Arts district finally makes it on map

Small businesses help Vancouver define downtown energy

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter


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Leah Jackson opened Angst Gallery on Main Street in downtown Vancouver in 2008, then took over a neighboring space two years later with Niche, a cozy wine bar next to the Art Deco-style Kiggins Theatre.

Jackson and Kiggins owner Dan Wyatt were among the small business owners the Vancouver City Council wanted to recognize — and encourage more of — when it unanimously voted Monday to designate an arts district downtown.

The idea of an arts district has been around for years. The growing popularity of the Vancouver’s Downtown Association’s First Friday has established one, whether it had been on a city map or not.

Jackson spoke Monday at the Vancouver City Council meeting for a proclamation declaring May 11-16 “Small Business Week,” which Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt read at the start of the meeting.

Jackson cited the camaraderie among small business owners as one reason she’s been happy to be part of a downtown revitalization effort.

“I look forward to being involved for many more years,” Jackson said.

Before the council voted to designate the arts district, Maureen Andrade, the executive director of North Bank Artists Community Project, thanked the council for listening to the arts community.

“It means a lot to us,” she said. “It’s an acknowledgement of all the hard work we’ve done for many, many years.”

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said studies have shown that the arts make important economical, cultural and social contributions to a community.

“I think we’ve got a great start here in downtown, and there’s lots of opportunities to forge ahead,” Leavitt said.

Councilor Jack Burkman mentioned that he lives in east Vancouver and knows a lot of residents who never go downtown and have no idea about how it has changed over the past decade. Having an arts district helps with the branding of a revitalized downtown, he said.

“This kind of identity gives us a tool to raise that visibility,” Burkman said.

The district’s boundaries are 15th Street to the north, Sixth Street to the south, Esther Street to the west and Fort Vancouver Way to the east.

The local galleries are covering the costs to create and maintain the arts district website, while the downtown association is helping with promotion.

The city spent approximately $3,000 for signs, said Jan Bader, the city’s program and policy manager.

Eight brightly colored signs will be posted at entrances to the district. Fifty street sign toppers have been ordered that say “arts district,” Bader told the council on Monday.

The resolution establishing the arts district included that an “active, pedestrian-oriented arts and entertainment district would encourage downtown livability and reflect existing plans and aspirations for support and investment in the arts” and “downtown Vancouver is already home to art galleries, studios, theaters and restaurants as well as a number of art, music and culture oriented community events.”