Affordable space for artists was the hot topic at the jam-packed Vancouver All Candidates Meeting for Arts and Culture, held October 15 at the Museum of Vancouver.
The event featured six mayoral candidates, six candidates for city council, and one for parks board, representing every major party running for the October 20 municipal election as well as several independents. The candidates presented a number of strategies to increase space for artists, because, as independent mayoral candidate and former touring musician Kennedy Stewart said, “we generate ideas when we hang out together, and we can only do that when we have space.”
The culture focus of the meeting, hosted by the BC Alliance for Arts + Culture in association with the Museum of Vancouver, drew notable consensus among the candidates. They all agreed on the importance of creativity, increasing support for the arts, and the need to be strong arts advocates to the corporate sector and all three levels of government. “We now have governments that are more friendly towards the arts,” Stewart said. “We need to make as much noise as Toronto and Montreal.”
Then the promises rolled in. The majority of these platform pledges focused on ways to increase space for artists.
Independent mayoral candidate Wai Young promised “not to sell another square inch of City land, to ensure that these spaces can be used for artists.”
Green Party council candidate Pete Fry said he wold work to repurpose vacant buildings into temporary studios. “Let’s get out of the way,” and eliminate permit hassles, Fry said.
Independent mayoral candidate Shauna Sylvester promised to create “a housing authority specifically for our city’s artists to create affordable, purpose-built spaces for artists to live, work and show.”
Stewart promised he would “commit to creating 100,000 square feet of new cultural space.”
Heather Deal said Vision Vancouver would allow access for non-profit cultural organizations to the City’s Property Endowment Fund, “a rich source of land,” currently available only for profit sectors. Young and Fry also agreed with this tactic.
Independent mayoral candidate Sean Cassidy promised to raise the current Cultural Infrastructure Grant total from $1 million to $6 million.
Equal Access to Funding
Besides affordable space, moderator Dani Fecko (of arts agency Fascinator Management) asked the panelists about ways the City can ensure that underserved artists and arts organizations have access to funding. Roberts promised that COPE would “shift funds from other departments,” including the police department, to support arts and culture. COPE supports the Mansion Tax and other ways to tax the rich as key ways to generate funds for the arts. “A more progressive tax system would free up more money for grants,” Roberts said.
Yes Vancouver council candidate Phyllis Tang said her party would “increase the efficiency of building-permit approval,” which will save administration costs, “which can be allocated to arts funding.”
NPA council candidate Lisa Dominato promised “stable, multi-year funding.” This was reiterated by ProVancouver Parks Board candidate Rick Hurlbut. “We need to streamline the grant submissions process, to reduce the amount of repetitive hoop-jumping.”
A question about access to arts and culture for everyone, not just those who can afford it, had Dominato promising the NPA would work with Tourism Vancouver to support an annual pass for low income families, asserting, “art is in our DNA; everyone should have access.”
Roberts plugged COPE’s planned “UPass for the Working Class,” which would provide free or discounted transit for kids, seniors and the working class to get to cultural events and community centres.
Tang’s Yes Vancouver party is committed to “extending SkyTrain hours to support nightlife and those who work in it.” Yes Vancouver also promised to install a “night mayor,” who would focus solely on nightlife policy.
OneCity Vancouver council candidate Brandon Yan said inclusivity means making the arts accessible to people with disabilities, seniors, and the underrepresented, because “art is transformative. It’s life-saving. It’s how we see ourselves and others. Art is both a mirror and a window.” Yan, Deal and Hurlbut raised the idea of bringing in policy similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Fred Harding, mayoral candidate for Vancouver 1st, promised to reopen shuttered theatres for plays and performances. He then described his plan to transform a block of Granville St. into a digital atrium—similar to glass-covered streets in Las Vegas and Beijing—to create the so-called “Granville Street Experience.”
Sylvester, Young, and Roberts, promised to support the Vancouver Art Gallery’s move to a larger venue, especially as it could provide more space for other artists and arts organizations it its commercial and residential plan.
Sylvester, Fry and Stewart also voiced support the Hogan’s Alley project. “We to need to acknowledge the Black community, but also the First Nations community, the Chinese community,” said Fry. He and Stewart support designating Chinatown as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We recapped the event live on Twitter as it happened, so check out our newsfeed for more coverage (and follow us!) at @AllianceArts.
And here are links to the three major mayoral candidates who've posted platforms around arts and culture.
Kennedy Stewart: https://www.kennedystewart.ca/vibrantcity
Ken Sims (NPA): https://npavancouver.ca/arts-plan/
Shauna Sylvester: https://www.shaunaformayor.ca/arts