Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Some thoughts on Art Spaces, June 7, 2007

The latest copy of Nina News, the one-page double-sided newsletter published six times a year by the Nina Haggery Centre, reports that the gallery/artist centre is looking to move north to 118 Ave. More space is certainly needed, and the partnership seems ideal; partnering up with the Edmonton Inner City Housing Society through the aide of Council, the proposed revitalization of 118 Avenue through "art" has in one channel become "ArtsAve Place", the proposed art/low income housing studio gallery space where five lots have already been purchased. Though they are onto to the permit stage, and possesion of the lots happen in late summer, the idea is for the Nina Haggerty Centre to own its own art space with multiple floors of below-market priced condos above.

A similiar project was proposed for the existing United Cycle building and the lot behind, where developer Albert Romani has put forward the notion of a space dedicated to "art" and "artist" condos starting in the $200K range, but the "art" space would only exist on a 10 year lease and without zoning restrictions put into place to secure any form of a future. Though the group on 118 Ave, the ArtsAlive core, have taken over the old location of Popular Bakery and has turned it into an "arts" cafe, and seems keen on going forward with revitalizing the neighborhood through art, I only wonder if anyone really intends to keep these spaces dedicated to artists and the intentions of producing art on a long-term basis. The Nina Haggerty is looking to buy their own building, and in doing so securing its future. Other arts organizations, established groups and galleries who would benefit greatly from owning, should be looking to do the same before it all becomes too late (how long can ArtsHab hold? And what is to become of Harcourt in a few years?) Council and the community should be looking at ways to make the purchasing of art space possible rather than these band-aid relief projects where "art" is held as a beacon of growth and revitalization until the area can sustain itself and wants to reserve these art spaces for higher-paying tenants.

True that every city goes through this in growth, the Hausmanization, gentrifcation, whatever you would like to call it, but unlike most of these other cities that have pushed their artists to the fringes and feeds off their development, Edmonton has never privileged the arts within their limits, and with no incentive, no respect, no low income studio/housing, why, or how, would anyone stay?


Anonymous said...

i am skeptical about these things. they rename areas and add sport sculptures and expect to draw people to the area.

i do think that the art community would be foolish not to take the opportunity to establish an area for themselves. i think it comes down to artists being able to let go of the comfort and image of whyte ave or downtown for these "undesirable" neighbourhoods of edmonton.

karen c.

shane k said...

Regardless of whether 118th Avenue is a desirable neighbourhood or not, I, as an artist, would not move there. It is not about comfort or image, it is about a stimulating environment. Apart from the bad, there are not enough good or interesting things happening on 118th. It is too far from the centre for me.

The financial incentive would have to be overwhelming. A condo at 150000 (or so) with uncertain market growth in the reasonably near future isn't an overwhelming incentive.

Anonymous said...

that's exactly the attitude i was referring to. while distance may be an issue – even at 18 blocks to downtown, what does "stimulating" mean? it is a very real area with diversity, cultures, poverty (sadly) but it's genuine and a reality of our times. that seems like a more interesting perspective than a predominantly white downtown/whyte ave core.


shane k said...

I don't know where your statistics on racial diversity in different parts of Edmonton come from but it seems to me that there are as many different cultures on 107th ave (a few blocks from where I live) as on 118th ave, regardless of the cultural make-up of downtown itself. And regardless, do white people not have any culture? It's not a matter of ethnic background anyway.

118th ave is a 'very real area', as is downtown and every other part of the city. that's quite a vague criterion - same for 'a reality of our times'. That describes pretty much everything

What does stimulating mean? For me it means galleries, a big library, close access to the river valley, at least some architectural interest, metro cinema, etc. I'm sure there are many positive aspects to 118th ave but nothing, in terms of my own interests, that I can't also find downtown. on the contrary, there are things as mentioned above that can be found downtown and not on 118th ave.