281 Industrial Avenue, Google street view.

From Red Gate's eviction from their West Hastings location in 2011 to the struggles of W2 to the recent closure of the Waldorf Hotel, the decline of affordable artist space in Vancouver has been a hot topic of debate both within and beyond the city's creative community. However, there has been a smattering of good news as of late: it has been officially announced that the city-owned warehouse on 281 Industrial Avenue "will be converted into artist studios and production space as part of a new facility expected to incorporate both established and emerging artists," with a prospective opening date of May or June 20131.

Over the past two years, several arts co-operatives have been vying for the operational rights to 281 Industrial. Arts Factory Society has since come out on top, trumping other popular contenders such as the displaced Red Gate and currently operating Beaumont Studios. Arts Factory will also be sharing the space with the Scene Shop, which produces much of the scenery for high-profile dance, opera, and theatre productions such as Bard on the Beach and the PuSH Festival.

281 Industrial Avenue. Photo courtesy of the City of Vancouver.

As for the 10,000 square feet of artist studios, scene shop manager Elia Kirby told the Georgia Straight that he expects the spaces to go for $1.50-$1.75 per square foot a month. Applications for the studio spaces will be taken on an open-call basis, with priority going to professional artists with industrial practices such as wood-working, metal-working, and fabric dying/production. What Arts Factory is clear on is that artists of all levels - whether emerging or established - are welcome.

“We don’t want this to become a space where it’s just established artists,” said Kirby, to the Georgia Straight. “We really want to be available to equity co-ops, people that are right out of school. They lose the resources of the university or the college that they’re at, but they still have ideas, and they want to get that really vital first project up and off the ground.”