After a vicious blaze tore through three buildings on the Downtown Eastside this summer leaving dozens displaced and one in hospital, the community is starting to bounce back.
One of the businesses affected was a Gen Z-owned-and-operated artists' hub.
The MOTN on Powell Street was a space that consisted of two connecting rooms, one that functioned as a performance space with a photography studio alcove and the other was a two-person tattoo shop.
When the fire hit, the group lost a great deal of equipment and furniture due to water damage from the fire hose. Although they raised several thousand dollars through a GoFundMe campaign.
"The fire obviously had a big impact on my life, my business, livelihood and more importantly social community were all in jeopardy, but in our darkest moment, someone made a GoFundMe for us. Within 48 hours the link was shared on over 400 people’s stories, it was beautiful how much the community came to our aid," MOTN founder Austin Jamieson tells V.I.A.
Model maker Micheal Soganic was in the process of building a commission of space as it burned down and quickly pivoted to creating a memorial/tribute.
Despite the setbacks, however, Jamieson was adamant that the fire wasn't the end of the line.
While without a space, the MOTN partnered with their in-house Cypher rap group Icon Hip Hop and outdoor music nonprofit The Ice Cream Truck to hold a fundraiser show in Victory Square just up the road from their hollowed-out venue. The show raised money for the residents of the building that were displaced by the fire.
"We had over 200 people all come out to Victory Square and raised a lot of money for some of the shelters we knew people were staying at. Without the amazing support of the community, I don’t know if I would have had the strength to come back," says Jamieson.
After several months of work to rebuild, the MOTN has triumphantly returned.
The new location is 1826 Triumph St, and, if possible, is even more decked out with character than before.
"The rebuild process happened quicker than I expected," shares Jamieson. "That was part luck and part having no other option. Like a shark in the water, there was only forward for me."
Jamieson credits MOTN head tattoo artist Jake LaPierre and his apprentice Jamison Minard for sticking with him throughout the transition. "Both had ample opportunity to find good new homes but held out for me to get us rebuilt, without whom our continuing would not be possible," he says.
The MOTN was known for its eclectic large-scale street art, much of which survived the fire and has moved to the new space, including the signature Kool-Aid man statue which sits on the stage.
The new stage will be dedicated primarily to comedy but there is still an adjoining tattoo studio that has added another artist Quincy Rae and sports checkered floors, graffiti walls, and a psychedelic mirror plus they've teamed up with Harbour Podcast Studios founded by Jordan Flanagan and have an in-house podcasting studio.
"He’s been like a room of requirement for us," says Jamieson. "He offered his space days after the fire and we were able to start rebuilding so quickly because of him. Our ideologies of providing affordable services to artists aligned well so it was a great match."
The team recently celebrated its opening night last night and are back with comedy shows starting Dec. 1 with Milk Gang Forever, a mixed-bill stand-up show curated by Jamieson followed by Truth or Dare on Dec. 3 where Jamieson and comedian Ernie Hart will play truth or dare using audience suggestions.
"We’ve had comedians call their exes on stage, tell us their most embarrassing stories, and even had someone book a flight to Vegas live on stage," says Jamieson.
"I'd really encourage people to go to live comedy if they can, even if it’s not at our venue. With how stressful the world/life can be, I genuinely feel we are providing some form of group therapy together. It’s concentrated deliberate smiles and laughter. And at my lowest point, at the moment I didn’t think we could rebuild, that there wasn’t a point, I went and saw a comedy show, and knew what was needed to be done."