Chip Wilson's property company connected to Great Northern Way campus not hosting New Forms festival
There's another row involving the arts community and a real-estate company associated with lululemon athletica's founder.
Organizers of a Vancouver arts festival have released a letter linking billionaire Chip Wilson's real-estate company to a postsecondary-institutional decision to prevent them from hosting their annual event at the Great Northern Way campus.
The directors of the New Forms Media Society and New Forms Festival 2019 focused some attention on Wilson's Low Tide Properties in their open letter to the presidents of four universities and the Great Northern Way Trust board of directors.
Low Tide invests in "emerging neighbourhoods" and owns a new seven-storey, 160,000 square-foot commercial building adjacent to the Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus.
It's called 565 Great Northern Way at "South Flatz" and it was completed last year.
In the letter, the society and festival directors alleged that they've been told for the first time in nearly a decade that they're no longer welcome to hold their annual event on the Great Northern Way campus. The campus is jointly owned by UBC, SFU, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and BCIT and is managed by the Great Northern Way Trust.
"New Forms began programming for the upcoming festival NFF2019 based on the physical and technical capacity of the spaces agreed to, as well as the general setup and capacities for the area from past years," festival and society directors wrote. "New Forms moved forward in our meeting with the GNWC management team on what was supposed to be a formality, based on the longstanding agreement in principle. There was never any indication of any issues with moving forward."
However, at a May 7 meeting, the New Forms festival and society directors claimed they were told that the GNW Trust "no longer supports culture as part of its mandate", according to this letter.
It also states that "this was repeated several times during the meeting because it was insisted this be explained."
The society and festival directors said they were told that the land was sold to Low Tide Properties, which is controlled by Wilson, the founder of lululemon athletica.
"The unexpected, untimely and miscommunicated decision from the GNWC cost New Forms two months to find another space, thousands of dollars in expenses, and a huge amount of wasted time," they stated in the letter. "It isn’t hard to imagine what is happening with smaller organizations and collectives trying to do the same. It is literally impossible."
The letter was distributed on the same weekend that Wilson engaged in a lively exchange with arts-community protesters who had gathered outside his Point Grey mansion.
On August 10, the crowd of artists held a rave to demonstrate against being unable to continue leasing space from Low Tide properties.
Wilson came out of his house to speak to them—and he heard an earful from people saying he was only interested in bringing more rich people to the areas where he's bought property.
He dismissed their comments.
"I didn't get here without making a lot of mistakes and having failed many times and many times I couldn't make rent because I didn't have a product that people actually wanted to buy," Wilson said.
A demonstrator responded that people did want his product but he wasn't given the option of continuing to pay his rent in the Low Tide building.
"The world doesn't want enough of your product for you to pay the rent," Wilson retorted.
Wilson then said "You guys are great, love ya," and walked away.