Arts organization eatART to lose its studio space at the end of April

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      The Energy Awareness Through Art Foundation (eatART), which has partnered with student projects across Vancouver since 2006 to create large-scale and energy-aware sculptures, is losing its 3,000 square foot studio space at 577 Great Northern Way at the end of this month. And there’s nowhere for the mechanical arts and engineering collective to go.

      “We’re finding that there’s almost no vacancy at the moment in the city,” Curtis Perrin, the director of eatART, told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Having moved six times in its lifespan, eatART is no stranger to finding industrial space to set up shop. Since 2019, eatART has subleased a space from local video game developers Blackbird Interactive on the Emily Carr campus. But Blackbird decided not to renew their lease which finishes at the end of April, informing eatArt of the tight deadline at the beginning of March. 

      Perrin said the specifics of what eatART needs also pose some barriers: a ground-floor space with doors wide enough to load trucks and trailers, ceilings high enough to house the 15ft Daisy the Solar Powered Tricycle, and buildings that are okay with the noise, smells and fumes that come from engineering-based art projects.

      The current studio lab space at 577 Great Northern Way, set to close at the end of April.
      provided by eatART

      “It’s proving challenging to find a place specifically, more centrally located in Vancouver,” he said. “We could try looking farther afield, but because we’re a volunteer-run organization and we’re trying to support these students and artists… having a centrally located space or something that’s closer to public transit is an essential element to lower the barrier for getting people out building on these art projects.”

      On top of that, space in Vancouver is becoming both costlier and rarer. Other arts organizations like the Beaumont Studios have recently found themselves in similar situations.

      “Things are just getting more and more expensive,” Perrin added. “But also the types of buildings where you can go in and be loud and dirty and make these projects are becoming fewer and farther between within the city, as things get developed.” 

      While eatART has around 20 staff and 50 volunteers right now, pre-pandemic levels saw up to 200 people involved in various projects in the studio space. 

      The impending closure has forced eatART projects currently underway to find other homes. Resident artist and Canada Council for the Arts grant recipient Sandra Bérubé has had to privately rent a studio to carry on work on Life is a Circus, while Activism Through Art and Technology’s When Air Takes Shape has moved construction elsewhere.

      Resident artist Sandra Bérubé working ine eatART studio space.
      provided by eatART

      “We’ve started reaching out, maybe trying to find other organizations we could partner with that might have space or ability to accommodate us or work with us to have a space for these artists,” Perrin said. “We’re definitely looking to scale down on the total space, like 1,000 square feet or 1,500 or something, set our sights a little lower for both our price points and the ability to find something like that.”

      The timing of the closure is especially inconvenient as it comes right as the collective is putting on its first-ever theatrical event. RISE — A Circus Inspired Play at the Vancouver Playhouse is a fundraiser for the charity that’s been in the works for two years, and takes place barely a week before the studio has to be cleared out.

      “We couldn’t really put [it] off given this move and looking at what will be more expensive in terms of space than anything we’ve paid for in the past,” Perrin said.

      Construction work on the nearby Broadway SkyTrain expansion has also hampered access to the space, making it more difficult to physically move the shopping containers full of equipment out of the space. 

      While Perrin is hopeful that the organization will find its seventh studio space, he added that keeping this kind of artistic project alive is becoming more and more difficult.

      “I think back to when the organization was first founded. You could have a group, a community, a collective of artists and engineers, people that were working full-time jobs in things like engineering, were able to pull together both through time and financial contributions, to afford a space to build this kind of art. That’s less and less of a possibility these last few years.”