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Arts need equal consideration in Richmond election

Art venues and facilities expansion in Richmond candidates’ plans
Gateway theatre interio
The Richmond Gateway Theatre.

Arts is a way to bring people together and requires as much consideration as other topics in an election, according to actor and playwright Andrew Wade.

Wade, executive director of the Richmond Arts Coalition (RAC), wants this year’s candidates in the Richmond election to consider it in their platforms.

“At the Richmond Arts Coalition, we believe that the arts are crucial for a healthy community. We feel that the arts can help bring people together in our multicultural city,” said Wade.

The Richmond Gateway Theatre Society, Community Arts Council of Richmond and Richmond Art Gallery Association compiled nine questions regarding the arts in Richmond.

The questions and responses are not meant to tell voters how to vote, Wade explained, but rather, to have voters “form their own decisions with the arts in mind.”

One of the questions to candidates addressed the lack of purpose-built performance spaces in Richmond.

Both mayoral candidates John Roston and incumbent Malcolm Brodie responded that there is a need for additional performance spaces.

Roston said he would consider expanding spaces in already built, paid admission, venues such as Gateway Theatre to “minimize operating costs” instead of building a new facility.

He added permanent installations in parks or plazas for outdoor performance spaces would be considered.

“I live in Steveston’s Imperial Landing and there is a space at the foot of my street on the waterfront that was designated as a performance space on the plans but sits there as an open plaza with no performances,” said Roston.

Brodie agreed that he would be in favour of new facilities and expansion of existing spaces, but it would need to be “demonstrated through a business case.”

“Other levels of government and the School Board would need to be partners along with the community,” said Brodie.

At an all-candidates meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4, three council-seeking candidates were also asked the same question.

Candidates Chak Au and Adil Awan brought forth the idea of incorporating an arts space within high rise buildings and new developments around the city.

Au, who is running for his third term, called the Richmond Gateway Theatre “old and small” and that new more art-dedicated facilities are needed to help “pass on culture and knowledge.”

He suggested that a more “modern and adequate space for the arts community” could be considered for the new Lansdowne redevelopment project.

Awan said talking to developers building high rise developments could help merge economics and the arts together with theatres and commercial spaces in high rises and housing on top.

“More smaller venues instead of one big one could be built …  to better house events,” said Awan.

Richmond Community Coalition candidate, Rahim Othman, said awareness and education on serious matters like Truth and Reconciliation and racism relies heavily on arts and art venues.

“We need to give it the attention to deserve and the city to provide incentives and facilitate and expedite these types of projects and fund them,” he added.

Other questions on the survey include What role do you think the arts can play in creating bridges between cultures? Do you feel that the arts contribute to our local economy? How could this contribution be increased?

Of the 45 candidates for mayor, councillor and school trustee, 38 answered the questionnaire. The complete survey can be found on RAC’s website.