Vancouver’s first city-owned studio opens as art facilities continue to close

Artist Aileen Bahmanipour poses for a photo in the new artist spaces of the Tate Building at 1265 Howe Street, Vancouver, December 6, 2019.

DARRYL DYCK / The Globe and Mail

The city’s first multi-artist studio has opened in Vancouver in an effort to restore cultural spaces lost due to high rents and redevelopment – even as another establishment is forced to vacate later this this month.

More than 20 artists will work in the 10,800 square foot Howe Street Studios, which have been provided to the city by Bonds Group of Companies as an in-kind community amenity contribution (CAC) in return for approval by ‘a mixed-use project. property that includes a residential building of 41 floors.

Nonprofit group 221A will oversee the use of the space, charging artists below-market rates intended only to cover operational costs.

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The studio officially opened on Friday. But for other artists’ organizations and small businesses, the pressure for more action on sky-high property taxes to avoid losing their buildings continues.

The British Columbia Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said in a statement Thursday that “relief will be put in place for businesses for the 2020 tax year.” Details of the “interim solution” are still being worked out by staff.

This is the first time that the city has offered its own space for a multi-artist production studio. There are two other spaces that the city will acquire from developers in 2021, including one with 30 social housing for artists.

Aileen Bahmanipour is one of the few visual artists to have moved into the Howe Street space of the Dynamo Arts Association, which loses her studio later this month following an eviction for renovations.

“I found myself as a lucky person,” she said, adding that while she is “grateful and happy to have a space to keep working,” the rent is still higher than her Dynamo studio and the sense of community is not felt. the same.

The launch of Howe Street Studios gives artists a high-quality, regulated and safe facility to create, but 221A co-founder and executive director Brian McBay said the building is just a first step.

“To be honest, this is not a home run,” he said, pointing to a recent study by the Eastside Culture Crawl Society which found that 400,000 square feet of artist studio space had been lost in Vancouver over the past decade. “By replacing it with 10,000 square feet of space, that won’t be the end. There is much more to do.

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Vancouver arts community calls for action as cultural spaces close

There is also the inherent tension around a new property that provides space for artists while playing a role in gentrification, which hurts low-income communities such as artists.

“This is a contradiction that must be understood and questioned, especially if the city of Vancouver sees it as having a diversified economy in the future,” said McBay.

Mr. McBay’s organization is examining the potential of a cultural land trust, which would work towards acquiring a stable of artist-owned and operated buildings.

The city’s 10-year cultural plan hints at the possibility of a land trust and mentions a $ 4.8 million fund that would help support artists.

In the meantime, many are feeling the pinch.

Beaumont Studios recently received a one-time crisis grant of $ 55,000 from the City of Vancouver to help pay off owner’s debt. “This is a great start, we just fear that it is not enough and that it is too late,” said Jude Kusnierz, Founder and CEO of Beaumont.

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In addition to her space, Kusnierz fears that small groups and businesses that do not have access to grants could shut down if action on property taxes is not done quickly.

The Red Gate Arts Society, a studio and performing space on Main Street, launched a crowdfunding campaign Friday to help cover property tax costs which rose from $ 1,500 to $ 4,300 a month earlier this year. Founder and director Jim Carrico said he had to pay a $ 9,000 bill by the end of January or face immediate eviction.

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William E. Bennett

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