Views / Vancouver / City Holler

Column

Metro News globe

City Holler

Trish Kelly explores the issues and challenges that face our growing city.

The struggle to keep Vancouver's creative class in the city

For creative types who didn’t go into the commercially friendly side of the arts, the struggle to stay here is real, writes Trish Kelly.

A SIGGRAPH conference attendee visits Academy Award-winning visual effects studio MPC during a Vancouver studio crawl Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

Matt Kieltyka/Metro

A SIGGRAPH conference attendee visits Academy Award-winning visual effects studio MPC during a Vancouver studio crawl Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.

On Wednesday, Vancouverites will crowd into the UBC Robson Square for an installment of the City Debates, to explore whether or not Vancouver repels creative people.

After hearing the debaters, the audience will vote and have their say.

Whether we can retain a creative class is a good question here in Vancouver, where the cost of living has many lower income citizens, young families and artists among them, feeling they’re being shown the door.

More from Trish Kelly:

How you answer the question really depends on who you are. If you’re an artist trying to dedicate yourself to your artistic work full time, say an actor or musician, your bags are probably already packed, and the question is barely worth a thought as you hop on the SkyTrain for some apartment hunting in New West. But if you’re a visual artist working in the video game industry, headhunted by a company that’s chosen to make Vancouver home for you and a thousand other creative workers, even through the mind-numbingly long hours you know you can’t deny you spend a big chunk of your day creating.

For creative types who didn’t go into the commercially friendly side of the arts, the struggle to stay here is real. While we generally encourage people to be driven and ambitious about their careers, Vancouver artists who want to really give it a go, sign up for a life of poverty. A City of Vancouver factsheet from 2014 noted that artists make 36 per cent less than the general workforce. Those stats are from 2006, but we all know wages have not kept up with the cost of living here; 10 years later, it’s even harder.

Our city government does a reasonably good job of investing in art and culture; a 2012 study by the Creative City Network of Canada pegged Vancouver at No. 2 for per capita investment in arts and culture, but many artists will never see grant dollars. Most artists I know rely on their own earning ability to make ends meet.

I don’t want to discourage artists from staying in Vancouver. I know many people who are making it work. New recording studios, new recurring craft fairs, and artisanal kombuchas on tap are all signs that this city can’t repel creativity or ingenuity. Yes, maybe the vegan marshmallow lady at the biweekly craft fair hasn’t quit her day job, but she probably looks at the success of artisan ice cream makers Earnest Ice Cream and sees a possible lucrative future if she can tough it out.

Whether such examples mean Vancouver is not as bad as we think, or just proves creative people are stronger than they are given credit for, is up for debate. And tickets are by donation.

Trish Kelly lives and writes in East Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter @trishkellyc.

More on Metronews.ca