Eastside Culture Crawl Society has announced its rebranding and name change to Eastside Arts Society, in recognition of the organization’s ongoing commitment to build and strengthen capacity for artists and arts organizations within the geographic region of Vancouver’s Eastside. In support of this overarching vision, the Vancouver Foundation has awarded EAS $300,000 over three years-the largest funding gift the society has received in its 25-year history-to develop a strategic plan for the implementation of a designated Eastside Arts District.
Vancouver’s Eastside is home to the highest concentration of artists in any neighbourhood across Canada and the birthplace of the popular annual Eastside Culture Crawl, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in November 2021. The three-year project will offer collaborative solutions for strengthening capacity and dedicated workspaces for artists, it will expand programming initiatives to complement and enhance opportunities for artists across all disciplines, and it will propose policy changes and new funding models to better sustain the development of the EAD.”Since 2010, hundreds of artists have suffered devastating losses to their workspaces and communities due to evictions, rent increases, and shrinking studio space. The Vancouver Foundation grant is the first step towards the creation of policies and funding models that will offer sustainable solutions for artists,” says Esther Rausenberg, Artistic & Executive Director of EAS. “At the same time, the establishment of a designated arts district will serve to formally recognize the significant value and impact artists make on a healthy, thriving society, while simultaneously enhancing economic growth and boosting tourism. To support artists is to support our city.”Adds Chrystale Thompson, EAS Board Chair, “The Eastside Culture Crawl’s arts and culture ecosystem has grown to be so much more than its signature event. The name change knits together our goals of continuing to engage and educate the community through programs that connect the public with the arts, with the solidity and advocacy of preserving and promoting the growth of production space for visual arts through the Eastside Arts District initiative. Through the continued leadership and vision of the Eastside Arts Society, we will continue to create a welcoming environment that celebrates and preserves arts and culture in East Vancouver.”Over the next three years, EAS will collaborate with the City of Vancouver, which launched its own 10-year plan to support arts and culture in 2019 and passed a unanimous motion in February 2020 to support EAS’ initiative to define and develop an Eastside Arts District.The three-year initiative will take a multi-pronged approach:
- Analyze existing policies and legislation, zoning considerations, and real estate context;
- Map current assets on Vancouver’s Eastside, including studios, galleries, theatres, festivals, public art, restaurants, breweries, and more; and
- Engage community stakeholders, including artists, performers, Indigenous leaders, arts organizations, post-secondary institutions, landowners and developers.
Based on compiled data and feedback, EAS will develop a plan that includes the expansion of year-round arts programming opportunities, the creation of an interactive website to serve as a comprehensive resource for both locals and tourists, the preservation of cultural and artistic sites within the community, and the establishment of new workspaces for artists of all disciplines.
In 2019, EAS (formerly ECCS) released a report, City Without Art? No Net Loss, Plus!, based on the findings from its extensive artist production space survey. The report found that more than 400,000 square feet of dedicated artist space had been lost over the past decade, and that rental rates had increased by 65 per cent-making life as an artist in Vancouver increasingly unsustainable. In consultation with policymakers, planners, and artists, the organization hosted a public Displacement Forum & Exhibit in October 2019, sowing the seeds for the Eastside Arts District initiative to take root.One of the society’s first steps forward is the announcement of CREATE! Arts Festival, a two-day community arts-making festival in August 2021-an idea widely supported by both local artists and the public. Funded in part by a $50,000 grant from the BC Arts Council’s Project Assistance: Pivot Program, the event will feature hands-on art making activities led by local visual artists and craft makers. More information about the festival will be announced in July 2021.