It’s been over two years and $37 million in the process, but Arts Umbrella is poised to open in its new digs on Granville Island. The former site of Emily Carr University has undergone a frankly breathtaking renovation to convert it into a purpose-built site for their art-centred programming, and the 15,000 kids that are served by it.

arts umbrella
Credit: Kevin Clark

The organization began on Granville Island 42 years ago in a 14,000 square-foot building. Now, the 50,000 square-foot structure includes performances stages, 6 dance studios, pottery studios—complete with wheels—painting and printing studios, print photography darkrooms, and dedicated areas for woodworking, stagecraft building and general fabrication.

arts umbrella
Credit: Kevin Clark

The furniture in the main-floor reception area was organized and donated by Inform Interiors.

The renovations led by Henriquez Partners Architects respect the original design from Patkau Architects for Emily Carr, transitioning classroom spaces into art studios. Nancy Bendtsen from Inform Interiors donated all of the lounge seating on the main floor—currently set up for distancing, but will transition as we move into recovery from the pandemic.

arts umbrella dressing room
Credit: Kevin Clark

Dressing rooms feature individual makeup stations and private changing rooms.

I took a tour last week—and to say the facilities are world-class probably underserves them. Universe-class? Think state-of-the-art sprung floors for all of the dance studios, with bleachers that can be rolled away—or opened up again—in practice studios, with a practice stage that matches the square footage of the 132-seat theatre. Dressing rooms are beautifully designed to feel as though they're meant for a Broadway show. Painting studios feature natural light from new windows cut into the building's facade.

arts umbrella dance studio

Dance studios feature views over Granville Island. Windows were introduced into the space during the renovation process.

arts umbrella theatre
Credit: Kevin Clark

The 132-seat theatre features a 1,500 square-foot stage with a sprung floor.

The work Arts Umbrella reaches far beyond their new facilities. The organizations reaches more than 24,000 young people every year, with more than 80 percent served through bursaries, scholarships, and donor-funded programs. In addition to the 100 schools and 60 neighbourhood centres where they manage programs—and through its Northern Arts Connection, in remote Indigenous communities—they also run programs for youth in psychiatric programs, in the Eating Disorders Clinic at B.C. Children's Hospital, and for siblings staying at the Ronald McDonald House—all of which feels particularly profound at a time like the present, when arts programming can have such a positive impact on mental health. 

arts umbrella pottery
Credit: Anicka Quin

Pottery studios feature potters' wheels and adjustable storage around the room.

arts umbrella costumes
Credit: Anicka Quin

The space was also designed with dedicated storage for costumes—can you spot the Nutcracker costumes here?

The new facilities open to the public on April 10, 2021.