About five months ago, Kerri Milton started to notice a large number of people from various arts organizations were coming in, looking for affordable arts space.
The city’s soaring real estate market has been pushing up rent for arts organizations throughout the city, forcing some to search for new homes and dangerously close to shutting their doors.
So Milton, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA), put everyone in the same room to talk about their various needs when it comes to finding affordable arts space in the community. Now the DVBA is leading the discussion on the space-related challenges and assessing the need for a shared arts space through an online survey.
“They’re getting kicked out of their spaces when things are getting sold and don’t really have anywhere to go that’s affordable and useful,” said Milton. “Because they are losing their theatre homes and those kinds of things, we’re losing artists. They are moving off the Island because they can’t make it a go here anymore.”
The Burnside elementary building was recently reclaimed by the school district, forcing Theatre SKAM, a small theatre company that’s been active in the community since 1995, to suddenly begin searching for a new home at the same time as Kate Rubin, Kaleidoscope Theatre, Paper Street Theatre and the CineVic Society of Independent Filmmakers. Both Paper Street and CineVic were forced from their Fort Street location to make way for a new condo development.
Individual artists have approached the DVBA about the issue as well, along with the new community outreach officer for the Royal and McPherson theatres.
The disappearance of affordable space for the arts community is also causing Victoria Coun. Pamela Madoff concern. It’s one of the issues that’s been identified in the city’s arts and culture master plan. One of the ideas being floated is designating Rock Bay as an artist district, but Madoff said it all still comes down to what’s available and the cost of rent.
In the meantime, arts organizations are encouraged to complete the survey to see if the DVBA should continue the discussion of a shared arts space for performances, rehearsal, set building, storage and offices — something Milton thinks is a great idea.
“What everyone seems to want is to have a flexible space where you can bring in tables and chairs, transform the use during the day. We see that’s kind of an incubator for people who are up and coming in that world,” said Milton, noting details have yet to be worked out, but everyone would share the rent.
“A lot of them are testing out their products to see if they can move into more of a traditional building, so this gives them some space so they can try out their business and would actually help everybody.”
The survey is open until Feb. 17 and can be found at downtownvictoria.ca or on the DVBA’s Facebook page.