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State of the Arts: Burgeoning arts district throws itself a party

Second annual Block Party hopes to draw contemporary art lovers to ‘the Flats’
Vancouver-based artist Shawn Hunt’s work will be on display at Macaulay and Co. as part of this weekend’s Flats Block Party.

While the masses tromp down Fourth Avenue Saturday for the fourth annual Khatsahlano Street Party, gallery owners around Main Street and Second Avenue hope to draw appreciators of contemporary art to the second annual Flats Block Party.

Fifteen galleries and artist co-ops, east of Main Street and near Great Northern Way, will fling open their doors with openings, summery cocktails, live music and speakers.

Los Angeles-based artist Etienne Zack will talk about his paintings at the Equinox Gallery on the Great Northern Way Campus at noon. Evan Lee, who riffs on found news media images depicting protests and migration, will talk about his sculpture, mixed media and paintings at 1 p.m. at the Monte Clark Gallery. Monte Clark will also launch the gallery’s satellite container space with an exhibition by Jonathan Syme, who previously saw the FIT Goethe-Institut present his shipping container work in the parking lot of the Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings.

Macaulay and Co. will exhibit work by Vancouver-based artist Shawn Hunt.

“I’ve done a couple of shows with Shawn and they always get huge, huge attendance,” said gallery owner Sarah Macaulay. “And so I thought it would be a great show for people who maybe aren’t familiar with his work or even with contemporary art. It’s a great intro for them.”

Jennifer Winsor, owner and director of the neighbouring Winsor Gallery, also expects Hunt’s work to entice crowds.

“He has done these totem poles out of stuffed animals,” Winsor said, while admiring a photo of one of Hunt’s works. “It’s an eight-foot totem and it’s got this super cranky bear with an eagle perched on its head and it’s all kind of floppy. It’s hilarious. Shawn is European and indigenous native Canadian and he’s constantly looking at that culture mix.”

Winsor moved her South Granville gallery to what’s being promoted as the Flats District in December 2012 around the same time South Granville Galleries Equinox and Monte Clark relocated there.

“It was almost immediate that we had a good portion of our regular visitors coming to see us,” Winsor said. “And within 12 to 18 months, we have a situation now where we have more visitors than we did.”

Gallery owners are enjoying lower rents in the area that’s flush with artist live/work studios.

“The local artist scene is incredibly important to us,” Winsor said. “You’ve got Emily Carr [University of Art + Design] moving in here. You’ve got all those professors and the mentors and peers — super important. When it comes to people who are interested in collecting art, they make the journey. They want to be where the art is… On Granville Street, our experience was that we might have had more foot traffic, which was wonderful, a lot of people who might appreciate art but may not be necessarily in the market for it.”

BBC Travel has written about the Flats District and the area has received attention from arts publications. Lonely Planet and a Japanese blog have recently been in touch as well.

With the microbreweries that have opened in the area and more to come, Winsor notes the once industrial area has become a great place to while away an afternoon.

Visitors to Winsor Gallery on Saturday will see a two-person exhibit of figurative sculpture by David Robinson and Angela Grossmann’s Swagger series.

“It features boys,” Winsor said. “Her collage work is often females but these are boys and they’re gorgeous.”

Winsor Gallery will also present an exhibition of paintings by Alessandro Papetti, and Grossman and Robinson will speak at 3 p.m.

Winsor says Emily Carr University of Art + Design announced it would move from Granville Island to the neighbouring Great Northern Way Campus when she was in the midst of considering her move.

“I would have done it anyway, but it certainly was good news while making the decision,” she said. “We’re pretty involved with them on several different levels. We’re showing their award-winning artists right now, a two-week show. We have all these mentors and people who add so much to our community. If you’re in the same area you tend to darken each other’s door much more often and that’s where the good stuff happens.”

A 21,000-square-foot arts hub called the Arts Factory is set to open nearby soon at 281 Industrial Ave.

Emily Carr University is expected to open in at Great Northern Way Campus in early 2017.

The Flats Block Party runs from noon to 7 p.m., July 12. For more information, see