For many, local artist-run gallery and music venue Vancouver Art and Leisure is a cultural safe-haven.
Specializing in alternative events—including film screenings, pop-up markets, art exhibitions, and late-night electronic music shows—the venue defied the encroaching gentrification of Main Street to promote a strong DIY attitude.
Now, however, the collective has been told it will have to leave its current warehouse space.
Unable to negotiate an extension of its tenancy, Vancouver Art and Leisure—affectionately known as VAL—has been given notice to vacate its premises by the end of May.
“We have been honoured to share this space with a diverse and valued community of artists, radicals, and change-makers,” the group said in a press release. “While operating from this location, VAL has empowered hundreds of artist-led events, at which artistic autonomy has always come first and foremost. We have seen some of Vancouver’s rising stars grace our stage, while still providing a place for new faces and first-timers to hone their craft.
“We have offered subsidized studio space for dozens of artists and helped them succeed in their growth in our city,” the release continues. “We have also provided subsidized space for community initiatives, charitable purposes, and social activation. We have seen some amazing talents come through these doors, and have had the privilege to engage with communities representing people from all walks of life.”
VAL’s removal from 1965 Main Street potentially marks the end of the venue’s use as a site for cultural production. Before the collective’s executive director, Matt Troy, took over the lease, the location served as the base for the VIVO Media Art Centre. The address has been in continuous use for artistic endeavours over the past 25 years.
Recognizing a pattern in the disappearance of creative spaces around the Mount Pleasant area, Troy is keen to highlight that the group’s situation is not an isolated incident.
“This is part of a larger debate about how our city must move forward to preserve cultural locations for artists both in terms of production, but also importantly, presentation,” he says. “With the changing nature of real-estate in Vancouver, we must adapt to the speculative rise in property values and taxes. Gentrification of these presentation spaces is a major issue, stripping artists of places to hone and develop their craft.”
Dedicating to continuing VAL’s work with or without a permanent base, Troy hopes to host gallery and music shows at pop-up sites while the collective secures a new home, and events will be scheduled every weekend until the end of May at its current location.
“We have all the tools, support, and know-how to take over and reimagine spaces,” he says. “We are also looking forward to presenting Alternative Pride 2017 at various incredible unconventional places.
“This is not an ending, but a new chapter,” he continues. “We hope you can join in writing these next few pages.”
Vancouver Art and Leisure (1965 Main Street) will host events every weekend until May 31.