Almost five months after it was due to be demolished, an artists' cabin perched on the edge of Cates Park on Vancouver's North Shore was instead being prepared for a move on Monday – a hard-won victory for the group of artists who fought to save it. Now they have a new challenge: finding a permanent home for the historic structure.
The cabin has been used by Vancouver artists Al Neil and Carole Itter for decades, but after a land sale to Polygon Homes – which is developing the property – the cabin became endangered. An eviction notice was issued with a deadline of Jan. 31.
The unauthorized structure on port land had to be removed for environmental reasons, Port Metro Vancouver says. Its removal would allow for habitat restoration on the site – contaminants had been identified in the soil – and for the beachfront to return to its natural state.
A group of artists rallied to save the structure. And Calgary-based Canexus Corp., a chemical manufacturing and handling company with a large land footprint in North Vancouver, stepped in with an offer to store the cabin for a year (or perhaps more) while it is remediated and a search is launched for a permanent home.
"Because we were trying to get it moved, we didn't have time to really explore anything completely," says Glenn Alteen, the program director of grunt gallery and one of those who fought to save the cabin. "But now we can. It's very safe. We can figure out what needs to be done now."
A project permit that allows for the removal of the structure was issued by Port Metro Vancouver on May 27 – with Polygon paying for the move (at a cost of about $12,000, according to Mr. Alteen).
On Monday, Mr. Neil and Ms. Itter's 36th or 37th anniversary (she couldn't remember which) "of the day when something clicked," the little blue cabin was put on blocks and lifted into the air in preparation to be loaded on to a trailer, while a project manager, working pro bono for the artists' group, oversaw the operation.
"It's actually quite a process," said Michael Jackson, as the five movers were preparing to slide the cabin off Port Metro Vancouver property and onto Polygon property. "I've never done anything like this before."
Reached at her home in Vancouver, Ms. Itter expressed relief. "In the initial eviction notice, it was all going to be bulldozed, so this is a big change," she told The Globe and Mail on Monday, adding she hasn't been to the site in weeks. "I've got to kind of let go, right?"
Meanwhile, Mr. Alteen and artists Barbara Cole and Esther Rausenberg are working to find a permanent home for the cabin.
"Our hope for it is that we can bring it back into Cates Park and use it as an artist residency in the same way in the city of Vancouver, they use the field houses as artists' residencies," said Mr. Alteen, adding it isn't necessary that its home be Cates Park; the main thing is that it continues to serve its purpose.
"The idea was not to save it as a historical thing, but to save it as a place that artists could use," he said, "and it could still continue on and have a new life."