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Local Artists Criticize City for Takashi Murakami Day

Artists say they should focus on creating and saving art spaces instead

A portrait of Takashi Murakami at his The Octopus Eats its Own Leg exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Photo by Lisa Tanh
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Reported by Lisa Tanh

Local artists are calling out the city on its move to declare a day in Vancouver for a famous Japanese artist while failing to provide affordable spaces for artists to create and exhibit art.

The city declared Feb. 1 as Takashi Murakami day, prompting artists to criticize a civic government they say is making a bid for international recognition while ignoring needs of its local arts community.

Marietta Kozak, the general manager of The Arts Factory on Industrial Avenue, said the city should focus on saving buildings being used for studios and workshops instead of promoting famous artists.

Art buildings being torn down

“[Murakami day] doesn’t cut it,” Kozak said. “The area of the Arts Factory has been rezoned and the building will be torn down. They swore it never would be.”

Kozak said The Arts Factory, which has studio and workshop space, plays a significant role in supporting established and emerging artists by offering low rental rates.

Murakami is a contemporary artist who has worked with popular brands Louis Vuitton and Vans, and musicians Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. Murakami’s exhibition The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg runs until March at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Local artists fleeing to other cities

Nancy Lee, an interdisciplinary media artist, a filmmaker and event producer, said many artists are leaving the city due to a lack of affordable spaces.

“Every other week, I have a friend that is moving away,” Lee said. “People are moving to Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles [and] Asia, where it’s cheaper to live and have space to create art.”

Coun. Heather Deal, who has brought forward initiatives to support local artists and expand creative spaces, said she understands it remains challenging to be an artist in Vancouver.

“There’s no doubt that artists, not-for profits and small business are finding the lack of affordable space in the city a challenge,” said Deal in an email to The Voice, adding that the city provides a number of residency programs to provide practising artists with subsidized space.

“We also give out over $11 million cultural grants programs each year—one of the highest per-capita arts grants funding in the country—and increased that number by $580,000 this year.”

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