Appeared in the North Shore News – September 13, 2013
Tear-jerk stories and other exploitative tricks of the writing trade are usually despised by the undersigned, famous for appealing to reader reason and logic. But desperate causes, desperate measures. So:
Mummies and daddies and dear little kiddies will lose the happy experience of driving into a sunny, leafy parking lot and eagerly toddling toward the children’s playground at John Lawson Park.
Instead they will drive into the kind of cold concrete parkade that everyone loathes and often fears, placed under a glossy arts centre, with a price tag – $25 million – that, if not lowballed by millions, will be unique in the annals of public building construction (think the grandiose recreation centre that emptied WV’s municipal savings account).
Unbeknownst to most citizens, an art (and artists’) lobby fronted by the Arts Advisory Council wants to slap this hybrid of a Class-A art gallery, art education facility and gift shop – and a wine bar – on the entire 1600-block of Bellevue on the north side of the train tracks.
Which is needed like a knife slash on a Rembrandt painting. On abutting Argyle Avenue, within a five-minute walk from this site, there are four buildings displaying or teaching art: Ferry Building, Music Box, Silk Purse, Lawson Creek Studios. Minutes away are the library and the West Van Museum, regularly or sometimes displaying art. Also there are private galleries in Ambleside, Dundarave, Caulfeild plateau and Horseshoe Bay, the latter for First Nations art. Buying art? No problem. Art education? It’s available. Also of course in the schools. No wine bars, though.
I can’t put it better than Hilary Clark did in a recent letter to Mayor Michael Smith. A list of Clark’s contribution to the arts, including past board membership in the WV Community Arts Council and culminating last year in a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for community service, would fill half this space.
Clark wrote Smith, in part: “Having put in a beautiful and very costly new children’s playground at John Lawson, are we now going to tear up the already limited parking so that young mothers and their children can’t access it?
“Word has it that the parking for this monstrosity will be underground. .. excuse me, has no one heard of the water table? John Lawson is almost in the sea as it is (remember the high waters that turned the Silk Purse into an island?)… .
“Aren’t we trying to reduce the high buildings on the waterfront, so that views are not jeopardized.
“I am appalled by the stupidity of the entire concept.. .. I’m not against an art gallery, just this location and the cost!”
Ah, the cost. Donations would fall far short. The arts group clearly expects the federal and provincial governments to kick in – YIMBY, Yes, In My Back Yard, if it’s for our project. We all know it: Flat hypocrisy. Decry government debt while lobbying for local interests. B.C. film industry, anyone?
Then there’s operating costs. That bill would almost certainly be borne by West Van taxpayers. It would not be small.
But wouldn’t it be allayed by admission charges? Ha. No, the plan is: Free admission. Anyone in the room believe there’s such a thing as a free lunch? The arts lobby and the jock lobby compete in zeal for taxpayers to underwrite their galleries, stadiums, rinks, etc.
No matter how tasteful the two-storey building – the lobbyists have contracted architect Russell Hollingsworth, with strong credentials and West Van roots – it would diminish the view, park access and precious airy space. Actual human beings prefer human-scale environment, even groundlevel parking lots with greenery and shade. Like, natural. As much as we can salvage.
This issue will come before council next month. Take note, moms and dads.
I’d advise bringing small children biting their lips and holding back tears.
In conversation recently with three well-informed West Vancouverites, I mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Puzzlement. Not the South African one? No, Canada’s own.
The commission examines injustices to First Nations, especially concerning the residential schools. It meets Wednesday in Vancouver. Former students are encouraged to attend and speak.
Here’s the item, at this writing mostly ignored by the media: UBC will shut down that day – students, faculty and staff.
Question: UBC students pay big dollars for tuition and such. Why should present-day students, generationally guiltless, lose a valuable, expensive day of lectures, library use etc. because of alleged abuse of native students in the past?
On a happy note: The storms ceased, the fog lifted, and the sun shone on the wedding on Bowen Island’s Tunstall Bay last Saturday of West Vancouver-raised Frazer Elliott and Germanborn Janina Micko. And as a special treat for the German visitors, a pod of whales swam by on cue. Bet they don’t often see that on the Ruhr.
© Trevor Lautens, 2013