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The Globe and Mail

City giving new arts innovation hub $2.3-million

Boca del Lupo production of "Fall Away Home," an outdoor play at Stanley Park.

Handout photo.

A new cross-disciplinary cultural hub, with the working title of the Centre for Arts Innovation, is set to receive $2.3-million from the City of Vancouver.

The money is intended to create what's described as a "permanent, high-quality shared space with an aim of cross-pollinating and broadening the reach of artists."

The new centre is to be a joint project of the media arts centre VIVO (Satellite Video Exchange Society) – one of Canada's oldest artist-run centres – and the independent theatre company collaboration C-Space (the Vancouver Creative Space Society). It may include a gallery, black box production/recording space, presentation studio, rehearsal and production spaces, micro-cinema and other facilities.

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If approved, the project will receive the largest chunk of cultural capital grants totalling $4.5-million, set to be awarded to a group of non-profit arts and cultural organizations in Vancouver to "secure, enhance and expand" artist production spaces in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. The funds come from the cultural community amenity contribution resulting from the Rize Alliance project in Mount Pleasant.

While the development has been controversial, this is welcome news for arts groups in Vancouver, who have been struggling with a deficit of creative space for years.

C-Space is an eight-year-old joint venture between four independent theatre companies: Boca del Lupo, Electric Company Theatre, Neworld Theatre and Rumble Theatre. They share space at a converted factory in Grandview-Woodlands that they call Progress Lab 1422.

"We think it's a pretty great model that allowed four companies to work together as opposed to in opposition to each other to make something happen," says Marcus Youssef, Neworld's Artistic Director, and one of the driving forces behind PL 1422 (a space they hope to maintain, in addition to the new centre).

When approached about collaborating with VIVO – which Mr. Youssef describes as being "in a space crisis" – it seemed like a good idea. "We were interested in extending our little theatre silo and building a broader hub."

Purchase and renovations of the space would likely occur in 2016, for completion in 2016-17, according to a report to the city.

Among the other beneficiaries of the $4.5-million in grants: the important artist-run centre the Western Front, in line to receive $1.5-mllion to purchase its heritage building on East 8th Avenue; grunt gallery – where the Vancouver Art Gallery's successful (now touring) exhibition Beat Nation: Hip Hop as Indigenous Culture originated – is to receive $400,000; and the Arts Factory Society, which is to receive $300,000 to help fund new studio space for local artists.

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The city report goes to the Standing Committee on City Finance and Services on Wednesday.

Also on the agenda for Wednesday's meeting is a report recommending council approve grants totalling $300,000 over three years for Toronto Artscape – a non-profit cultural space developer – to develop an affiliate organization in B.C.

The proposed BC Artscape would focus on developing and managing cultural real estate projects of significant scale. The total budget for the BC Artscape project is $900,000, with the city to contribute a third with money from the City of Vancouver Innovation Fund.

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