Vancouver Art Gallery Move

I feel there are many excellent reasons for the Art Gallery to stay at the current site. I am a professional artist and the owner of a commercial gallery primarily representing local artists. I worked at the Vancouver Art Gallery from l980 to l985 during the Gallery’s move to this building. I have three degrees in Fine Art and used to teach Art History at the Emily Carr University. I believe that beautiful expansions and renovations are possible.

We have the best location in the city and the Olympics proved this. As Professor Andrew Gruft stated, it is the “heart of the city”. Many architects believe that renovations can be done and done extremely well and the audience at the public forum was full of architects brimming with ideas.

There is an estimate of 50 million dollars to dig below compared to an estimated 400 million for a new building. A temporary smaller building could be leased and salaries could be paid to eliminate staff challenges during renovations. I think it is important to know the current financial record of the Gallery. What is the current financial status? Does the population of Vancouver support our current building and expenditures?

An Iconic Structure
A new iconic building could attract tourists as well as locals, yet are we a large enough city to afford this at this time? We need to understand the vision for the proposed new building so we can understand its contribution to our community interests.

Art Education Tours
I booked tours when I worked at the Gallery and in my eleven years of teaching art have brought many student groups to the Gallery. Tours have less to do with space and everything to do with scheduling. No matter how large a building, tour groups cannot overlap and the overflow and waiting periods usually have more to do with a specific popular show. The gallery could also open one hour earlier exclusively for school groups to eliminate this problem.

Curatorial Direction
On the observation that the Gallery has no floor for the permanent collection, curatorial choices decide what to exhibit and for how long. The Gallery has four floors of exhibition space. Emily Carr’s work needs to be on permanent display which takes up half a floor. I believe First Nation’s art should always be exhibited which could take the second half. The other three floors could be used for international touring exhibitions, exhibitions of emerging and established artists from British Columbia, and exhibitions from the permanent collection on a rotating basis. Obviously any expansions would give us the ability to exhibit more art.

Local Artists
There have been concerns in our art community over the last few years that the Vancouver Art Gallery has not supported local BC artists unless they are already famous nationally or internationally. This tends to be a Canadian problem. Local artists are rarely respected until their talent is recognized internationally. We need more initiatives to excite curiosity about the work of local artists with diverse styles, mediums, and ideologies which would reflect a broader and more inclusive picture of our West Coast talent. This is why artists have created Artropolis, Artists in Our Midst, the East Side Cultural Crawl and other shows.

The Future
There has been little discussion about the art that would be shown in a new building. I appreciate great architecture but a Gallery’s primary purpose is to showcase great art. How would the Gallery’s interest in local Vancouver and British Columbia artists change with a new building?

I hope that these new discussions will provide a fresh opportunity for an open and inclusive exploration of all of these issues in determining the future for the Vancouver Art Gallery. This is important for Canadian art, for all British Columbians and for future generations, and why I have taken time to write this letter.

I am open about ideas proposed by the Art Gallery even if I disagree. As Barack Obama said, “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Marilyn S. Mylrea
Marilyn S. Mylrea Art Gallery
May 29, 2010