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.
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.