Clara Dubber
Patricio Cartas
Jules Francisco

Where Selectors’ Records was located in Chinatown, there is now an art-space inspired by its predecessor. It’s 8EAST, a joint project between the Unit/Pitt Society for Art and Critical Awareness and the New Orchestra Workshop (NOW) Society. The two organizations aim to create “a social space for culture,” according to Kay Higgins, U/P’s Executive Director. Managed by Higgins and Lisa Cay Miller, an avant-garde composer and NOW’s Artistic Director, 8EAST technically opened in July. But this fall, it will fully come into its own when it launches a retail component and begins hosting more events.

Witch Gong Game II/10 (1994) Barry Guy graphic score, commissioned by the NOW Society || Photography by Patricio Cartas for Discorder Magazine

U/P was founded in 1975 and NOW Society in 1977, and while 8EAST is a way of returning to their respective roots, the organizations are approaching this venture with independent motivations. Higgins explains that for U/P, 8EAST represents a combination of their present and past by celebrating its move away from traditional gallery shows, and also celebrating their activist spirit of the 1980s. For NOW, 8EAST is a return to having a designated space for improvisational new music. Miller sees it as a place to exercise “the daily practice, which for [NOW] involves being present and listening.”

1_Venews_JulesFrancisco_forDiscorder_August2018Though 8EAST resists the title of “artist-run centre,” it is inspired by the energy of artists who founded the first official ARCs in the 1970s. These centres provided space for interactions that did not necessarily have a purpose beyond experimentation and cultivating culture. While influenced by ARCs, Miller maintains that “it’s valuable for 8EAST to not [become] an organization.” She continues, “I want to have a […] continuous discussion about how things are working. […] We can do that without being an organization, almost easier.”

Illustration by Jules Francisco for Discorder Magazine

So, how exactly can you interact with the space? NOW will be hosting new music events, as well as a listening station where people may experience recordings. There will also be a small shop for merchandise created by artists working with NOW and U/P as an homage to Selectors’ Records. As Higgins suggests, the shop atmosphere is “an entry point that’s not intimidating.”

One of the first large projects at 8EAST will be a community meeting series meant to develop concrete plans for how artists’ organizations like U/P and NOW can best use their resources and capacities to resist the effects of displacement and inequality. This includes acknowledging their own complicity. Higgins considers it a step towards fulfilling an obligation “to use whatever organizational resources we have in a way that does not do harm, and hopefully counteracts some of the harm already done to our surrounding community.” Miller believes that their artistic communities will recognize that they “have a responsibility wider than just [themselves].”

Photography by Patricio Cartas for Discorder Magazine

U/P and NOW are choosing to participate in complex discussions that are being had by organizations across Vancouver that are waking up to their culpability. As Higgins explains, “[artists] have been using poor neighbourhoods for cover and […] been giving very little back.” She continues, “Though artists are seen as a mid-stage of gentrification, [they’re] victimized by it as well.” In this, Higgins sees commonality between the precarity of artist centres and the precarity of sensitive neighbourhoods. 8EAST is meant to act as a gathering space for artists to learn how to engage in these conversations with compassion and accountability. Higgins acknowledges, “There’s so much to […] engage with and [we’re] coming to it fairly ill-equipped.” As a starting point, 8EAST plans to offer their space to activist organizations and community organizers as an attempt to minimize the violence of their presence.

Through 8EAST, U/P and NOW hope that their communities will come together in art and dialogue, and mark a new era of artist-run centre.



8EAST is located at the corner of East Pender and Carrall Street, and on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Visit for upcoming programming.