Newly renovated Chinatown cultural centre includes 55 affordable rental spaces for Vancouver artists
Space has already been rented to over 71 collaborators and artists
Artists in Vancouver have reason to celebrate after a newly-renovated cultural centre in Vancouver's Chinatown opened on Sunday, touting 55 affordable spaces for artists and support groups.
The refurbished home of BC Artscape at the Sun Wah Centre, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating affordable cultural spaces for urban communities, is nearly 50,000 square feet spanning three floors in the existing Sun Wah Centre, and has already rented spaces to over 71 collaborators and artists.
BC Artscape president and CEO Genevieve Bucher said she hopes the renewed space will become a creative hub that supports cultural activities and arts, without artists fearing threats of eviction or rent hikes.
Bucher says they created spaces for other non-profit organizations and support services, such as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, after going through a long community engagement process to determine how they could best support Chinatown's existing cultural footprint.
"We really wanted to listen and hear due to the changing nature of Chinatown and how quickly it's impacting the neighbourhood," she said in an interview Sunday.
"The centre represents an important place in the neighbourhood because of the existing tenants … The aspiration is that we can reflect and contribute to community and the neighbourhood."
Bucher said they're able to keep the rents to $2 per square foot monthly, including utilities, Wi-Fi, and property taxes, after negotiating a below-market rate with the owners of the Sun Wah Centre in 2014.
She said her organization does not "speak for Chinatown," which is why it consulted the community on everything from building design to the centre's programming.
"How can we be respectful and contribute, rather than say, 'We're going to save Chinatown,"' said Bucher.
The renovation project is a collaboration between the provincial, federal, and Vancouver municipal governments, which provided BC Artscape with a combined $3.7-million in funding.
B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said the $1 million provided by the province has been transformative, and represents a step in the right direction in addressing affordability for artists in Vancouver.
"This is a great example of a building that was being underused and is now available to be a vibrant hub in the community for artists and cultural community groups," said Beare.
Beare said she understands that diminishing space and affordability issues have a negative impact on the artistic community, but she said B.C.'s arts and culture sector has the provincial government's support.
"It is our priority to make life more affordable for British Columbians and this is one way we can do it for our artistic community," she said.
BC Artscape signed a 10-year lease of the Sun Wah Centre, including an option to renew for two more 10-year terms.