A city-owned warehouse on Industrial Avenue will be converted into artist studios and production space as part of a new facility expected to incorporate both established and emerging artists.
The 21,000-square-foot building will be called the Arts Factory, and will incorporate the Great Northern Way Scene Shop and the Arts Factory Society.
Elia Kirby, who manages the scene shop, said the facility will include 10,000 square feet of artist studios and a 10,000-square-foot scene shop. The building will also feature some offices, a board room that will be available for bookings, and “hot desks” that can be rented by artists.
“We’re really excited about it,” he told the Straight in a phone interview. “We think it’s going to be a tremendous asset to the cultural community.”
The Great Northern Way Scene Shop provides scenery and fabrication for projects including theatre, dance, and opera, and has worked with arts organizations such as Bard on the Beach and the Vancouver Art Gallery. The group will relocate from the Great Northern Way campus, where it has been located since 2003, to the new site in April.
Kirby noted an open call for applications will be made for the studios. The society will be looking primarily for professional artists with industrial practices, such as people working with wood, metal, steel, dyes, or fabrics.
Kirby said the budget is still being finalized, but expects the cost to rent a studio will be in the range of $1.50 to $1.75 per square foot a month.
He added one of the organization’s goals is to provide a grassroots space for emerging artists.
“We don’t want this to become a space where it’s just established artists,” he said. “We really want to be available to equity co-ops, people that are right out of school. They lose the resources of the university or the college that they’re at, but they still have ideas, and they want to get that really vital first project up and off the ground.”
Kirby noted the need for studio space in the city is “tremendous”.
“In the month of August, there was 30,000 square feet of artist studio space that was lost to redevelopment, and that kind of thing is just happening non-stop,” he said. “And sometimes it happens in great big swaths where you can talk about it, and sometimes it’s just very, very marginal, where people just lose space or they give up and they can’t keep a practice going at the same time.”
Mayor Gregor Robertson also acknowledged the “huge need” for affordable artist space in Vancouver.
"The mix of an established arts organization with new, emerging artists is an exciting opportunity, and we're thrilled that the City can partner on this new facility by leasing what was an underused building,” Robertson said in a news release today (January 17).
Kirby said the offices at the new site could potentially be ready by March, and he hopes the artist studios will be available by May or June.
The building at 281 Industrial Avenue was one of three city-owned sites that were part of an initiative announced in June 2012 to lease vacant industrial space for artist studios. The Arts Factory was among 10 proposals that the city received in response to a request for expressions of interest for the Industrial Avenue warehouse. According to the city’s news release, it did not receive interest from groups “with a viable business model” for the other two sites at 2625 and 2629 Kaslo.
The Red Gate arts collective was also among the groups that had applied to lease the warehouse on Industrial Avenue. Jim Carrico, who managed the former venue on West Hastings Street, told the Straight in an interview last week that the group has made an offer on a new site and is waiting to hear back.
According to the City of Vancouver, the new facility at 281 Industrial Avenue is expected to accommodate up to 100 artists.