The state of decent studio spaces for artists in Vancouver is undeniably terrible. Any artist here who has looked into getting a space will be familiar with how hard it is to find something without rats, with heat, and that isn’t the middle of butt @#$* nowhere. So when we heard that an already established building on Prior st. that has over 30 artists inhabiting studio spaces there, is going under application for re-zoning to become high end apartments we almost lost our cool.
Vancouver’s total lack of foresight into what makes a city interesting and culturally significant is beginning to feel like a terrible joke. Artists seem to be categorized in the capitalist agenda of Vancouver’s city planning as one step above the homeless, crack addicts, prostitutes and junkies. Basically, no viable worth. It doesn’t seem rational to continually push affordable working spaces (and housing!) further and further from the downtown area which in effect creates a cultural and creative vacuum.
It’s like the wild west. Everyone is too busy panning for gold to realize that a city without a diverse population that includes artists, musicians, freaks, geeks, and whatever other rag tag group of creatives, is a city that is totally culturally bankrupt. How does it feel to be poor in a designer suit? We’ll be sure to take a poll of Gastown after it’s impending gentrification. We could go right now (if it wasn’t 5am) to Yaletown and ask some Valentino wearing capitalist soldier how it feels to be such a broke ass citizen in his neighborhood, because before the Bentley’s rolled up it was the site of all sorts of creative spaces.
There is the argument that it is the artists that gentrify a neighborhood. It’s probably true. Low rent attracts artists to move into poor neighborhoods and the yuppies follow to vampire the cultural energy coming from having a neighborhood filled with creatives. Ultimately that’s not really what we’re fighting. Gentrification happens.
What we suggest is that the city needs to get their head out of the sand and their ass out of the air and start working at making Vancouver a viable place for artists to live and work before they are forced to move on to cheaper, more supportive cities like Montreal and Berlin. Otherwise Vancouver may end up as just another city sodomized in it’s sleep by the capitalist machine… and too emotionally fragile from the experience to ever recover.