The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Dream of Saving Vancouver’s Pantages Dies April 27, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:44 pm

Only a little more than a year ago, on April 16, 2008, I was part of a huge celebration that took place at Vancouver’s 100-year-old Pantages Theatre on Hastings St. The event was attended by, and featured the talents of, some of Vancouver’s elite, including Christopher Gaze and Dal Richards. It was a huge success, and hope was high–on that day, we announced the $26-million plan to restore the theatre by developer Marc Williams.

The Pantages Today

The Pantages Today

It looks like that dream has died.

In October, 2008, it was announced that the future of the Pantages was in jeopardy. Hung up in red tape at City Hall, the developer put the property up for sale. Every month the building sits empty, it costs him in the range of $30,000.

On December 9, members of the Pantages Theatre Society presented an early Christmas gift to the then-new Mayor, Gregor Robertson. It was a book that included more than 350 letters of support for the Pantages, and a plea to the Mayor to reopen negotiations.

On December 19, City Council voted to allow the owner of the York Theatre, Bruno Wall, a density transfer, and that Vancouver landmark was saved, and a $12 million restoration is in the works. Hopes were high that City Council might consider something similar for the Pantages.

The Pantages Theatre Society’s website has been taken down, and a source close to them told me that the building did not fare well during this past (heavy) winter.

In an email from Dr. Charles Barber, head of the PTS, he said:

Ten years from now, after this 101-year old dazzler is demolished and replaced by utter mediocrity, people will wonder how we could have been so stupid.

It makes me incredibly sad to report this. I recently attended a backstage tour of the Moore Theatre in Seattle, whose archetecture was so strikingly similar to our Pantages. This is because the archetect that assisted in designing the Moore, was the archetech for our Pantages. The two theatres opened within a year of each other. Seeing the Moore was like seeing the potential of the Pantages, if we could only get there.

In this city, any indepenndent theatre producer will tell you one of our greatest challenges is finding spaces to produce our plays. The restoration plan for the Pantages was to include not just the main 650-seat theatre, but a second, smaller, 99-seat black-box theatre. The plan also included 200 units of social housing. No one can say that homelessness is not a huge problem in our city.

It’s just wrong.

You can see all my past posts on the Pantages here.

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Let’s talk about homelessness December 10, 2008

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 4:06 am
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Today, at 1 pm, Peter Fairchild, Chair of the Pantages Theatre Arts Society, accompanied by Santa and some elves, had an early Christmas gift for our new Mayor, Gregor Robertson. They presented Robertson and members of city council with a three-inch-thick bound book of letters of support (about 35o, apparently) for the Pantages Theatre.

Gregor Robertson gets an early Christmas gift.

Gregor Robertson gets an early Christmas gift.

The Pantages is a 100-year old theatre located on Hastings Street in the downtown east side. Three years ago, it was bought by a developer, Marc Williams. His plan was to gut and restore the 650-seat theatre, create a 99-seat black-box theatre/rehearsal space, an art gallery, new lobbies, and new elevators. Included in the $26 Million restoration plan was over 100 units of social housing.

One of our new Mayor’s big plans is to eliminate homelessness in Vancouver by 2015. Anyone who lives in this city knows that homelessness is a big problem. And while we are not saying that this will eliminate homelessness, it sure is a start.

The presentation today was also attended by several members of the PTAS, notably Dr. Charles Barber (as Santa), Adam Abrams (the elf) and Tony Pantages. Yes, that Tony Pantages.


Gregor Robertson engages in a photo op with Santa and an elf.

Peter Fairchild appeals to the Mayor.

Peter Fairchild appeals to the Mayor.

There is another group of people that face homelessness if the Pantages does not recieive the permits and funding that it needs to continue, and that is the three resident companies that are meant to occupy the Pantages when it is finished. Those companies are City Opera of Vancouver, Vancouver Cantonese Theatre, and Vancouver Moving Theatre.

My experience of being a theatre in this city has taught me that it is difficult to find affordable production spaces in Vancouver to produce plays. Having another, under 100-seat black box theatre would be a big help to our small, independent theatre companies.

So let’s get talking about ending homelessness, Mr. Mayor!

Check out Adam Abram’s account of the afternoon here (he’s the elf)

Mike McCardle’s story on Global TV.

Flickr photostream:



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Pantages to Present Letters of Support to City December 9, 2008

Filed under: Business of Arts,Politics of Arts — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:25 am
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In an excellent example of good timing, this email arrived in my inbox this morning. I’m sure help and support would be appreciated if you have the time to go.

Pantages Gives Xmas Present To New City Council

Event: Presentation of Letters of Support for Pantages Theatre
Date: Tuesday, December 09, 2008 Time: 1:15 pm
Location: Vancouver City Hall / Third Floor
The Pantages Theatre Arts Society will present to all members of the new Vancouver City Council, and certain senior City staff, Christmas presents on Tuesday December 09, at 1:15 pm.

The gaily wrapped and decorated Xmas presents consist of one copy each of “The Book of Letters — From the People of Vancouver to the Mayor and Council, In Support of the Pantages Project.”

There are hundreds of letters. The volume is the size of the Manhattan phone book.

Members of the Pantages Board, led by president Peter Fairchild wearing a Santa hat, will distribute these to each member of Council.

“We come bearing gifts,” said Fairchild. “And the greatest gift will be the restoration of hope and beauty, theatre and art and housing, at Hastings and Main. The new Council has an opportunity to get it right. They have a chance to change forever the perception and the reality of our neighbourhood. ‘The Book of Letters’ proves massive public support for this amazing project.

“It’s our Xmas present to Council. We look forward to Council’s present to the City,” Fairchild concluded.

Contact: Peter Fairchild at

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And then life… October 14, 2008

Filed under: Business of Arts,Business relationships,Life — Rebecca Coleman @ 8:04 pm
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This is a blog about the business of being an artist, and I don’t usually like to talk about my personal life in it, because it’s not a personal blog. Generally speaking, I’m the kind of gal that doesn’t like to allow my personal life to affect my business. While I do love to work with like-minded people, I am of the philosophy that, if I’m having a bad day in my personal life, I shouldn’t allow that to affect my work. I just push through.

But sometimes life happens, and it affects your business. Six months ago today, my mother died. At the time, I had fewer clients than I had now, because I was still very much in start-up phase, and my clients, bless them, were very understanding at the time. My mother had been sick with cancer for two years, and we knew, prior to her dying, that the time was short. In other words, it wasn’t a surprise, and I thought I was prepared. But I wasn’t. And that’s what life’s like sometimes. You plan, and prepare, and you think you’re ready, and then you are just not.

My life was in turmoil that week. I was trying to keep up with my work as much as I could, while being in the middle of funereal arraingements, family stuff, and huge emotions. There were a few things that got me through that week: my friends and family, first and foremost, my son, and my work.

Two days after my mother died, I was at a huge press conference for the Pantages Theatre that we had been planning for months. Granted, my participation in this event was considerably less than I had thought it would be, but I was there. And a couple of times,  I lost it. But I showed up. And the knowledge that there were people who were depending on me, that I had a responsibilty to, kept me from going to bed and staying there.

So yes, try to keep your personal bad days from infulencing your work. But also know that sometimes life will happen. And during those times, just be good to yourself. Do the best you can, and forgive the rest. Because life is too short.

Oh, and do me a favour? Call your mother.

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