North Shore artists rally to save Ambleside Beach studio

Artists who use a house on Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver are hoping to save the structure from demolition by the district.

District promises to find a new home for Lawson Creek Studios before turning site into green space

Artists have an idyllic setting to paint at John Lawson Studios on Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver. (North Shore Artists Guild)

Artists who use a house on Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver are hoping to save John Lawson Studios from demolition by the District of West Vancouver.

"Surely the council and the community of West Vancouver have an obligation to show respect and concern to their community, and need to understand that this kind of creativity is central to a strong public mental health policy for its citizens," said Jilly Watson in a release from the North Shore Artists' Guild.

Watson along with other artists will put their easels and paintings on display at a rally on Saturday at 2 p.m. PT to try and gain support in preserving the structure — a converted home, now rented out by several arts groups, which according to Watson represent up to 500 visual and performance artists.

"An emergency rally has been called by the Friends of Lawson Creek Studios to save the demolition of a well-loved and well-used building on Ambleside Beach," said a release by the group.

Meanwhile the district is promising to help find a new home for the artists before the demolition takes place.

No demolition yet

"They're concerned about it being demolished before they have a place to go and it has never been our intention to move them out of that building until they have a place to move to ," said Donna Powers who speaks for the District of West Vancouver.

"So it's definitely going to stay standing until we have worked with them to find an interim home for their program."

Artists at John Lawson Studios describe the home that houses them as "well-loved" and in good condition. (North Shore Artists Guild)

On May 9, feedback from stakeholders will be presented at a public meeting to do with the Ambleside Waterfront Plan at the Kay Meek Centre. It proposes upgrades to facilities along the waterfront, turning the site Lawson studios sits on into green space or a park, according to Powers.

Powers said the home, which she describes as old, is expensive to upkeep and is not accessible for people with disabilities and was never meant for the programs it now houses.

"As an old home, you know, no matter how much we renovate them, they don't meet the standards for a public use building and like any old home, the older it gets, the more expensive it is to maintain," she said.

Arts specific building promised

Powers said the district is committed to working with artists to find a long-term, designated site for art to flourish in the area.

"The plan is really to build them a building that is meant to be for the arts and to really emphasize arts on the waterfront," she said.

Still, the artists say that the Lawson studios house is in excellent shape and they are not encouraged to hear that they must move out after setting up in the building three years ago when they were moved out of another municipal site.

"All of these groups were evicted from Klee Wyck only three years ago with the promise of a new secure future at Lawson Creek," said their release.

Powers says she understands.

"If you were renting a property and it was your home and you know your landlord called you up and let you know you were being evicted, there would be a lot of stress if you didn't know where you were moving to," she said.

"And I think that has created some angst in the community. So I think the district's position is that we really want to reassure the arts community that they are not being evicted. They're our tenants and we're working with them to find a place to relocate to."