City announces launch of new creative space with The Arts Factory

Vancouver City Council has awarded the lease of a City-owned warehouse at 281 Industrial Avenue to The Arts Factory, comprising Great Northern Way Scene Shop and Arts Factory Society, to be used as affordable, multi-tenant artist studios and production space.

“There is a huge need for affordable artist space in Vancouver, and this new project led by the Arts Factory is a great opportunity to build a unique creative hub in Vancouver,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The mix of an established arts organization with new, emerging artists is an exciting opportunity, and we’re thrilled that the City can partner on this new facility by leasing what was an underused building.”

The Arts Factory will primarily be geared to serving professional artists requiring industrial fabrication such as large-scale sculptures, set-building, painting, fabric, wood and ceramics. The 21,000-square-foot industrial warehouse, owned by the City, will be used to provide multiple artist studios, shared production space for large art projects and administrative “hot desks” for local and visiting artists. Once complete, it is expected the building will be home to up to 100 artists.

“We’re very excited to move in to 281 Industrial, and get started on building a new creative hub in Vancouver,” said Elia Kirby, Principal of the Arts Factory Society. “There is a huge demand for artist space in Vancouver and we’re looking forward to both running the Scene Shop there and providing several new studio spaces for local artists. We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the City on this and are ready to get started on a great new addition to our City’s cultural community.”

The Arts Factory will conduct an open selection process for artists interested in the studio space – encouraging a mix of emerging and established artists requiring industrial work space. Once built out, it is expected there will be up to 40 new studios available for local artists.

This project will also secure a new home for the Great Northern Way Scene Shop, which has been working for a decade with many local artists and non-profits on small and large-scale art production, including Bard on the Beach, the Van East Cultural Centre, and the PuSH Festival. The Scene Shop will be leaving its previous location at the Great Northern Way Campus, where it has been operating since 2003. It is the only arts fabrication facility accessible to professional non-profits within city limits. The Scene Shop currently works with about 150 artists on building over 40 projects per year, employing approximately 25 full or part-time workers and 50 craftspeople.

Council approved a motion in February 2012 for staff to explore renting vacant City-owned space for artist studios and production space. Along with 281 Industrial, city-owned buildings at 2625 and 2629 Kaslo were offered as part of an RFEOI for arts groups. Only the space at 281 Industrial Ave received interest with a viable business model.

In August 2012, 10 organizations responded to the open expression of interest in which the Arts Factory proposal for 281 Industrial Ave was evaluated as best able to meet the City’s vision and goals. Reasons for its selection include it being the best fit for the industrial space, the ability to retain the Scene Shop in Vancouver, and a proven operating model that is financially sustainable.

The Arts Factory is expected to begin improvements to the space in the coming weeks, with operations to begin later this spring. The company anticipates phasing in the studio spaces throughout 2013.

On a per capita basis, Vancouver has the highest number of artists in Canada, with the City providing the highest level of grant funding to arts organizations in Canada. Approximately 8,000 square feet of new artist studio space will be added by The Arts Factory, on top of over 20,000 new square feet of studio space approved by City Council in 2012.

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