Yesterday morning I headed over to the John Fluevog shop on Water Street in Gastown for an announcement from SFU Woodwards about their new space downtown and their inaugural contemporary arts program for 2010. I ended up learning far more about the entire Woodwards project than I previously realized.
The Woodwards building is a Vancouver landmark and when its big red “W” was lowered to the street those years ago many wondered just what would become of the area. Since 2006 we’ve watched the structure rise between Hastings and Cordova streets and little by little everyone in the community is getting excited about what they will ultimately hold.
Part of the Woodwards District development is W2, which will take up 14,395 square feet as a community-based media and arts centre including such entities as Fearless City and Gallery Gachet. Its wide variety of programming and resources will be offered to Downtown Eastside and Vancouver residents and “is intended to provide a vibrant and complementary focal point in the redevelopment of Woodwardâ€™s and act as a catalyst in the revitalization of the Vancouver Downtown Eastside by emphasizing the development capacity by and for the DTES residents.”
W2’s neighbour, the Simon Fraser University School of Contemporary Arts program will occupy 125,000 square feet and will include:
The fully accessible Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theatre looked particularly impressive on the fly-through video that was shown to the audience at yesterday’s event (which you can view here). The inaugural program will be Robert Lepage’s Blue Dragon/Le Dragon Bleu, opening in 2010 in conjunction with the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. Early bird tickets are already on sale until August 2009. The rest of the 2010 lineup includes Spine (March 12-21, 2010) and Machinal (April 7-17, 2010).
Probably one of my favourite elements to the new property is not the state-of-the-art theatre, art displays, or architecture but the fact that they chose “149 West Hastings” as the address — a throwback (and tribute) to $1.49 Days (and the nostalgic whistling tune has been stuck in my head for over a day now).
The entire Woodwards community will be comprised of W2, SFU School for the Contemporary Arts, 536 condos, 200 social housing units, amenity space, and retail units with big anchor stores like London Drugs.
It’s nice to see so much happening in a space that had such a slow and somber demise as it faded from a swinging shopping destination with glittery holiday window displays to a decrepit cry for help and action from the community. This property will be open and full of public spaces for those who are already in the Downtown Eastside, and will welcome others to bask in the glow of its inspiration that will stem from all levels. The SFU Contemporary Arts facility and W2 are simply a pieces of the larger collaborative unit within Woodwards but it all has the potential to be a true cornerstone of arts and culture — glossy and gritty, local and global — for our city.
I highly recommend watching the following video, produced by W2 Community Media Arts for a closer look…
Find more videos like this on W2: Community Media Arts Vancouver BC
You can follow W2Woodwards as well as SFU Woodwards on Twitter for ongoing updates.