by Anthony Meza

illustration by Dana Kearley
illustration by Dana Kearley

  The Red Gate, who were uprooted from their long-time abode on the 100 block of West Hastings last October, may have located a new space for Vancouver artists to thrive, unfettered by the constraints of overpriced studios. The new location is a 20,000 square-foot warehouse in the industrial district sandwiched between Mount Pleasant and Strathcona, at 281 Industrial Avenue.

  Until recently, this city-owned property housed a film production and prop storage company who were ending their lease just as Jim Carrico, who has managed the Red Gate since 2004, discovered the spot. Carrico, who spoke with Discorder in an interview on March 13, hopes that the city will lease the space to the Red Gate to make much needed affordable artist studio space available in Vancouver.

  As it stands, the city has not committed to any deal nor has it responded definitively to a lease Carrico proposed. Despite receiving favourable words from councillors Geoff Meggs and Elizabeth Ball, progress on the possibility of renting the warehouse has been slow and little useful information has escaped the byzantine bureaucracy of City Hall. The administration of the lease appears to sit either in the hands of the Real Estate Services or Cultural Services department, though nobody at the Red Gate has been given a clear indication.

  With fortuitous timing for the Red Gate, Meggs recently authored a motion to City Council, passed on February 14, that encourages steps by the City toward the provision of affordable creative space in Vancouver. However, this policy provides few concrete and immediate outcomes that will be meaningful for artists seeking work spaces, such as those displaced when the Red Gate lost its home.

  The artists and musicians of the former Red Gate, including Vancouver cultural icons the New Pornographers, have been scattered across the city with the fortunate few finding new affordable space. When asked where the artists from the Red Gate have gone Carrico said, “I’m not really sure. Some have found space here and there, others, I have no idea.”

  The proposed building, built in 1928, is ideal. It is divided into six equally sized partitions, has 16-foot ceilings several large loading docks, and is located in a neighbourhood where the loud noise and messy work of artistic production will not disturb the surrounding community. The Red Gate recently put out a call on their website for anyone seeking “affordable studio space for visual artists, as well as practice space for musicians, rehearsal space for theatre groups, production space for film, video, and photography, community space for meetings and workshops, and more.” With this call, the Red Gate is seeking a supportive community response to the project as a first step toward obtaining a lease from the City. A petition is available on their website at, where anyone who agrees that affordable art space in Vancouver should be a priority, and that Red Gate is a good candidate to offer it, can voice their opinion.

  For the time being there are no plans to provide performance or exhibition space at the new location, which will have to wait until the building can be brought into compliance with the appropriate safety bylaws. The project will focus on the Red Gate’s core goal of providing studio space to foster a vital habitat for Vancouver’s cultural community.

  In expressing his hopes for the re-emerging Red Gate, Carrico described the ways in which affordable studio spaces are necessary for culture to thrive in a city. He claims that “sometimes people think of culture as only flowers, cut off from the rest of the process of art. Studio workspaces can be the dirt, compost, roots, stems and leaves that are absolutely essential for flowers to bloom.” In Carrico’s mind Vancouver needs to tend to its cultural soil by doing what it can to remove economic and bureaucratic barriers placed on artists and their ability to create.