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City's visual arts district disintegrating, one gallery at a time – Vancouver Sun

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“It seems like there are more galleries closing than opening so the opportunities for artists to show their work are diminishing.” — Shane O’Brien of Gallery Jones


Shane O’Brien, co-owner of Gallery Jones located in The Flats.


Gerry Kahrmann / PNG

The gradual disappearance of Vancouver’s visual arts neighbourhood looks like it will pick up steam in 2020.

Once marketed as The Flats, it is an area east of Main from Industrial Avenue to the north to East 7th to the south. At its height, it grew into a mixture of about a dozen non-profit and private art galleries where people could easily walk from one gallery to another and see modern and contemporary works by local and international artists. In 2017, The Flats held its fifth annual summer block party.

But that’s all changed since then. First Catriona Jeffries, arguably one of the top art spaces in the country, closed in 2018 and opened a new location on East Cordova earlier this year. Then Winsor Gallery, after 16 years in three different locations, closed its space in the neighbourhood.

Galleries that remain include private ones such as Elan Fine Art and Macaulay & Co Fine Art and non-profits such as grunt and Burrard Arts Foundation.

By next year, two other top galleries will have to move to make way for the new Broadway Subway extension. A third may also have to move to a new location before the end of 2020.

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Gallery Jones has a year to go on its lease at 1-258 East 1st. But with a station on the new subway extension planned by the new Emily Carr University of Art & Design, rents in the area are increasing by as much as 50 to 75 per cent, said Shane O’Brien, co-owner and director.

“That’s not sustainable for our business,” he said. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen.

“It seems like there are more galleries closing than opening so the opportunities for artists to show their work are diminishing.”


The Equinox Gallery.

Francis Georgian /

PNG

The ministry of transportation and highways said construction on the Broadway Subway is expected to start in the fall of 2020. That means demolishing 525 Great Northern Way, the industrial building where Equinox Gallery and Monte Clark Gallery, two of the cities top art galleries, are located.

Andy Sylvester, owner of Equinox Gallery. said he and his agent are looking every day for a new location.

“I’ve looked at, I don’t know, 50 buildings. There is a significant and complicated problem in how art galleries function in respect to legislation at city hall and the taxes and the rent. It’s a very different world for us now compared to when we moved here.”

Equinox, one of the city’s oldest art galleries, was founded in 1972 by Elizabeth Nichol. Equinox moved from South Granville to The Flats in 2012.


Andy Sylvester the owner of Equinox Gallery.

Francis Georgian /

PNG

At 14,000 sq. ft, Equinox has more floor space than any other private art gallery in Vancouver. Sylvester realizes he’s not going to find anything that size at a price he can afford. But he can’t even find anything half that size.

One of the biggest problems he’s facing is the city’s policy of taxing a building on its “highest and best use” which is determined by B.C. Assessment based on zoning and market evidence. If a one story building, for example, is on a site zoned for a 20-storey condo tower, the smaller building can be taxed at the rate of the bigger building.

He found one potential new home but taxes of $147,000 a year made the site uneconomic.

Sylvester said he remembers being inspired the first time he walked into 525 Great Northern Way, the former paint and mechanical shop for Finning International.

“The floor was painted black and it was a rough looking space,” he said. “You could envision possibilities that would inspire people. That’s what I still want.”

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Monte Clark, who has owned and operated Monte Clark Gallery for almost 30 years, said while he’s actively looking for a new gallery, he would prefer to put all that energy into promoting his artists.

Art galleries showing challenging contemporary art like his are in a grey area when it comes to zoning.

“Are we retail or are we a warehouse?” Clark asked.

Yes, he said, his business is retail because people come into the gallery to buy art. But a lot of the work his gallery does is with collectors by email and phone calls from people who may come to the gallery itself to see a work.

His gallery has also become a storage space for art works because artists can no longer afford large studios where they once were able to keep their work. It’s also a workplace where art works are framed and shipped to collectors — often on approval.

“We created our own art zone,” he said about The Flats.

“Now it is about to be completely dismantled. You’d think someone at the city would meet with us and say: ‘OK you guys, what can we do?’”

O’Brien of Gallery Jones said he’s “stubbornly holding onto the idea” that galleries and visual artists make valuable contributions to a city.

”I want to make it so that artists can have viable careers where they’re not living below the poverty line, don’t have to move to Vancouver Island or Saskatoon,” he said.

“But that’s becoming increasing difficult day by day.”

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Don MacMillan, the owner of South Main Gallery, located on the southern edge of The Flats, said the closure of his gallery at the end of September had nothing to do with the high cost of real estate.

That’s because he owned his ground floor unit at East 6h and Main. His reasons were personal.

When his mother and a few of his friends died, the arrival of his 68th birthday made him think of his own mortality even though he was having “the most fun” he’d ever had in his life putting on exhibitions and working with artists.

“The last year was one of the best financially but not enough to hire a few more people,” MacMillan said.

“Being in business for years, you know what it would take to get it there. I don’t have the same push and energy to do that any longer.”

One thing he said was missing in Vancouver is an association of art galleries. He recognizes that art galleries are protective of their client lists but it might help to deal with shared issues by presenting a united front.

At the end of June, Kimoto Gallery on West 6th just west of Granville closed after more than 70 exhibitions in six years.

Construction of an 11-storey building across the street would have led to a drastic reduction in walk-in business Monday to Friday, said gallerist Katsumi Kimoto.

“It is a tough business and with higher rents and taxes it’s become increasingly more difficult to stay in the established art gallery areas,” he said in an email.

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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix

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In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.

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Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.

1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery

In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.

Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood.
Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring “a little joy to the community” by installing a tiny art gallery on her front lawn in Saskatoon’s Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood. Photo by Matt Smith /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party

Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

3. Check out local performers

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Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at persephonetheatre.org and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.

4. Have some family fun

The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at fudds.ca or by calling 306-477-0808.

5. Drop off your hazardous waste

The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at saskatoon.ca/hazardouswaste.

  1. Art teacher Suzy Schwanke is hoping to bring

    Little art gallery brings colour, connection to Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood

  2. Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon

    Persephone Theatre brings in community co-leads for new Artists’ Working Group

The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio

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Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.

The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.

“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”

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Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.

Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.

“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.

“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”

‘We need a territorial gallery’

The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.

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“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”

YK ARCC’s first home is pictured in 2011. Photo: Submitted
Casey Koyczan stands in front of a painting at a YK ARCC show in 2014. Photo: Submitted

Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.

The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.

“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.

That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”

The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.

“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”

“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.

“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”

YK ARCC debuted its mobile gallery in the summer of 2019. Pictured are board member Brian McCutcheon and artist Terry Pamplin. Photo: Submitted
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mobile art gallery, yk arcc

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Art by Shelley Vanderbyl is displayed in Yellowknife’s mobile gallery in May 2020. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
A YK ARCC show in 2018, called Social Fabric, was held inside a former bank in the Centre Square Mall. Thirty-two artists were featured and 800 people attended. Photo: Submitted

Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.

“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.

“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.

“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”

‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery

In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.

The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”

“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”

Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.

“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”

More spaces that can host art are on the way.

Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.

Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.

As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.

YK ARCC staged an outdoor installation in 2017. Photo: Submitted
Rosalind Mercredi, first president of YK ARCC, at the mobile gallery. Photo: Submitted

“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”

Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”

“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.

“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”

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