“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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Art Beat: It's Art Crawl weekend – Coast Reporter
The 2021 Sunshine Coast Art Crawl kicks off Friday, Oct. 22 at 10 a.m., with 164 venues open to visitors until 5 p.m. all three days, through Sunday. And at 10 of those venues (as of press time), Friday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. will also be a time for celebration. Most of the partying is at Gibsons venues, but Redecor + Design (venue #111) on Cowrie Street in Sechelt will also be open, as are Halfmoon Bay venues The Mink Farm Gallery (#146), and Kito Tosetti (#147). Details are at the “Friday Night Parties” link at sunshinecoastartcrawl.com.
Art of Healing
The Sechelt Hospital Foundation’s Art of Healing campaign holds its Gala on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden (venue #126). That’s where 36 works donated by some great local artists are on display and will be distributed in an exclusive online raffle draw to 36 ticketholders. All visitors to the exhibit can also bid on auction packages, and purchase raffle tickets for the grand travel prizes, among them a grand prize of a trip for two to Venice or any other European destination.
Sechelt Arts Festival
It’s also the final weekend of the Sechelt Arts Festival, with the premiere of the play, Voices, at Raven’s Cry Theatre. There will be three performances, Friday night, Oct. 22, Saturday night, and a Sunday matinee. The visual art and heritage canoe displays at Seaside Centre become Art Crawl venue #115. Poet Valerie Mason-John speaks in a free event (registration required) at Raven’s Cry on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. And your last chance to add your touch to the Paintillio mural at Trail Bay Centre will also be on Saturday, until 4 p.m. Info and tickets at the festival website.
New writers’ group
The Sunshine Coast Writers and Editors Society is holding its first meeting on Friday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m., via Zoom. The society’s purpose is “to serve writers, editors and groups on the Sunshine Coast to grow and develop their skills, as well as support other writers’ groups and events in the province and across Canada,” and “to hold events and launch projects to highlight the incredible talent that exists on the Coast.” Contact Cathalynn Cindy Labonte-Smith at 604-724-3534 for a Zoom link.
Meet the author
Writer Jennie Tschoban will be signing copies of her funny and touching memoir, Tales & Lies My Baba Told Me, on Saturday, Oct. 23, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Daffadowndilly Boutique & Gallery, on Marine Drive in Gibsons.
Meet the artists
On Sunday, Oct. 24 starting at 2 p.m., Jennifer Bryant and Jennifer Ireland will talk about their new exhibit, Matters of Scale, on now at the Sunshine Coast Arts Council’s Doris Crowston Gallery in Sechelt.
The band Astral Motion bring their blend of originals and classics to Roberts Creek Legion on Friday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Creek Legion, Vancouver acoustic band Farmteam start their sets at 7:30 p.m.
The Locals play the Turf Stage at Tapworks in Gibsons on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Oct. 27, Vancouver singer-songwriter Eamon McGrath plays Tapworks at 8 p.m.
At the Gibsons Legion on Saturday, Oct. 23, Poppa Greg and the band kick things off at 7:30 p.m.
At the Clubhouse Restaurant in Pender Harbour, catch Half Cut and the Slackers on Sunday, Oct. 24, from 2 to 5 p.m.
ArtCity: Art education in the gallery (and virtual) space – Woodstock Sentinel Review
In September, I returned to the Woodstock Art Gallery as the assistant curator of education intern, eager to actively bridge arts programming within the permanent collection and the public.
In September, I returned to the Woodstock Art Gallery as the assistant curator of education intern, eager to actively bridge arts programming within the permanent collection and the public. I have been involved with the gallery for three years, beginning as a co-op student with the education department in 2018 and then as the curatorial and collections assistant in 2019 and 2020. In my previous position, I worked exclusively in a background role curating exhibitions and assisting in collections management. With this new role as assistant curator of education, however, I was able to once again rekindle my interest in bringing the arts to the local community.
This position, of course, comes with unique challenges during a pandemic. Everything that we once considered emblematic of educational programming – in-person classroom trips, tours and studio events – has been put on pause in an abundance of caution. Over the last year and a half, the staff at the Woodstock Art Gallery have created online lessons and educational resources, virtual exhibitions and other online activities for the public. In addition, artist talks, curator webinars and exhibition openings have all been streamed virtually. It is within these unique circumstances that I began my new position in the education department.
The role of assistant curator of education is a fairly recent addition to the Woodstock Art Gallery staff roster. Created in 2018, this short-term internship aids the education and curatorial departments in realizing public programming. Previous interns have curated exhibitions, written a practical accessibility guide, conducted research and led education programming. The education department’s current goals had to be completely reoriented to accommodate the pandemic, however. Virtual resources are being further developed and made accessible to both the public and teachers alike. As collaboration with the curatorial department at the Woodstock Art Gallery has become a central component of arts education programming, alternative methods to experience exhibitions are also currently in the works.
The future of education programming, however, will not remain entirely within a virtual space. There is a unique value to in-person programming that staff at the Woodstock Art Gallery yearn to return to. Releasing Community Creation Kits and art grab bags throughout this past year, for instance, has been a way to bring art-making materials back into the hands of the public during the toughest restrictions. Now as lockdowns slowly ease and restrictions lessen, we have begun to return to in-person educational programming.
In September, the gallery hosted its first Creative PA day program since the beginning of the pandemic with a small group of kids. The day was filled with the arts as we toured exhibitions, visited the park, and explored lessons in sculpture making. By the end of the day, each child brought home their sculpture and multimedia creations, along with the tools to create more. Building upon this successful day, the education department will slowly begin to roll out more in-person programming, including another Creative PA Day in November. But this, of course, will take time.
Throughout this pandemic, educational programming has taken on many forms – from entirely virtual resources to at-home art kits and PA days, educational programming has required innovation and creativity. The future of education will forever be shaped by the lessons learned during the pandemic and will perhaps take on a whole new form that has yet to be explored.
Julia deKwant is the assistant curator of education intern at the Woodstock Art Gallery. The Woodstock Art Gallery acknowledges the support for this position which is funded by Young Canada Works at Building Careers in Heritage.
Who Are the Indigenous Artists to Watch at Art Toronto? – Ocula Magazine
Art Beat: It's Art Crawl weekend – Coast Reporter
ArtCity: Art education in the gallery (and virtual) space – Woodstock Sentinel Review
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