Across Vancouver, 14 projects aimed at making the city more beautiful, more informed or more connected to its history will receive up to $10,000 in grant funding as part of a newly revived program promoting public arts and culture.
The city council awarded $122,255 to various community groups on Monday, in accordance with recommendations from its new Arts, Culture & Heritage Commission. Recipients included a mural on Fourth Plain Boulevard, a Hawaiian cultural festival and art installations along Main Street downtown, along with other projects.
“Art is, in part, what makes a city a community,” said Colin Fogarty, executive director of the Confluence Project, a nonprofit dedicated to a series of artistic structures along the Columbia River. “The city is really stepping up, and I can’t say enough good things.”
Confluence Project was among the groups to receive grant funds and will use the money to update an overlook at the Vancouver Land Bridge that arches over Highway 14. The grant will help pay for the creation and installation of columns of basalt etched with petroglyphs and inlaid with colored glass.
Native American artist Lillian Pitt is leading the project, working alongside Portland-based glass artist Juno Lachman. The basalt installation is part of a larger revamp of the Vancouver Land Bridge that will eventually involve lighting, pathway and irrigation upgrades, Fogarty said.
“To me, it really is a sign of the strong partnership we have with the city, but also the city’s commitment to creating artistic spaces,” he added.
The new public art program revives a sign of city prosperity that had been left in the lurch in 2005, when Vancouver’s Cultural Commission was slashed from its budget after a decade of promoting and paying for public art.
In June, the city council decided to launch a similar public art program with a budget of approximately $400,000 per year. Of that, about $100,000 is made available to individual projects through a public grant process, and another $150,000 goes toward commissioning and preserving local works. The remainder pays for administrative costs, including a full-time manager.
Two months later, nine people — including gallery owners, costume designers, history buffs, organizational heads and more — were appointed to the new volunteer Arts, Culture & Heritage Commission.
The new program has drawn some criticism from residents for funneling money into wants over needs, such as police, fire and public works, as one attendee told the city council in a July 1 meeting.
But recipients of the grant have said the funds have opened up opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise pursue.
Becky Moore, artistic director of Columbia Dance, attended Monday’s city council meeting to explain her vision for a new “Nutcracker” interpretation that would honor the region’s rich history.
“We annually have between 4,000 and 5,000 people come through our ‘Nutcracker’ production, and our production is 22 years old. It’s lovely, but the costumes and sets are tired, and our audience has seen it many, many times over,” Moore said. “Then I came upon this grant, and I thought, OK, the community is really invested in the arts, culture and heritage of this city. So here we are.”
Over the next three years, Moore said, the ballet will tweak the performance in stages to make it reflect Vancouver’s past. Starting with the 2020 performance, the Act I party scene will take place at Fort Vancouver.
“‘The Nutcracker’ will be set at Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1840s,” Moore said. “We’ll have the party scene in the chief factor’s home, with the chief factor’s daughter as Clara.”
If all goes according to plan, Moore continued, 2021 will see the snow scene set on the banks of the Columbia River, with the battle scene between beavers and fur trappers instead of the traditional mice and soldiers. The following year, she wants to change the multicultural scene in Act II — which traditionally includes Spanish, Chinese and Arabian characters — into a scene that shows the various residents of Vancouver over its history, including indigenous people and travelers from Hawaii, French Canada and the Oregon Trail.
Moore said her hope was to create a “magical holiday tradition that leaves our audience a little bit wiser about our history.”
The full list of grant recipients includes:
• $20,000 to Vancouver’s Downtown Association, for a bike art park on Main Street and an installation on 12th and Main;
• $10,000 to Artstra for its Clark County Open Studios programs;
• $10,000 to Columbia Dance Center for its new Nutcracker Party Scene;
• $10,000 to the Confluence Project for a refurbishment of the Land Bridge Overlook;
• $10,000 to Dru Films/Northwest Film Forum for a film on Buffalo Soldiers of the Pacific Northwest;
• $10,000 to Fourth Plain Forward for a crosswalk mural;
• $10,000 to The Historic Trust for a children’s heritage project;
• $10,000 to the Ke Kukui Foundation for a Four Days of Aloha cultural festival;
• $10,000 to the VSAA Public Art Coalition for a Public Art in the Marketplace installation;
• $9,125 to the Journey Theater Arts Group for microphones, artist stipends and ticket giveaways;
• $6,826 to the Vancouver Police Department for an exhibit;
• $5,000 to the NAACP Vancouver Branch 1139 for an exhibit on lost African American art, history and experience in the Northwest, and;
• $1,304 to the Vancouver Ballet Folklorico for a Dia de los Muertos dance performance.
Two funding requests, from the Northcrest Neighborhood Association and the Northwest Harmony Chorus, were denied.