West Vancouver, located on the unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tseil-Waututh, is known for its spectacular natural beauty. From its mountains to its sparkling sea, opportunities for hiking, skiing, cycling, and watersports abound. But West Van is also home to a thriving arts community, where kids, youth, adults and seniors can participate in, enjoy, learn from and thrill to theatre, dance, visual arts and music any day of the week.
Unfortunately, many of these amazing arts activities are now taking place in ageing, falling-apart venues that can barely sustain current demand, let alone future needs. Determined to preserve and expand the programming offered at sites such as the WV Art Museum, Silk Purse and Music Box, the District undertook a year-long study in 2017, leading to the Arts & Culture Strategy 2018-2023.
One of that study’s recommendations was that a group be established to review the state of current arts facilities, estimate space and program needs for the arts community for the next 20 years, and recommend possible sites for a new Arts & Culture Centre. In 2018, the Arts Facilities Advisory Committee (AFAC) was formed, and I and my fellow volunteers have worked hard since then with District staff and Cornerstone Planning Group to research the needs of the local arts sector and make recommendations to Council for new facilities.
Several studies based on rigorous research (see https://westvancouver.ca/arts-culture/arts-culture-strategy) led us to conclude that a new building of approx 25,000 sq ft is needed to replace West Van’s current unsuitable facilities and to meet future demand. Council endorsed our recommendation for a Centre of this size on March 9, 2020, and from there we moved on to the next stage of work: determining possible sites for such a building.
After analyzing a whopping 20 potential locations within West Van (District and privately owned), two were top ranked, both in Ambleside Park. On Sept 14, 2021, these were approved by Council to go to public consultation, and this is where we find ourselves now! A survey, which is live until June 16 (https://www.westvancouverite.ca/artsplanning) asks which site you prefer and why. Once a site is selected (results of the survey go to Council on July 26), and as we move through the next phases of the proposal (such as developing an economic plan, governance model, and fundraising strategy), we will continue to seek public input every step of the way.
In a District as rich in talent and opportunity as this, and with such a legacy of accomplishment already in the areas of art, creative mentorship and education, architecture, design, performance and innovation, it’s time for us to create an Arts & Culture Centre truly worthy of this amazing place we live in.
Besides bringing together children, families, seniors and people of all cultural backgrounds to explore, create and socialize, the Centre will benefit local businesses, attracting visitors and residents alike to shop, dine, explore and enjoy the exciting array of outdoor activities the community is famous for—our beautiful beaches, nearby parks and playgrounds, and world-class sports fields and facilities.
As a working building with the potential to become a local landmark, this is our opportunity to put the arts front and centre, joining many of the world’s other great cities in capturing, celebrating and furthering our cultural legacy for generations to come.
Jennifer Webb, former Communications Manager at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, is a writer and editor of publications on art, architecture and design. She has served on numerous committees related to the arts in West Vancouver and is currently co-chair of West Vancouver’s Arts Facilities Advisory Committee.