The City of Vancouver recently released a new creative city strategy, "Culture|Shift": a promise to its citizens to "blanket the city in arts and culture."
Listen, we love the enthusiasm. You want to support for arts and culture? Into it. You want to champion creators and introduce "bold moves" to advance cultural infrastructure? We're on board. You have a dream to position Vancouver as a "thriving hub" for music? We could not be happier for you.
But it's hard to stay excited about this starry-eyed vision of Vancouver as a cultural capital, though, with announcement after announcement that local performance venues are in trouble.
Photo: Steve Louie (Apollo Ghosts at Red Gate, 2019)
There's The Red Gate on Main Street, under threat of eviction thanks to exorbitant commercial property taxes—the non-profit theatre showcases live music, comedy and art has been asked to come up with $9,000+ by the end of the month.
Toast Collective (via the "Save the Toast" GoFundMe page)
Toast Collective, a store-front-turned-cozy-indie-performance-space in the Fraserhood that has been a grassroot arts hub for over a decade, has had its rent raised beyond what the group can cover with their mandate to offer a low-cost space for artists.
Meanwhile, Little Mountain Gallery, an independant comedy venue on Main and 26th that has long provided affordable, accessible opportunities to up-and-coming comedians and show producers, is facing an uncertain future since a development application went up on the building last week. (Full disclosure: I'm on the board and a regular performer here.)
Is a city obligated to subsidize the arts? Not specifically. But any city that wants to shed its "No Fun" reputation should—especially if they're loudly and proudly announcing a 10 year plan of cultural advocacy. These are special, community-focused spaces that need help, not tax raises, rent hikes or the threat of demolition. Want to blanket the city with arts and culture? Saving these three venues is a good place to start.
While we wait for the city to actually choose culture over cash, check out Red Gate or the Toast's fundraiser pages, or send a letter of LMG support to the City of Vancouver here. And get out to a show to enjoy them...while you can.