Monday, November 10, 2008


About a million years ago when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I worked as a docent for the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was a volunteer position, so it did not pay a salary, but the rewards were far greater than any paycheque. Every Sunday I would trudge off to the Art Gallery for a few hours, and in return I was permitted to take home some of the works from the Art Rental department to hang in my home. It was a wonderful experience.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is currently housed in the old Vancouver Courthouse, which is a beautiful Edwardian building designed by the notorious architect, Francis Rattenbury.

In November, 2007 the gallery announced plans to move to a new building at a former bus depot on the corner of Cambie and Georgia streets, next to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The new building would have been about 30,000 square meters, almost 10 times the current building size, and would include more gallery space for the permanent collection now in storage, a larger exhibit space for visiting international works, more children's and community programming and an improved storage and display environment.

The gallery planned to approach city council soon in early 2008 for official handover of the site. Construction would have begun after the 2010 Olympics with an opening tentatively scheduled for 2013. The gallery was expected to cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and the gallery hoped to secure funding from provincial and federal governments as well as private donors.

In May 2008, however, a different site was designated as the chosen site for the new gallery. The VAG will move into a new building on land occupied until now by the Plaza of Nations in Vancouver near BC Place, and will double its size to 320,000 square feet (30,000 m2). A call for designs for the new gallery will go out to architects in the fall of 2008. Construction is expected to start in 2011, with an opening likely in 2013.

… Wikipedia

The Arts in British Columbia are not not particularly well-supported. A few days ago City Council held an in camera meeting and decided to give a $100 million loan to the 2010 Olympic Village Project. If only the Arts in Vancouver could get a fraction of that money.

Next weekend is Vancouver’s Mayoral election. There is a new candidate, Gregor Robertson, and a new party, Vision Vancouver, running for office. Robertson's platform includes the word “change’ but I won’t hold that against him. He and his party support the Arts.

Our funny little mayoral election here in Vancouver is generating almost as much controversy as “that other election”, but it is important to our city, especially with the 2010 Winter Olympics on the horizon, and the costs escalating. I hope there will be a "landslide" to boot out the old guard and to get some fresh blood onto the City Council.


VioletSky said...

And the federal government's attitude towards the arts doesn't help with understanding the importance of a lively artistic community.

Our own AGO is finally re-opening this week and I'm so looking forward to the unveiling fo Gehry's latest.

Firefly said...

There is noting wrong with a bit of change. As long as it happens and happens for the right reasons. Lets hope you old guard gets booted out by the voters and somebody with a bit of culture takes over.
I read in one of our local newspapers this weekend that most of the small art galleries (not that there are big ones) in the city is struggling with very few sales compared to the past. The tough economic times are being blamed and artists are struggling because of it. Two of the prominent galleries are also closing. Neither blame economics, but whatever the reason it is a huge loss for the city.

Deb said...

You are so funny...million years ago when you worked as a docent! LOL!!! What amazes me is you got to "borrow" works of art! Now, I am almost certain you didn't get to take a Renoir or Rembrandt home, but it is nice all the same.
Party of "change", huh? heheheeh...;)

willow said...

I always make it a habit of checking out the city's art museum when I visit. Best wishes for Vancouver Art Gallery's new home. :)

frizzy scissorhands said...

change ... vancouver exists at the convergence of change from so many dimensions of life. something different clearly needs to happen here.

Dr.John said...

Here an election. There an election. Everywhere an election.
I hope yours goes well and brings good change.

Adventure girl wanna be said...

Hope the election goes the way you want it? Were you happy with Obama winning??

david mcmahon said...

Fresh blood always brings vitality, Jo.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Good luck in getting the change you hope for voted in!

I was a docent long ago, too, in a Vanderbilt Museum which was full of artifacts from Cornelius V's travels, especially in the South Pacific, as well as art and exquisite furnishings, none of which I was permitted to borrow.

Russell said...

