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Opinion: Vancouver is Taking Artists for Granted

Lack of affordable studio space and accommodation puts city's culture at risk.

This is our final installation, "Development Application." Illustration by Cloe Logan.
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Reported by Lindsey Lloyd

Vancouver’s housing-affordability crisis is not only forcing residents to leave, but is pushing arts and culture out of the city.

Arts and culture are key components of the quality of life in a city, and driving economic contributors to local economies.

Arts mean big bucks

According to Statistics Canada, arts and culture, such as music, written works and visual arts, contribute an estimated $54.6 billion in revenue a year to the Canadian economy. This is more than agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting combined.

Vancouver artists are being hit hard by a loss of studio space and homes, driven by rising rents and cost of living. The city only subsidizes enough space for seven artists. Meanwhile, there are almost 8000 artists living and working in Vancouver.

Although Vancouver is researching a strategy to guide the future of arts and culture in the city, it may be coming too late.

Vancouver artists jump ship

Recently, the Red Gate Arts Society, a well-respected, alternative arts organization that houses between 60 and 80 artists, has been asked to move out of its space by a developer. This is a classic Vancouver story.

A 2018 James Irvine Foundation report found that participation in the arts leads to higher levels of lasting and consistent youth civic engagement. However, the study also found that “the effects of the arts are likely to be cumulative over significant time and difficult to document: a slow drip rather than a sudden eruption and easy to take for granted.”

Vancouver is less attractive without art

Taking artists for granted is exactly what the city is doing. Touting itself as “alive with creativity” on its website, Vancouver expects the people who heavily contribute to the local economy and culture to somehow find an affordable space in one of North America’s most expensive cities.

Through losing culture, Vancouver risks becoming an unattractive place to live. There is opportunity to support an active arts community, but the city has to make it appealing for people to stay.

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