“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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.”
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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Pandemic-inspired art exhibit – News 1130
Students explore art themes in Re/LAUNCH/ing, vol. 1 – St. Albert TODAY
Now that school is back in session, a new collaborative art project has been launched.
Re/LAUNCH/ing is aimed at hitting the same high notes that its predecessor with.draw.all did, but with the added emphasis on the intrinsic value of art to the artist.
At noon on the last Thursday of each month, StAlbertTODAY.ca will be displaying an online gallery of art created by high school students. This month’s rendition features 12 creations from students at Paul Kane, Bellrose and St. Albert Catholic High.
James Baker and the art of power – The Economist
The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III. By Peter Baker and Susan Glasser.Doubleday; 720 pages; $35.
DURING THE confusion that followed the attempt on Ronald Reagan’s life in 1981, Alexander Haig, the secretary of state, proclaimed at the White House podium: “I am in control.” Breathless and sweating, Haig reassured no one. While he floundered, someone else took command. James Baker, the chief of staff, monitored Reagan’s condition, kept the government running and crisply briefed colleagues. Throughout the tense day Mr Baker proved unflappable, say Susan Glasser and Peter Baker (no relation to their subject) in a new biography.
Widely regarded as the most effective chief of staff ever, Mr Baker ran the White House for both Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He was also Reagan’s treasury secretary and Bush’s secretary of state, and led five presidential campaigns. Pragmatism and competence were his hallmarks. “There was little idealism involved and a fair degree of opportunism,” write the authors of “The Man Who Ran Washington”. By their account, Mr Baker “was not above political hardball to advance his team’s chances at the ballot box. He never lost sight of what was good for Jim Baker.” But he got things done.
Ms Glasser (of the New Yorker) and her co-author and husband (of the New York Times) are well-placed to chronicle Mr Baker’s life. They interviewed 170 people, including three former presidents and Mr Baker himself. Now 90, and a careful steward of his own reputation, he may have mixed feelings about the result. Yet it is a masterclass in political biography. The authors portray the man in full, managing to be both brisk and comprehensive.
They lay out his flaws, including his temper, cynicism, tendency to blame underlings and allegations of skulduggery. They decry his lack of vision in the last years of the cold war: he and Bush merely reacted to the Soviet Union’s demise, they argue, rather than devising a bold approach of their own. Yet the book also depicts a manager capable of handling almost any situation, from the Gulf war to the presidential recount in 2000, which Mr Baker confidently oversaw for the Republicans. He closed deals by focusing on the signature line rather than the fine print.
He was Jim to presidents and cabinet secretaries but “Mr Baker” to everyone else. Despite his patrician manner he could swear like a Texas roughneck; “ratfuck” was a favourite term for Washington backstabbing. He grew up among the Houston aristocracy, where the oilfield meets the tennis club. Bush, a fellow blue-blood, became his doubles partner, and the book explores their lifelong friendship. When Mr Baker learned from a doctor that his first wife’s cancer was terminal, he told Bush but not the patient herself. One key to his success, the authors write, is that he was adept at leveraging their connection. “Everyone knew that he was Bush’s good friend and that when Baker spoke, he was speaking with the authority of the president.”
His own name appeared on just one ballot: in the race to be attorney-general of Texas in 1978. He lost. Over the years he harboured presidential ambitions and, in 1996, came close to running. If he stayed out he could be remembered as the most important secretary of state since Henry Kissinger, a diplomat tested by great events and equal to them. If he ran and failed, he would be one more might-have-been. He weighed the options and made his choice. As so often, he was probably right. ■
This article appeared in the Books & arts section of the print edition under the headline “All the presidents’ man”
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