Emily Carr University looks to modernize art and design learning environment with new campus

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A new $134-million campus for Emily Carr University of Art + Design will improve the learning environment for students, the postsecondary institution's president says.

The province today (January 23) announced it will provide up to $113 million so Emily Carr can relocate from Granville Island to a new home at the Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver. The university and donors are to provide the remaining funds.

The larger, purpose-built visual, media, and design facility is planned to have room for more than 1,800 students. It is expected to be completed for the start of school in fall 2016.

“This permits us to build a 21st-century learning environment for art and design which I think is a very, very exciting concept,” Emily Carr president Ron Burnett told the Straight by phone today.

“We want the campus to be an open space for research, and teaching, and learning that actually attracts partners in the nonprofit sector, and the arts, as well as industry, and turn it into a hub for creative output.”

Burnett said the goal is to create a campus that is open to the community and people working in a range of artistic disciplines. It is to include space for studios and academic programs, learning support, administration, and student and campus services. However, Burnett said it is too early to discuss design specifics.

“One of our big goals and our big jobs for the next while is to really work with the arts community, both at Emily Carr and outside, to think about what will a studio look like in 2020 or 2025,” Burnett said. “Is it a traditional type of studio or is it a new kind of studio that is very digitally advanced and connected?”

“We’re going to look at every possible model that can be provided to us and that we can find to make a judgment on what will work best,” he said. “And we’re trying to think ahead 10, 15 years, so that we can stay fresh and play the leadership role that we do.”

Emily Carr’s current home is two buildings on Granville Island, where it has been since 1980. The university has a lease for the property until 2042, Burnett said.

Emily Carr also has satellite campuses at 1535 West 3rd Avenue and 1706 West 1st Avenue. University spokesperson Barry Patterson said the plan for those two campuses has not been determined.

Burnett said Granville Island has been a good home for Emily Carr, which has 1,800 fulltime students, but the university has outgrown its space there. He said Emily Carr will work to ensure the existing buildings continue to be used for the arts.

“We’d like to leave some sort of legacy of our presence on the Island,” Burnett said. “We don’t know what exactly at this stage, but we’re looking at a number of possibilities.”

“I would love it if particularly the north building would become a hub of studios for artists, of nonprofit galleries, just generally a public space for the arts in Vancouver. I think Granville Island will continue to be an important, important part of the city and an important part of the life of Emily Carr as a whole.”

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