Experts also say that a cultural arts center in these challenging times must generate daily gate receipts. To that end, arts centers host celebrations, arts fairs, festivals, storytelling events and arts classes in rented space. They must have a clever gift shop with a strong online sales presence. Most of all, they must engage children and families and create a sense of community. No urban elitism here.
What would a Vancouver arts center offer: Dynamic regional art, a permanent exhibit of Native American art unique to our region, a stage with seating for 1,500 for ongoing music, dance, and theater productions. Enough outdoor space for special attractions.
Is it too late to partner with Washington’s Native American tribes to collaborate on a culture heritage arts museum? Is it too late for the city to build a partnership of property developers, corporate donors and patrons who would support a unique forwarding-looking facility that serves to entertain, amaze, inform and amuse? The city and the Port of Vancouver can make an arts center happen. The price tag would be north of $60 million. Those supporting this project say such a project is doable if the real estate is donated.
In addition to the Red Lion site, there are other possible downtown arts locations — six (bare) acres between City Hall and the waterfront. The city of Vancouver could insist that an arts center be part of development there or work collaboratively with the port on a site on another location.
This arts future won’t be easy to map out, writes Michael M. Kaiser, the former president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., in an online piece. He warns of a “fundamental crisis” in the arts because of rising costs, stagnating household income and competition from cheaper digital alternatives. A cultural arts center in Vancouver gives us the opportunity to create something new that addresses these challenges. Something that embraces diversity and bold ideas. Nothing beats “live” arts!
This facility would transform Vancouver/Clark County from the Portland bedroom community that it is into a unique, fresh and dynamic place to live and work. Strolling the waterfront is not enough for the thousands of new residents coming to the city’s urban core.
Community leaders and arts supporters have long campaigned for a Vancouver arts facility. In March 2021, a group of passionate people identifying as supporters of a Center for the Arts Southwest Washington sent a letter to interested citizens updating the arts center effort. In it they said that securing a site in the city’s core would be a “game changer” and a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” They said that they could secure backing for a $60 million project. Check out their website at www.centerforartswwa.org.
The city of Vancouver must be about more than jobs and housing growth, square buildings, and chain restaurants. Let’s give Vancouver a personality, a dynamic space where young families, children, retirees, workers can find inventive inspiration, originality and “aha” moments. A cultural arts center does that.