[Editor's note: This is the first of a series of videos created by students at the University of British Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism on how Vancouver's high cost of living affects the city's working poor. "Art as a Means of Survival" was created, shot and produced by students Jamie Williams and Carrie Swiggum. Below is a brief summary of the inspiration behind the story.]
With this video, we wanted to show what it was like to live and work in one of the fastest changing neighbourhoods in Vancouver. Gastown, a traditionally low-income, service-based area, is now swapping up for high-rent condominiums and new storefronts.
Gallery Gachet has been a place of support for people with mental illness living in the Downtown Eastside for 15 years. The artist-run gallery began as a small basement studio but has since transformed into a space that offers up to 12 exhibitions a year, residencies, workshops and artist talks, among other events.
What is most unique about Gachet is its mandate to include community programming that raises awareness around mental health issues and social marginalization by supporting local artists. One artist, Eric Howker ("Leef Evans") was hospitalized for depression almost 10 years ago, and found himself living on the streets after he left the hospital. Gallery Gachet helped Howker become a professional painter and stabilize his life.
We wondered what the possibility of Gachet shutting down or moving outside of the Downtown Eastside would mean for people in the area. We discovered that although the city is in flux, a strong, resilient community can provide the means to heal and survive.