At VIVO, A Theft Leads to Gratitude

 The 44-year-old artist-run centre VIVO reached a fundraising goal in mere days, and GM Julia Aoki is thankful. | Image: VIVO Media Arts Centre

The 44-year-old artist-run centre VIVO reached a fundraising goal in mere days, and GM Julia Aoki is thankful. | Image: VIVO Media Arts Centre

By Nancy Lanthier

Vancouver's VIVO Media Arts Centre suffered a devastating theft in May, but already the organization is throwing a big party. Granted, the Saturday event, called Post-Break-In Thank-You Fundraiser Summer Concert Dance Party, includes the word "fundraiser," but staff at the organization really feel like celebrating, too.

Shortly after thieves smashed through the front door and took off with computers, servers and other critical equipment, VIVO launched a GoFundMe campaign — and surpassed its goal within 36 hours.  

“The support from the community was just overwhelming,” says VIVO development coordinator Karen Knights. “We hadn’t expected it. We thought it was going to be a tough ask, because we’d just done a couple of fundraisers for renovations. And we don’t have a wealthy populous supporting the organization.” Knights says the support “helped us get over the trauma of being broken into.”  

VIVO, which offers a range of services, including media arts production, distribution, education, and entertainment, moved to its Kaslo Street building from its long-time Main Street digs four years ago. The thieves managed to break into the new location despite its security fence and alarm system. It immediately became apparent that the non-profit would have to upgrade the building’s security systems, in addition to paying the insurance deductible.

VIVO’s GoFundMe campaign asked for $5,000; it has since raised $7,550.

Some crowd-sourcing campaigns can be elaborate, with multi-media components and amazing incentives. Knights determined that VIVO’s campaign would be “simple and to the point. We felt it was important to just be transparent about what we needed, and to not bog it down too much. A simple ask.” In part, the minimal campaign was by necessity: “we wanted to just get it out.” But Knights also took a cue from other emergency crowd-funding drives, including Vancouver Art and Leisure, which created a similarly spare campaign following its robbery earlier in the year.

The campaign was augmented by emails to members, the community and media, and word spread swiftly. But Knights feels a key reason the organization reached its fundraising goal so soon, is that the 44-year-old the organization has such a “huge history” in the city.  

“It all comes down to your relationship to your community," adds Knights, "because you can’t manufacture concern. I think organizations should always keep this in mind, assess it all the time: Are we being of value to our members? Are we being of value to our community? Then when you get in trouble, they are there for you.  

“And it was fantastic! It helped us gauge how we’re doing, to some degree. We were so depressed here. We kept going, ‘oh God, oh God, that’s gone, too.’ And when you’re working on the edge to start with — we were just so depleted. But the GoFundMe campaign — not so much the money part of it but the community spirit — was so heartening. It helped reinvigorate everyone, making us think, ’yes, we can do this!’ It was an outpouring of love and support — when normally, you're just doing your job, the stuff you need to do.

“And ultimately, I guess, it will be a benefit to us because we’ll upgrade our computers; we’d been working on really old stuff forever.”

Even with the extra funds, VIVO's security system upgrades cost more, so on July 22 some of the organization's talented friends will show their love by performing at a party that's all about vibing out or hitting the dance floor. Electronica acts include USD, Pavel, AutonomyTommy Tone, and Johan Björk, with DJ/projections by Nicolas Sassoon and Sylvain Sailly. 

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