Arts Umbrella moves into former Emily Carr building on Granville Island

·2 min read
Arts Umbrella is taking over a building that used to house the Emily Carr University of Art + Design on Granville Island.  (Arts Umbrella  - image credit)
Arts Umbrella is taking over a building that used to house the Emily Carr University of Art + Design on Granville Island. (Arts Umbrella - image credit)

Arts Umbrella, a non-profit arts education organization for young people, is set to welcome students to its brand new space on Vancouver's Granville Island Saturday.

The 50,000-square-foot building, which is the former home of the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, is three times the size of Arts Umbrella's current space on Granville Island.

Paul Larocque, president and CEO of Arts Umbrella, said the new facility offers great possibility to the thousands of children and youth expected to use it.

"To have this space, which is the former Emily Carr University south building, it's an extraordinary moment, a transformative moment, really, for Arts Umbrella," Larocque said.

Arts Umbrella started in 1979 with 45 children. It now reaches 24,000 young people in four locations in Vancouver and Surrey with programming in dance, theatre, art and design.

The group raised $35 million in its capital campaign, $27 million of which will cover the cost of renovations. The federal government contributed $9.6 million, the provincial government, $1.4 million, and the City of Vancouver, $300,000. The rest were contributions by other private and community donors.

The new Granville Island facility has six dance studios, four theatre, music and film studios, and 10 art and design studios. It also has a 132-seat theatre and a public exhibition space.

"In this city, smaller theatres are very hard to come by. For young people to have a space in which to perform, which is the same area in which they have been rehearsing and the confidence that will bring ... it's a game-changer," he said.

Paul Larocque, president and CEO of Arts Umbrella, says teachers and administrators will start welcoming students to the building starting Saturday.
Paul Larocque, president and CEO of Arts Umbrella, says teachers and administrators will start welcoming students to the building starting Saturday. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Of course, COVID-19 has affected the rollout of the new facility — and has put a pause on any live theatre performances for now.

Larocque said Arts Umbrella was lucky that though the construction process had some delays, they were able to proceed with heightened health and safety measures — and even included some new measures for COVID-19.

"Three years ago, we wouldn't have even anticipated talking about the HVAC and air systems, but that will be in place here," he said.

The greater amount of space will also allow students to distance, he said, noting the dance floors have been divided into grids to give dancers enough space.

"I've witnessed so much flexibility, so much innovation with our peers in the arts community," he said.

"It's not always easy, but I think for them, the opportunity to continue to train and to grow as young artists is everything."

Listen to the segment on CBC's On The Coast: