Upcoming November workshops for artists on how to secure workspaces and navigate city hall bureaucracy have proven wildly popular.
"Within one day of posting it, they just filled up," said Richard Newirth, the city's managing director of cultural services. "There's an extraordinary amount of interest."
City council unanimously approved a plan to address the need for safe, affordable and secure artist studio space earlier this month. The plan grew from an artist studio regulatory review that started in 2010 and included consultation with the cultural community.
Artists worry about affordable studio space, which they say is in diminishing and short supply. The median annual income for artists is 36 per cent lower than members of the broader Vancouver workforce. Across Canada, the median annual earning of an artist is $17,400.
The city will compile a list of legal multitenant artist studios so it can measure how many spaces are lost. It continues to work with artists and property owners of illegitimate studio spaces to address safety and bylaw concerns. The city plans to modify its related bylaws and streamline its permits and licences, where possible, over the next few years.
It will continue to educate artists, who usually rent month-to-month, on how to negotiate leases or purchase their own space. It will also continue trying to secure artist studio spaces as part of new developments. It plans to devise prototypes for developers that specify the basic finishings different artists, for example those who paint or work with flames, want.
Newirth noted working artists prefer cement floors, slop sinks and superior ventilation instead of more expensive flooring and countertops.
Vancouver will look at what other cities have done to create and retain artists' studios through work with non-profits, land use policies, financing and design guidelines. As artist live-work spaces turn over, other tenants can move in, so the city will look at how artist spaces can be preserved with covenants on titles or with artist management bodies for buildings that would decide whether, for example, a graphic designer could move in.
The city's review doesn't include targets for new studio space, but Vision Vancouver and COPE have committed to creating 10,000 square feet of new studio space for the arts over the next three years if they're re-elected in November.
Their joint arts and culture platform, released Oct. 26, also includes offering free city attraction passes that could be checked out at libraries and zero cuts to arts funding.