for artists to thrive.
The City of Vancouver has a sharp duality in its spatial distribution of cultural activities, the Eastside, which is culturally active but relatively low income; and the Westside, that is economically affluent but culturally limited. The conditions attracting the creative class, a socially relevant demographic to create new meaningful forms and creative content to Vancouver serves to create a cultural hierarchy, and produces disparities in economic status among its residents.
The reality facing emerging and established artists is a myriad of barriers ranging from escalating rents; higher taxes; and zoning uses affecting the affordability and availability of production spaces. The City’s Welcome to Your Flats s a redevelopment plan to create a Cultural Precinct, an amenity node in the Industrial Flats focusing on revitalization without displacing numerous studio spaces at 1000 Parker Street. The health of Vancouver’s arts and cultural sector relies heavily on the Flats with 40 percent of artists studios located in this neighbourhood.
Arts and culture organizations are set up according to disciplines, which detracts from sustaining the health and vibrancy of a broader ecology. Many organizations view their needs in isolation of the broader creative sector or within the context of broader community interests. Collaboration plays a central and increasingly important role in supporting and developing creative practice. The Creative City is about lateral and integrative thinking in all aspects of city planning and urban development, placing artists, not infrastructure, at the centre of the planning processes.
Encouraging philanthropic efforts to support the visual arts as private initiatives for the public good is not a new idea. There is a responsibility with great wealth and the importance of social justice to do good. Audain’s love of place and supporting BC artists and culture are larger contributions to society. Westbank’s ability to change how public art and the function of a patron transforms into cultural expression through a built form to create beauty in the City.
An economic disparity continues to be seen in community programming relative to the Eastside and Westside of Vancouver. The challenges the Arts continues to reflect is to be more truly multi-cultural as the role and make up of the modern city evolves. An opportunity exists for the cultural sector to establish or more accurately reclaim a role that places art firmly at the centre of public debate. It leaves us to revere our artists and to invest in the necessary production spaces, encourage philanthropic funding, and create public exhibition spaces for a healthy, vibrant society.