Red Gate locks up for good

BY SARAH BERMAN, OPENFILE

After a long struggle to meet City demands, the Red Gate artist space on West Hastings Street has been shut down permanently.

Over the last four months, members of the creative hub have laboured to address safety concerns raised by the City of Vancouver. But after failing to submit a full plan for development, the group of filmmakers, painters, musicians and visual artists have been pushed out.

On Thanksgiving Sunday, artists gave away most of the building’s contents. “We had a free art sale,” explains Jim Carrico, who has rented and managed the building since 2004. “Lots of abandoned artwork. People picked up just about everything.”

As of October 12, Carrico was hauling out the last remaining pieces of furniture. “We don’t have another place to go,” he says. “We’re looking for other places, but it’s hard to imagine how we’re going to afford it now.”

The 15,000 square foot multi-level creative space was found in disrepair when the City inspected early this year. On May 24, the City served an order to vacate due to missing emergency lighting, exit signage and other safety requirements.

Following a flurry of letters to the mayor, the Red Gate was granted a 60-day reprieve. The City highlighted five major safety concerns requiring immediate action, and requested a development permit application. Although Carrico says he put his own money into all the necessary safety repairs, the landlord would not cooperate on a development plan.

“The re-inspection found the five items were addressed,” confirms Vancouver communications manager Barb Floden. “The one item that is still outstanding is the submission of a building/development permit that would address the continued use of the building.”

In September, the renowned JC/DC studio packed up and left, but many visual artists continued to use the building. A final order to “cease occupancy” was served on September 19.

Meanwhile, the municipal government acknowledged the lack of studio space for artists during a regulatory review meeting on October 6. “I think studio space has reached a crisis level of threat,” says Councillor Heather Deal. “Very little new studio space is being built—only as a development amenity requirement.”

The City approved a motion that aims to expand grant programs and review existing by-laws to accommodate more artist-run studio space. The Artist Studio Regulatory Review will even offer an “interim program” for spaces that need extra time to meet building code standards.

“The regulatory review will do several things,” Deal explains. “[We will] work with existing places under threat to bring them up to basic safety code.”

Carrico says the regulatory review comes too late for the Red Gate, and too late for every other artist space between Cambie and Abbott.

“The Dynamo building at 142 West Hastings—that’s been artist studios since the ‘70s or earlier, but the building was sold,” he says, adding that the short segment of Hastings Street has been an important breeding ground for local art and culture since the ‘30s.

“The tenants were offered six more months at twice the rent. They’ve probably got about four months left,” he says. “I’d say by the end of 2011 there won’t be any art space left on the 100 block.”

Photo by Steve Louie.

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