COPE Says Artist Space Targets Fall ShortFor Immediate Release: February 14, 2012

The Coalition of Progressive Electors says the target to create 10,000 square feet of studio space put forward by Councillor Geoff Meggs falls short both of what is needed in the city and what the city should be able to produce. COPE External Chair Marcus Youssef also said that, given the huge amount of resource and effort already devoted to study of the creative space crisis in the city, the time for reports is over.

“The City’s Office of Cultural Affairs has done a tremendous amount of work on this issue already. And while in principle this is a good initiative, the time for studies has passed. It’s a time for action,” said Youssef.

Youssef also said that the target of 10,000 square feet is too modest. “We need to start with a figure closer to 20,000 square feet and make sure that space is available to local arts groups within six months,” he said. “Over the past few years, too many arts groups have been invited to participate in time-consuming processes that have promised to make underused city space available to them, but produced few results. This time we need to ensure that something actually happens.”

Youssef, who co-founded the Commercial Drive-area rehearsal and production studio, Progress Lab 1422, stressed that while 10,000 square feet sounds like a lot of space, it is actually a very achievable. “Our space, co-developed by four small arts organizations, is close to 7,000 square feet. A few of us made that happen. I believe, given the space challenges faced by the city’s cultural groups, the city should be more ambitious in its targets. The proposed Rize development at Kingsway and Broadway was slated to have that amount of cultural space included before they shifted gears. That’s the entire target in one building. We think we can do a lot better than that.”

He also raised concerns about Councillor Meggs’ proposal that the new spaces should ‘operate on a cost-recovery, as opposed to subsidy, model. “We would like to know what that means. Are the spaces producing revenue at the moment? If not, it seems counter-productive to look for new revenue streams from a sector we know is already under extreme pressure.”

COPE Says Artist Space Targets Fall Short