The “Red Gate” arts centre at 152-156 West Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside has issued a public plea for support after being ordered by the City of Vancouver Building Inspections Branch to vacate its premises within the next 30 days.
Representatives of the space are asking the public to sign a petition on-site, or download a PDF petition form from its web page. Here is the statement issued by the arts centre:
After seven years in operation as one of the most well-used and well-loved arts centers in the Downtown Eastside, the “Red Gate” at 152-156 West Hastings St. has been given a 30-day notice to vacate by the City of Vancouver Building Inspections Branch. Despite dealing with various levels and departments of City officials since 2007, and despite having complied with all of the work orders that have been presented to us, we are faced with an ultimatum that is either ignorant of or is indifferent to this ongoing relationship and the good faith that we have shown to the City throughout this time.
The Red Gate is unique in the neighborhood, and the city, in both its longevity as a 100% self-funded and self-organized multi-purpose cultural facility, and in the depth and breadth of participation, collaboration, and support from a large user base that represents the broadest possible cross-section of amateur and professional artists, musicians, film-makers and photographers. Its three floors and 15,000 square feet accommodate the JC/DC recording studio, home of the New Pornographers, Destroyer, the Rodney Graham Band, etc, as well as providing affordable studio space for dozens of visual artists, along with rehearsal and performance space, art gallery, flexible production facilities for large-format works, film and video production, movie screenings, community meeting space and more. Cost to the public: zero dollars. From the beginning we’ve run ourselves on a voluntary, collective, consensus basis with no outside funding or support of any kind, public or private.
Our last communication with any city representative was in January of this year, when an informal “surprise inspection” was conducted, at which time we were told to expect a notice of a major, formal inspection. Instead, after hearing nothing at all for four months, we have been presented with an unrealistic 4-week deadline to vacate the building, without ever being given an opportunity to achieve compliance, or indeed being given a specific outline of what this would require. By enforcing a 13-year old order to vacate, which one might have thought would have been superceded by our generally positive and productive relationship with City officials over the last four years, and by mis-representing or ignoring this relationship entirely in their correspondence with us, we feel that the City has been unfair not only to us but to the entire community.
What we are trying to achieve here is nothing less than the Renaissance of Hastings Street, and of the Downtown Eastside, from within, by tapping into the incredible energy, talent, creativity, and good will that has always existed in the cracks and crevices of the neighborhood. This is where the young and boundary-pushing artists and musicians concentrate, historically and currently, because it’s affordable, but also because it’s interesting.
As a melting pot and meeting place, the DTES is not really comparable to anywhere else. As both the oldest and the poorest district, the most diverse ideas and influences come into contact with one another. With recent development initiatives, this diversity will continue to increase, but only if the new is willing to co-exist with the old. The Red Gate is a microcosm of the neighborhood, one of the last remaining of what was once an entire ecosystem of studios and DIY art spaces.
We’ve proven that a group of motivated artists can take over a building that has been abandoned and neglected and turn it into something amazing, and we feel that this is a positive model of development, appropriate to the neighborhood, and that the City should be trying to help us rather than trying to shut us down. For more information contact email@example.com.