Across the country, cities of Vancouver’s size (or much smaller), close to larger urban centers, are opening performing arts and visual arts centers.
Satellite cities like Lone Tree and Parker outside of Denver, now each have their own performing arts centers successfully cultivating audiences in their local communities. And rather than competing with existing venues, these new arts centers are simply offering more choices for both urban and suburban audiences.
As urban centers grow dense and more congested, arts and culture amenities in outlying areas are increasingly in demand and becoming more economically sustainable. When people go to their local city centers, they want to do more than buy merchandise or have dinner. They want a connection with their creative culture and to experience a sense of place.
Los Angeles suburbs are responding with facilities like the Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge and the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Each of these was discussed in an enlightening KCRW radio interview in 2011. There is clearly a parallel here with the perceived challenges Vancouver has in relation to Portland.
Perfect examples of new centers opening or breaking ground in the Northwest are the planned Beaverton Center for the Arts, enthusiastically supported by Mayor Denny Doyle (a panelist at our 2012 Arts and Culture Summit) and the soon-to-open Performing Arts and Event Center in the city of Federal Way, just north of Tacoma.
While these cities are close to larger urban centers, they have recognized the cultural and economic value of having spaces for the arts to thrive within their communities. With the revitalization of our downtown and the riverfront underway, this is an ideal time for Vancouver to take a tip from other communities and make building a robust arts infrastructure a high priority.