Music, the arts, drama, literature ... all take a distant back seat to ... sports! That is the case in the schools and continues on through life. And that is sad. Pathetic, actually.

I recently wrote a post about a college football game over in Iowa City. To go to that game would cost a person about $250 to $300 including the ticket, parking, travel, and so on. Many people spend a lot more than that.

Yet if you ask a person to pay $10 to attend a local play or concert or to donate $100 they look at you like you are insane.

Some where, some how things got pretty messed up. But, as with so many things, if a person keeps pecking away, keeps talking, keeps being an advocate, slowly change occurs...

Take care and best of luck with your new gallery in Vancouver.

Smalltown RN said...

I know the space is small at the current location...but the building itself gives the gallery character and some pinosh....I will be sorry to see them move to a new me they are losing art! Such a shame....if those who work in that environment can't see makes me doubtful that they would know how to attrack the average public to the arts....just my thoughts....

Smalltown RN said...

I know the space is small at the current location...but the building itself gives the gallery character and some pinosh....I will be sorry to see them move their new me they are losing art! Such a shame....if those who work in that environment can't see makes me doubtful that they would know how to attrack the average public to the arts....just my thoughts.... said...

The Vancouver Courthouse, is a beautiful Edwardian building, like the old Art Gallery of Ontario, though that building is H Shaped.
Unfortunately, archtect Frank Geary
has added on crazy new Crystal Building jutting out towards Bloor Street, giving the lovely old edifice the look of having been hit with an ice asteroid that crumbled when it fell. What a mess.
This is architecture? I'm sure even Ayn Rand would have protested.

Better job on the Art Gallery of Ontario. It has a wonderful glass facade that is not an oxymoron, the monstrocity that is now the Royal Ontario Museum.

Genius job on the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Botch on the ROM.
I think Mr. Geary could be called the Girl with the Curl.
When she was good, she was very good.
When she was bad, she was horrid.

VioletSky said...

Ivan: I agree that the Crystal on the ROM is indeed a monstrosity, but a little clarification: Daniel Libeskind was the architect of that addition and Frank Gehry is the architect of the AGO renovation

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't think I've ever met a docent before. Cool!

I sure wish there was more support for the arts here. The economy right now may be part of our problem, but is certainly not all of it.

Jo said...

Violetsky, I love Frank Gehry's work. The museum in Bilbao is one of the most spectacular buildings I have ever seen. I would love to see pictures of your AGO.

Firefly, unfortunately when times are tough economically, the first thing to suffer is the arts. And yet, the arts are the things we need the most, to nourish our souls.

Deb, no, no Rembrandts... prints only. But they were beautiful, and I would keep them up for a while, and then take something else. It was wonderful.

Willow, yes, that is the first thing I do, is check out the Art Galleries. I had a wonderful time in Paris and New York!

Frizzy, oh yes! Vancouver talks about being "world class" (chuckle) but then they carry on behaving in such a provincial manner. *sigh*

Dr. John, *heh* Yes, elections everywhere.

AdventureGirl, Obama? Well, let's just say I have a definite "wait and see" attitude about him. I do hope he works out okay, for America's sake, however.

David, yes, time for some new faces and some fresh blood.

Hearts, omigosh! That must have been so interesting. I would love to have seen some of Vanderbilt's furnishings. The Vanderbilts owned a small island in the middle of Sproat Lake where I grew up, and the house on it was exquisite.

Russell, that's so true, isn't it? The hero in the student body is always the quarterback, never the guy who can paint a masterpiece, or perhaps play a very sexy trumpet! :-)

Mary Anne, I completely agree with you. I wish they could somehow build an adjacent annex building to their current location, and keep the main collection in the building it is in now. It's such a wonderfu location and a gorgeous building.

Ivan, people protested the strange pyramid outside the Louvre too, and I agree that sometimes these things don't "fit" with the original building. I personally don't care for the pyramide entrance to the Louvre.

Charles, it's very sad when the arts take a back seat to almost everything else. To me, the arts are the most necessary part of our lives!

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