Emily Carr University of Art and Design isn't sure what legacy it will leave on Granville Island.
Ron Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of Emily Carr, says it's "premature" to say whether the Charles H. Scott Gallery will remain at the popular tourist destination when a purpose-built university opens on the Great Northern Way Campus.
"We're not anywhere close to defining what that will be," Burnett said. "It's going to be complicated."
The question of what the university will do with its lease that runs to 2043 with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the federal Crown corporation that manages Granville Island, was raised earlier this week when Liberal Premier Christy Clark announced the province would invest $113 million in building a new visual, media and design facility for Emily Carr on the Great Northern Way Campus.
"The world has changed. And not only can you make a living with a degree in fine arts, we need people with a fine arts background if we are going to succeed and achieve as a country," said Clark at the announcement that was attended by at least one member of Parliament, prominent business people and half a dozen MLAs.
"Our government is committed to making sure that this institution becomes one of the world's greatest institutions for the arts," she added.
Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett acknowledged complaints from the film industry that productions are moving to Ontario where there are deeper tax credits. But he noted films return to Vancouver for postproduction.
"It's the graduates of this school today and the future graduates of this school that will do that kind of work because we're the best in Canada at it and we're going to get better with the investment in this school," he said.
The speakers at the press conference at the new Centre for Digital Media building that opened last September on Great Northern Way, just east of Main Street, noted the move had been in the works for years.
George Pedersen, a past chair of the board of governors for Emily Carr, and past president of Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Western Ontario, Royal Roads University and the University of Northern B.C., told the Courier former Liberal premier Gordon Campbell got the ball rolling on a new Emily Carr shortly before he stepped down from his post in 2010.
The current Emily Carr was designed for 850 students and now instructs more than 1,800, not including continuing study students.
"Our space constraints force us to turn away 50 per cent of all qualified undergraduate candidates and 75 per cent of our qualified graduates," said Jake Kerr, chancellor of Emily Carr.
"More than 92 per cent of our graduates are employed. They're highly sought after by companies such as Lululemon, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Apple, Google and dozens of other household names," he added. "A large percentage of our graduates start their own businesses. They create employment, tax revenues, new economic vitality and all of the things that are important for British Columbia."
The project is projected to cost $134 million. Kerr joked that after founder of Canaccord Financial Peter Brown helps re-elect Clark, he would be accountable to her to raise the additional $21 million as co-chair of the fundraising committee.
Emily Carr will seek a team to design, build, finance and maintain the new campus. The competitive selection process is expected to begin in February. Emily Carr is a 25 per cent shareholder in the Great Northern Way Campus along with the B.C. Institute of Technology, UBC and SFU.
Construction is slated to start in May 2014 with the hope that the university will open September 2016.
"My vision for it is to bring the east to west in the city together," said Burnett. "It's not only the campus that's important, but we're also taking the [False Creek] flats and beginning to give them a character. And I think that's an important thing the government felt about the entire project; this is an area that needs to grow and needs to connect and we have an economic powerhouse in the institution, so let's use it to the best effect."