We’re close to three weeks into a new year, but the same problems that have historically dogged Vancouver’s creative sector haven’t gone anywhere.
Just this week alone, two DIY arts spaces in East Vancouver have launched GoFundMe campaigns appealing for financial help in light of recent rent increases.
Encompassing about 700 square feet on Kingsway, the Toast Collective has seen its rent jump by $400 over the last two years.
For the past 11 years, the collective has hosted live music, art shows, poetry readings and other gatherings on a pay-what-you-can basis. The space averages four rentals a week.
It’s run by five core volunteers who are, at times, paying out of pocket to keep the boat afloat. The lease is tenuous according to collective member Eirinn McHattie, given that it’s subject to annual renegotiations and inevitable costs increases.
“We’re all volunteering and we’re doing as much as we can to keep it going. We’re going to continue doing what we can,” McHattie said.
Jacking up room rental rates to offset costs leaves Toast volunteers in a philosophical quagmire. The room exists so that costs pressures aren’t a barrier to the performing arts, but rent is rent.
What to do?
“If push comes to shove with the financial stuff, we may have to be more selective in choosing people who can afford the rates,” McHattie said.
Fundraising efforts are now underway via funding sites Patreon and GoFundMe, with an end goal of $5,000.
“One hundred per cent of the money earned will go towards rent and maintaining the space. None of it will go to us,” said collective member Tracey Vath.
An all-day benefit show is also happening Jan. 18 with performers including Apollo Ghosts, Chris-A-Riffic and Emma Goldman.
The Toast Collective’s GoFundMe page can be found HERE
Meanwhile, the wink-wink, nudge-nudge venue CBDB is also feeling the pinch. The off-the-radar Downtown Eastside space is also asking for $5,000 via GoFundMe to help pay for increased rent and hydro bills.
The venue opened in summer 2018 and has hosted more than 80 shows since.
Owner Chris Booth told the Courier that he waives any fees for bands to perform there, which happens four to six times a month.
There’s no deadline attached to Booth’s GoFundMe, but shutting down the relatively new venue could be a reality if increased costs persist.
“I just don’t want to lose this space,” Booth told the Courier. “The money will go towards rent and bills, if we actually hit [$5,000] hopefully some new P.A. gear.”
Booth’s GoFundMe page can be found HERE
All of this malarkey is becoming old hat for Jim Carrico.
A director with the Red Gate Arts Society, Carrico penned an open letter to the city and provincial government Jan. 13 asking for two things: that properties be taxed on existing, rather than potential use and that non-profit cultural organizations be exempt from property taxes.
The society was renovicted out of the Downtown Eastside in 2018 after more than three decades in the neighbourhood.
Now situated in Mount Pleasant, the society is in a lowrise building that’s come with a 50 per cent rent increase. The other financials Carrico is dealing with border on lunacy: $13,000 in monthly rent, an onerous triple net lease and land assessments that have quadrupled in four years from $2.5 million to $11.2 million.
“We think it’s unfair and actually insane that we have to pay tax like we’re a 15 storey condo tower, in our old one-storey building,” Carrico told the Courier via email.
Carrico says about $200,000 was paid out to artists, performers and employees who came through Red Gate’s doors in 2019 alone.
“Vancouver’s dwindling population of artists and musicians have heard enough empty rhetoric and vague pledges of support,” Carrico’s letter concludes. “The only thing that will bring our fragmented and critically endangered cultural ecosystems back from the brink is immediate and effective action. It really is now or never.”