Where have all the BC arts gone?


By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor

At a time when art houses are closing left and right, when liquor laws are making independent venues strive to survive, and when tax cuts threaten an end to original local works, it’s safe to say that BC’s artistic community is in bad shape.

In the last 13 months, we have seen the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company, Station Square Cinemas, Hollywood Theatre, and Empire Granville 7 Cinemas all shut down (some torn down completely). Denman Cinemas also closed last year, but it has since been reborn as Collingwood Theatre. Had it not been for Rio Theatre’s owner, Corinne Lea’s, persistence, we would have also likely lost the Commercial Drive multi-purpose venue. And although still standing, Kitsilano’s Ridge Theatre and Burnaby’s Dolphin Cinemas are slated to be redeveloped, the SFU-owned W2 Media Cafe is threatened to close, recent changes to BC liquor laws are making the survival of venues like the Rickshaw shaky at best, and as you’ve all heard by now, the future of the Waldorf Hotel remains foggy, but we know for certain it is currently no longer a music venue to say the least.

It was also revealed last week that BC’s film industry—thriving a few short years ago and now desperately struggling—will receive no tax breaks from the government this year. Announced by Premier Christy Clark, who has of course been taking most of the flack for this decision, a “Save BC Film” petition has been making its way around the Internet in an attempt to… change her mind I suppose. I’m glad people have been retaliating against the news, and I too have signed the petition, but I think Premier Clark has heard our pleas by now, and it’s safe to say this isn’t so much a moral decision for our arts community as it is strictly business. The big argument has been that while BC gets enough funding to train up-and-coming filmmakers, without work being offered down here, they’re all taking their training to “Ontario and Quebec” (quote every news source in Vancouver).

I’d also like to note that BC’s video game industry was also part of this announcement in receiving no government-funded help, but seeing as I’ve heard absolutely no negative response, I guess we can say we’re doing fine in that regard. On that note, in terms of graphics and digital arts, BC is actually doing very well, so at least there’s some good news in all of this.

At the end of the day though, there’s no one solution to all the problems our artistic community is facing. Both the creators and their creative hosts are slowly being picked apart by constantly changing rules and regulations.

The liquor law change I referred to earlier in this article was a decision by the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, more commonly referred to as the LCLB, that prevents BC venues with liquor licenses (the livelihood of most independent venues) from hosting all-ages events. The LCLB’s argument is that although the venue may not be serving alcohol to minors, kids will probably find ways to get drunk beforehand. The law makes as much sense as prohibiting house parties—dinner parties, birthday parties, or otherwise—because keggers are a thing.

One year ago the LCLB announced that venues with liquor licenses couldn’t host film events… the question of “why?” is completely beyond me. Although everybody is happy Rio Theatre’s Lea fought back so valiantly to prevent the change, it’s unfortunate to say that she would have lost this very public war had the province not figured out how to use the change to their advantage. Thus it becomes clearer as to why Cineplex theatres all suddenly began serving alcohol in their previously announced “VIP Lounges” last year.

My heart is breaking. I feel like I accomplish nothing by signing yet another petition, and with every announcement of another closure I cry harder than the last time. I’m not exaggerating when I say all of this has made the prospect of leaving BC cross my mind more than once, because I feel like I’m going insane watching everything I love about BC wither away, and in some cases, die.