It’s an old urban story: a low-rent neighbourhood attracts artists; they make the area hip, which attracts people with more money. As property values increase, the artists are pushed out.

Vancouver has the highest density of artists per capita in Canada. But they’ve lost nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space in the past decade, while their median rental rates have increased more than 65 per cent. The Eastside Culture Crawl Society, alarmed at the increasing conversion of light industrial buildings to condos, and with 77 per cent of remaining artists looking to relocate, produced A City Without Art? No Net Loss, Plus!, a report that documents the changes, and called for no net loss of existing spaces, plus more non-profit and community ownership, and other strategies.

Meanwhile, The City of Vancouver has committed to addressing our acute cultural space challenges in its Culture | Shift plan, and has recently opened 10,800-square-foot purpose-built artist production facility Howe Street Studios, with much more promised.

Can it deliver? Can it stop conversions? Will more artist space mean less city housing?

Our guides for this conversation are Eri Ishii, formerly evicted painter, and Director of Portside Studios and the 901 Artists Cooperative; Brian McBay, Executive Director of the non-profit organization 221A, which manages the new Howe Street Studios, Vancouver’s first city-owned multi-artist studio spaces; and Michael Vandermeer, a sculptor (trained in nuclear physics!) with ie: Creative on Granville Island, and representative of Friends of Granville Island.

Then it’s your turn to express your opinions, make your observations, and ask questions. It’s a conversation! Feel free to bring your lunch.

This edition of City Conversations is a presentation of SFU Public Square, sponsored by SFU Vancouver and SFU's City Program.

Registration Disclaimer

Please note that while City Conversations continues to be free, registration via Eventbrite is requested to help anticipate demand. As this event is free, and free events routinely have a high number of no-shows, it is our policy to overbook. Seating is limited, so please be mindful of those who may find it difficult to stand for long periods of time.

Venue Information

SFU Harbour Centre is located at 515 W. Hastings St, and is located a brief walk from Waterfront station and numerous bus stops. Bike stalls are available outside the main entrance. Nearby parking is available at 500 & 400 W. Cordova Street.


There are washrooms located on all floors of the building. Accessible, private bathrooms and gender-neutral washroom stalls are available on the first floor in the east corridor.


All floors within the building are serviced by elevators. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments regarding this event’s accessibility, feel free to connect with us at or 778-782-5959.

Partners & Supporters


Thursday, January 16, 2020

12:30 - 1:30PM


SFU Vancouver at Harbour Centre
515 West Hastings St.
Room 7000

We respectfully acknowledge that this event takes place on the Unceded, Traditional, Ancestral Territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ, and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm First Nations.


Watch our livestream of the event and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #CityConv