New Arts Umbrella Facility in Vancouver

State of the Art: The new Arts Umbrella Facility in Vancouver opens this Spring!

Children’s arts education in Vancouver will reach a whole new level when a ground-breaking centre for children and youth opens its doors to families this spring.

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Local not-for-profit Arts Umbrella will unveil its new Granville Island facility at 1400 Johnston Street on April 10, 2021. A project years in the making, the new building more than triples the organization’s current space on Granville Island and provides scope for vastly expanded and enhanced programming.

The 50,000 net-square-foot building on Granville Island repurposes the former South Building of Emily Carr University of Art + Design. The centre will transform the organization’s delivery of visual art, theatre, and dance programs for young people ages 2-22.

To date, close to $35 million in funding has been secured toward the $37-million capital and endowment goal. This includes significant funding from all levels of government, including the Government of Canada through a $7-million contribution from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund and $2.6 million from the Canada Cultural Investment Fund, as well as the Province of BC with an additional $1.4 million.

Arts Umbrella hopes the building will create additional excitement and energy on Granville Island, complementing the many artisans, artists, theatres, and small businesses who make the Island a nationally recognized hub for arts and culture.

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“Over the past few years, our staff’s hard work, innovations, and programming leadership have steadily pushed against the boundaries of our current space,” says Paul Larocque, President & CEO at Arts Umbrella. “Now, we have room to support and inspire more young people to seek wonder through the arts.”

The state-of-the-art building will house six spacious dance studios, four theatre, music and film studios with specialized technical and audio equipment, 10 art and design studios, media labs, a ceramics studio, and a photography darkroom. A dedicated workshop area for woodworking and a stagecraft building area will offer training to future industry professionals. Capping it off is a 132-seat theatre where dance and theatre performances crafted in the studios will be shared with the public and students from across Metro Vancouver.

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The facility will also prioritize the ongoing health and safety of staff and students with state-of-the-art engineering and retrofits, including an AtmosAir ionization system that naturally filters pollutants from the air.

The building marks a significant leap forward for this storied organization. Arts Umbrella was founded in 1979, opening on Granville Island to 45 students. It has since expanded to locations across Metro Vancouver, serving more than 600,000 young people over the past 42 years. Today, close to 200 artist-educators help students unlock their passions for the arts, empowering them with essential skills such as creative thinking, confidence, and compassion.

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In recent years, demand for programs has increased significantly. The organization currently serves more than 24,000 young people across Metro Vancouver annually. Within the first 3-5 years in the new facility, approximately 15,000 children and youth are expected annually, through a wide range of programs, including community initiatives, distance learning for children in Canada’s remote North, bursaries, and scholarships.

Arts Umbrella programs are developed and delivered on the basis that creativity plays a fundamental role in development, particularly in the early learning age group of 2-6. That includes problem-solving, play, nurturing curiosity, and self-confidence.

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The organization offers a diverse curriculum of creative activities for this age group. Parent & Me classes offer a fun and supportive environment for parents to bond with toddlers through art, drama, dance, and music. Creative Dance classes encourage young kids to express themselves through play, percussion games, and choreography. Visual Arts classes teach children to engage with shape, colour, pattern while trying new materials and techniques, while in Creative Drama, children gain social skills and discover new ways of relating to one another in an engaging and interactive environment. Making Music classes introduce kids to hand-held percussion instruments and musical stories.

Importantly, the new building will offer a dedicated studio space for children ages 2-6, with facilities adapted to their needs. Larocque emphasises the benefits of this one-stop arts hub for all stages of childhood.

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“It’s important that young children are able to look up to youth and teens,” says Larocque. “The opportunity to witness older students expressing their creativity and finding success is an empowering experience. These role models across all artistic disciplines are a critical part of a well-rounded and inspiring arts education for our youngest population.”

Increasing access and participation in the arts is part of the non-profit’s core mission. Arts Umbrella engages nearly 20,000 young people each year in donor-funded programs designed for at-risk communities. The building will significantly expand their capacity to work with school boards, community centres, and neighbourhood houses to provide transformative experiences for vulnerable members in our community.

Registration is now open for Spring Session programs, which will take place in the new facility. Arts Umbrella artist-instructors are bristling with anticipation at the opportunities the new space presents.

“All the studios are bigger and better-equipped with really nice lighting,” says artist Suzy Birstein, who teaches Drawing & Painting and Clay Sculpture classes. “The exhibition spaces are going to be so important. It will create a more natural interplay amongst the different disciplines [of visual art, dance and theatre]. There will be more opportunity for instructors, children, and families to see the breadth of what’s really going on at Arts Umbrella.”

“It will really launch Arts Umbrella,” says visual artist and instructor Andre Seow. “We can involve kids, youth and teens in curating their own shows and mounting their own exhibitions open to the public.”

Arts Umbrella hopes that the new building will build on its 42-year legacy to become a cherished part of the province’s arts and culture community, serving as a model for arts education across North America.

“This momentous civic accomplishment is something for the whole community to be proud of,” says Larocque. “It demonstrates what can be achieved through community, corporate, and government collaboration for the benefit of children and youth.”

Registration is now open for Arts Umbrella Spring Session classes in the new Granville Island facility. Visit www.artsumbrella.com/programs or call 604-681-5268 for more information.

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