[URBAN NOTE] “Vancouver’s live-work studio program helps artists in a city short on space”
The Globe and Mail‘s Marsha Lederman describes a program in Vancouver for artists that goes some way towards making the city actually affordable for them.
In a city such as Vancouver, high rents and a low vacancy rate do not paint a pretty picture – particularly for artists, who need a place to live as well as a studio space in which to work. Solutions can be trying and not always conducive to one’s artistic practice – finding a roommate, sharing a studio, getting a day job or, yes, leaving town. And size restrictions imposed by space issues can also limit the kind of work an artist produces.
Colleen Heslin currently has three works at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the recently opened exhibition Vancouver Special: Ambivalent Pleasures, the inaugural triennial featuring local artists.
Ms. Heslin’s works are dye on linen paintings. They are all large, but one of them, True Grey, 2016, is enormous – 330-by-244 centimetres.
The Vancouver-based artist says her studio “was very crucial” in creating the pieces. For one thing, it was big enough.
Her place has 1,075 square feet over two levels, with a bright living space upstairs and a studio space below with very high ceilings. In the living area, the windowsills are lined with plants, there’s a full kitchen – including a dishwasher – and room for a large dining table, couch, bed and more. Downstairs, there’s a large custom-built work table on wheels, generous storage space for paintings and sculptures, a shelving system for textiles and all kinds of floor space, where even large works, such as True Grey, can be easily laid out.
Her rent is $440 a month.
Ms. Heslin is one of the beneficiaries of the City of Vancouver’s Artist Live-Work Studio Awards Program, which grants spaces to Vancouver-based artists at low or no rent based on financial need and artistic merit.
There are currently seven studios in the program – two work-only and five live-work spaces. Two are awarded at no cost and the other five at significantly reduced rents for three-year terms.
It’s enough time, Ms. Heslin says, to make a difference in an artist’s practice – and the cost is liberating. Previously, she paid about $1,000 for her apartment and separate studio space, which she shared. In the new space, she’s been able to work with thicker, stronger materials. And the washer and dryer in the unit have helped enormously with the dying that is crucial to her practice.