Eastside Culture Crawl producers win award for report highlighting loss of artist production space in Vancouver

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      The visual arts organization that produces the annual Eastside Culture Crawl has won an award for a report that highlights the continual disappearance of artist studio space in Vancouver—and what can be done about it.  

      Today (July 6), the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP) named the Eastside Arts Society (EAS) as the recipient of the Award of Merit for New and Emerging Planning Initiatives. This honour is part of the 2021 Awards for Planning Excellence and recognizes excellence in planning for cultivating Canadian communities.

      The EAS is being recognized for its 2019 planning report City Without Art? No Net Loss, Plus!, which provides sustainable solutions to the loss of artistic production spaces in the city, and is supported by empirical data that includes an artist survey, community research, and mapping analysis.

      The report examined the geographical area of the Eastside Culture Crawl (within Columbia Street, 1st Avenue, Victoria Drive, and the waterfront) and included a public forum and a multi-venue art exhibition in October 2019.

      In an entry about the award being presented to EAS, the CIP states that " the research and data gathered fills a significant gap in understanding the displacement and gentrification of arts and culture production spaces in industrial and inner-city neighbourhoods".

      In addition, the CIP states that the report can be regarded as an example for cultural planning in other communities.

      "The jury was impressed by the society’s work that sought to make visible groups that are often invisible in our communities, so that they are considered in the planning of a vibrant city with a strong local economy," the CIP states about the report. "The jury was especially pleased with the extensive and detailed methodology to engage artists, building owners, city staff, and stakeholders in the gathering of the data, which added to the body of planning knowledge." 

      The report was codirected by EAS artistic and executive director Esther Rausenberg and EAS board member, artist, and community planning consultant John Steil.

      “This is a critical issue that continues to threaten the very survival of Vancouver’s artists today,” Rausenberg stated in a news release. “Disappearing studio space has become increasingly problematic, and the report recorded a loss of 400,000 square feet of space over the past decade.” 

      The EAS stated that studios have continued to shut down since the report was released, including:

      • in June, the closure of White Monkey Design (496 Prior Street), a City of Vancouver building home to 20 artists, resulted in a loss of 16,000 square feet;
      • the forthcoming closure of the Old Foundry Building (1790 Vernon Drive), which is home to 30 artists utilizing 18,000 square feet;
      • the anticipated closure of Eastside Studios (550 Malkin Avenue), which represents 20,000 square feet.

      In June, the Planning Institute of British Columbia presented a 2020 Award for Excellence in Planning for the report—the society received the Gold Award for Research and New Directions in Planning.

      Also in June, the Vancouver Foundation provided EAS with a $300,000 grant to develop a three-year strategic plan for the creation of the Eastside Arts District, which will formally organize arts and cultural assets in East Vancouver with stable funding and facilities.  

      This year’s Eastside Culture Crawl will be held from November 12 to 14 and 18 to 21, with additional dates for more events.