It’s one of the largest problems facing Vancouver and its future: given the high cost of living, how do we get creative people to stay here?
The fundamental question was one that cultural planner Jil Weaving and her team wanted to answer, especially for the city’s artists. And so, the Vancouver Park Board Fieldhouse Activation Program was born.
The idea is really quite smart: give artists and artist collectives three-year residencies inside the various fieldhouses found in Vancouver’s public parks. It gives the artists places to work on their practise without having to worry about studio rent, and it gives the communities an up-close look at culture in the making. It is truly a hyper-local program, intended not for visitors (though they can benefit from it, too) but for residents. “I think it’s really enriching the community,” Weaving, who founded the program in 2011, says over the phone. “They like that there’s activity back in the fieldhouses, they like that fun and crazy things might be taking place that they can just come across. You don’t have to work out a schedule and drive somewhere and park somewhere—you can actually come across things and can have actual conversations with the artists.”
Interested participants apply for the residencies, presenting a proposal on what they would do with the space to further themselves and benefit the neighbourhood. A jury of professionals and community members then decide which artist gets the next slot. “It’s always exciting what each fieldhouse group of artists or artist decides to do,” says Weaving. “It can be completely different from what the previous tenant did, or what they were proposing the year before. They’re all connected with one of our community arts programmers, so there are always opportunities for conversations about new ideas of what might happen.”
This summer is bittersweet for Weaving, who has retired from her cultural planner role, though she won’t be straying far from her work with the fieldhouse program. “I’m returning to my own practise as an artist and curator and writer,” she says. “So, I’m pretty sure I’m going to stay involved, potentially in the fieldhouse at Riley Park; it is in the neighbourhood I live in. The group that’s just moving in there, it’s one of our new seven that we’re just announcing, and they’re really interested in assisting people with social entrepreneurship as well as anything that people want to make happen. So that’s going to be an exciting place for working on new projects” Participating in the community, with the community—that is what it’s all about.