The 2014 edition of the PuSh marked the 10th anniversary of the Festival. We’ve been growing steadily, but the past year has seen as much growth and change as ever in our history.
On December 15, 2014 we moved to a new facility located at 110-750 Hamilton St in the core of downtown Vancouver right beside the CBC. Within 100 metres of our office is the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library as well as two main civic venues, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and The Playhouse.
The new space is a 8,477 square foot cultural arts hub that reflects a movement towards shared platforms that’s been happening in Vancouver in recent years, Progress Lab being the best known across the country as an example. In our case, we’re moving in with organizations from other disciplines.
The idea for a co-located facility had been in the works for years, but the process of moving into this particular space began in October 2013. Minna Schendlinger, PuSh’s first managing director was at the helm of the project in the beginning (and continues on now as facility manager) with Roxanne Duncan stepping in as our new managing director in the midst.
A photo posted by @j_rosario on
There are so many metaphors to explain the past year at PuSh and all this change. My favourite at the moment is the adolescent growth spurt. We’re like that nephew or niece you haven’t seen in a year who’s suddenly grown almost as tall as you. Our ankles are showing beneath our now too-short trousers, it’s happened so quickly there hasn’t been time to buy new ones. Not to worry though, we’ve got a brand new outfit right in time for the 2015 Festival.
About half of the facility is office space for each of the organizations along with shared meeting room and amenity spaces. The other half is dedicated to community use, housing two spaces bespoke to the specifications of multidisciplinary tenants, and will soon be available for rentals of many different uses: sprung floor and grand piano for rehearsals and practicing (Thanks Touchstone! Thanks Music on Main!), large wall-mounted television for screening videos (Thanks DOXA!), just to name a few.
I know that each organization has given great thought to the long-term impact of the new space, both individually and collectively. With the timing of PuSh right after the holidays it means that we hit the ground sprinting right out of the gate. Right now, I’m focused on the immediate and practical benefits of the space, which can only be fully appreciated if you had the opportunity to be in our former 850 square foot office space (which I fondly referred to as ‘the festival sweatshop’).
A photo posted by @j_rosario on
We can now do an open concept office the right way. There’s much debate about the effectiveness of open floor plans, try surveying the opinions of any baby boomer vs Gen Xer vs millennial working at the new Canada Council offices in Ottawa. PuSh’s artistic and executive director, Norman Armour, has been a staunch advocate of open floor plans for years – it fosters not just more openness and collaboration but porousness between departments, and now between organizations, which is reflected in the architectural design of the office spaces.
We each have our own bullpens; distinct, dedicated spaces with walls between but no doors separating. In the middle are shared meeting spaces with glass walls in order to preserve as much natural light as possible (we’ve basically retro-fit a 1970’s built space). The meeting rooms have been designed to accommodate quiet spaces for solo-working, one-on-one meetings, as well as staff meetings within and between our organizations. It’s plenty of space for the confluence of ideas and dialogue, as well as to get away when the hive-mind gets to be too much.
For PuSh as a Festival, we now have physical space, a home of our own, to invite more interaction with our audiences and guests during the Festival. It’s as simple as the ability to have a place where pass holders can meet with audience services staff in person, where visiting artists and presenters can be welcomed and pick up materials without being in the middle of a bullpen.
It’s been many years since I’ve had a downtown commute to work. One of those times is when I worked at an office at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, a 32,000 square a shared use facility for the dance community built in 2001. The impact of increased space and infrastructure to support artistic production (in this case, contemporary dance) has been immense, and I’m sure different and greater than what was envisioned at the outset. There is a thriving contemporary dance scene here and some of the most talked-about dance in the country is coming out of Vancouver.
Occupying physical space in a public and civic sense as well as making a home – placemaking, to be au courant – was part of making that happen. I could make the same parallel between Progress Lab’s history and impact, how the companies that make that scene are regarded nationally, and now their new collaborative venture.
From my view in the curatorial department, I’m looking forward to devising new ways for us to interact with our peers, audience and new neighbours. PuSh takes place in 20 days, but it takes at least that many months in the planning. There are so many conversations that I’d like to continue and people that I didn’t get a chance to meet. There are so many discussions that need to start before, happen more widely and continue after the Festival.
Moving some of our PuSh Assembly events and inviting folks to ‘our house’ will be a great test run to see how the space works. We’ll also be hosting an artist-in-residence during the festival for the second year, but this time with workspace at 750 Hamilton attached. Often, a festival’s engagement with an artist is limited to a specific presentation – the artist comes to town, performs and then leaves again. I’m excited to extend an invitation that allows for more interaction, not only with PuSh but also with the city itself and its artistic community.
If you’re in town, come by for a visit. PuSh has the pleasure of soft-opening the space during the upcoming Festival. Stay tuned for an official opening with our housemates later this Spring.