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POOP FROM THE MARE OF VANADA


WHEREFOR ART THOU, GALLERY?

I have a soft spot for the Vancouver Art Gallery. It was founded at 1145 W. Georgia Street in 1931, and expanded to 1155 in 1951. The official opening was held the day I was born. The Gallery moved to its current location in the old court house in 1983. In the past few years I have done hundreds of hours of research in their library and archives, which has been fabulous. I love the building and its history, and have even been downstairs into the old holding cells for prisoners.

However, the quest for a new gallery has been endless and annoying, to say the least. Funding is one obvious issue, and the lack of finding as much money as they think they need is now an embarassment. I think they made a serious mistake in not acquiring the Post Office building on Georgia Street. The building was PERFECT for the gallery:

1. already there, with full city block office levels (=share with every arts group in town)
2. direct drive-in semi-trailer access (=any show can be hosted)
3. huge overheight floor spaces designed for massive loads (=exhibition space)
4. vehicle parking / access directly on Georgia
5. huge lobby simply needing a reno
6. helipad on the roof
7. full square block roof deck (=massive roof parties)
8. capacity to build short tower on north end
9. existing infrastructure and servicing (power, water, etc)

So what happened? Seems the gallery wanted a whiz-bang brand-new world-class gallery to show off with. Another second-hand building wasn't wanted. Okey dokey, so what's on the drawing boards? A huge wooden inukshuk? I can imagine how that will look all tarped up for envelope repairs. We can hire Christo to do it. Sigh. The rumor is that the architects will not proceed to the next design phase until sufficient moolah has been raised, and the last I heard was that it hadn't. Recent departures from the gallery upper management are not helping things, nor disputes with would-be donors. Perhaps the latter was due to something audacious being requested in return for a pile of dough? Unfortunately, as the gallery searched for help, the devil-apers arrived with their knives drawn for open-wallet surgery on civic funding, and schemes for how they can make things work in exchange for just a few more towers and the Mare's indulgences.

So, what is to be done? I get asked fairly often what I think about all this. I think they should do some constructive infill around the existing gallery. After all, now that the Mare has permanently closed Robson Street, why not just build a big blob right on top of it? Duh. Easy.



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