From what I saw last summer, that majority of pieces commissioned by mural fest went up on walls around Main street. In the months since, shadowed by the ever growing beacon on displacement aptly dubbed “The Independent” (giant condo tower on the corner of Main & Broadway built for and marketed to white yuppie hipsters, see independentatmain.com for details), we’ve lost many long standing institutions that made anyone enjoy the area of Mount Pleasant around Main and Broadway in the first place. It’s no secret that arts and performance spaces, queers, and students are the earliest indications that an area is being gentrified, (see also, Chinatown), but I’m so fucking sick of watching neighbourhoods I love tarted up so we can all be pushed out. In the last 6 months we’ve lost, Foundation, Hot Art Wet City, and we are soon to lose the Brickhouse. Before that, we lost Vivo (replaced by VAL), the Rumpus Room, and a number of clothing stores who could no longer afford rent in the area. Cynics may say, “Snooty veggie restaurant w/ rude staff, weird art gallery, and musty bar, who cares?” But these are the spaces that bring people who don’t like the downtown core, and can’t afford Kits of gastown into the area. And these people are the people who make this area cool. Many of whom happen to be artists who participated in Van Mural Fest.
For the record, I think the exposure given to local artists by the festival is overall a great thing. Artists deserve to be paid, they deserve to have their work displayed, and there should be more public works in Vancouver, because god knows grey stucco is fucking ugly. That said, the fact that Van Mural Fest is recommended to receive 40% of this year’s Public Art Boost funding (Georgia Straight, Charles Smith, March 26th), is highly suspect. Condos in “the Independent” are currently sold out before construction has even finished. As I mentioned before, the majority of murals for Van Mural Fest have beautified the neighbourhood around the Independent. Grunt Gallery is slated to receive $60,000 from Boost to set up a projection space on the side of the “the Independent” once it’s finished. The funds mentioned come out of $1.5 million over three years allocated by the city of Vancouver to support public art. I suppose that’s nice, but really, nice for whom? This public beautification project benefits developers and rich people who can afford to buy an apartment “starting at $219,000”, not artists, their communities, or neighbourhoods.
So yeah, it’s been said before, but R.I.P.* East Van. Let’s all move and make Burnaby sexy.—Pissed, poor, and precocious
*R.I.P. = Revel In Prosperity
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