The Role of City Council and the Future of the Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery has a space problem and has concluded the Gallery needs to move from the current Robson Square location to Larwill Park and be the only tenant on this prime, city owned land. The Gallery staff and board have reached these conclusions after a series of in depth studies, not involving the community, and are currently engaged in activities to obtain community support for the direction they believe best meets their future needs. The bigger question of whether the Gallery’s proposal meets the needs of the community is not being asked.

We cannot answer that question until we have answers to the following questions.

1. Could the Vancouver Art Gallery expand in its current location and have its needs for growth and expansion met?

Many people think it could- the Art Gallery has ruled this option out. We need more information on this option and why it won’t work.

2. What will happen to the current Building if the Art Gallery moves out?

This has not been part of the discussion to date. The City has not said how it intends to use this space if the Art Gallery moves. We need to know if it will house another public institution or be rented as office space.

3. What will happen to funding for other cultural institutions if the Art Gallery is the sole tenant on the Larwell site?

This has not been part of the discussion to date. We need to know how the City will cover the cost of renovations to the Queen Elizabeth and the Orpheum theatres, if intended revenue is not available from the Larwell site. We need to know if the city has a budget for the facility needs of other cultural institutions.

It is not the role of the Art Gallery to answer these important questions. They are justifiably interested in what is best for the Art Gallery. It is very clear that it is the role of our city council to provide the community with this key information so we can participate fully in the discussions regarding the future of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Once the community has this information then a serious debate can take place on the topic. Until then public debates will be based on nothing more than speculation.

Janet Leduc
Heritage Vancouver
August 19, 2010