The York Theatre's $2 million sponsorship and signage deal with a local industrial waste rendering plant was approved by Vancouver City Council on Tuesday night, but not everyone is excited to see the sponsor's name up in lights.
Council voted to amend its signage bylaw to allow the recently renovated East Vancouver theatre to install a digital marquee under the existing York Theatre vertical sign, and a fascia sign bearing the words "York Theatre: West Coast Reduction Stage."
It is not yet clear when the new signs will be installed, but Heather Redfern, the executive director of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, which runs the city-owned theatre, says the donation is a game-changer for the organization.
"This is actually quite an unusual gift, because it is for sustainability, for operating and maintaining. Most of the large gifts that corporations have given to arts organizations are for capital projects. So this is an extraordinary visionary gift."
Redfern says West Coast Reduction deserves credit for the donation, and that includes making people in the neighbourhood aware of the sponsorship deal.
West Coast Reduction has been a long-term supporter of the VECC, with a relationship going back over 20 years, according to company president Barry Glotman.
"We've been operating in this neighbourhood for 50 years. The York Theatre is just up the road from West Coast Reduction. It's place I see everyday," says Glotman.
"A lot of people in our plant live in the area. When the opportunity came up, they were looking for sponsorships, we just thought it was a great idea."
But longtime neighbourhood resident Jak King disagrees.He cites an ongoing issue with the smell produced by the meat rendering facility, especially during warm months. It's led to hundreds of complaints from the neighbourhood each year
"West Coast Reduction have not been a good neighbour for many many years," says King.
In addition, King is opposed to what he calls the "commodification" of the sidewalk.
"If West Coast Reduction give money to the Cultch, then they deserve a plaque [inside], but they don't deserve a big sign on the sidewalk."
Public surveys show support
In public consultations conducted by the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, nine per cent of respondents shared King's opinion on corporate signs in general, and 13 per cent were opposed to publicly naming this particular sponsor.
York Theatre neighbour and arts activist Tom Durrie is among the majority who welcome the donation and the sign.
"If governments aren't going to support arts, culture and sports, we have to go after funding."
Durrie feels the complaints around the smell generated by West Coast Reduction are "a completely separate issue. The signage on the theatre is one thing...it's is a way of saying thank you for their extreme generosity."
Durrie, who has lived in the neighbourhood since 1972, says the smell has greatly improved over the years.
"If people want to continue to lobby and work on reducing the odours, that's an entirely separate issue and I support them as well."