A new home for the Arts Factory twice the size of its current digs will allow for collaborative studios, greener practices and a creative synergy among artists, according to its principal.
The City of Vancouver on Thursday announced it has awarded the city-owned warehouse at 281 Industrial Ave. to the Arts Factory, which is composed of the Great Northern Way Scene Shop and the Arts Factory Society.
Arts Factory Society principal Elia Kirby said it is exciting to see the city find new ways to support to the arts community by making available such underutilized spaces.
"In many ways, what artists really want is to just have space, to be forgotten," he said. "They want to be allowed to be messy, do their thing, then emerge and go to galleries and show their stuff. While there is a lot of focus on grants and subsidies – all of which are very important and should never be forgotten – what can be very useful is just giving people space."
About half of the 21,000-square-foot industrial warehouse will go to the Scene Shop, where much of the scenery for well-known productions such as the Bard on the Beach festival and the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is made. The rest will go to individual artist studios, office spaces and work stations for local and visiting artists.
The 10-year lease on the property means artists will be able to work on long-term projects, Mr. Kirby said, while a large, communal venue will allow for shared materials and resources and "conversation across disciplines."
In coming weeks, the city will repair the roof and fix up the plumbing and wiring. The Arts Factory hopes to open the new scene shop by April – in time for Bard on the Beach in June – and the artist studios by May or June, Mr. Kirby said.
The Arts Factory will post an open call for artists on gnwshop.ca, looking primarily for artists with an industrial practice.
"It's particularly conducive to people that are working with wood, paint, metals, dyes, fabrics – that kind of stuff – as opposed to people who are working within the digital," Mr. Kirby said. "It's a place where people can get noisy, messy, work all night long. … We're also looking for a nice mix of emerging and established artists."
The announcement comes about a year after city council approved a motion introduced by Councillor Geoff Meggs directing city staff to work with the park board and school board to find new ways to create and protect such studio spaces.
Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement released Thursday there is a "huge need for affordable artist space in Vancouver.
"This new project led by the Arts Factory is a great opportunity to build a unique creative hub," he said.
Vancouver has the highest number of artists in Canada on a per capita basis and the city provides the "highest level of grant funding to arts organizations in Canada," according to the city.