In 2002, homeless people and activists occupied the Woodwards department store building, which had been vacant since 1993, for nearly 100 days. Known as Woodsquat, this protest was a direct response to the lack of political movement toward converting the structure into a space that would accommodate affordable housing. The protest action brought a great deal of media attention (if not any firm resolution) to the space and the problem of homelessness in Vancouver.
In March 2003, after the action had been suppressed and the squatters dispersed, the City of Vancouver purchased the Woodward’s building from the Provincial Government for redevelopment. In July 2003, an initial call was put forward by the City to request Expressions of Interest from the community toward the development of the space. Non-profits were included as one component in the redevelopment of the Woodward’s building. Several not-for-profit groups in Vancouver submitted an interest in the project.
By 2004, the City issued two requests for proposals, one for “purpose-built space” and a second “generic space.” Stepping forward with an interest in pursuing purpose-built space in the development was a group called the Centre for Creative Technology and Community Arts (CCTCA). The CCTCA was a coalition of not-for-profit partners who were working together to put forward an interest in having a community art and technology centre as part of the Woodward’s building. Member groups included:
Video In Studios
Video In/Video Out
Kootenay School of Writing
Gallery Gachet Society
ndependent Community Television (ICTV)
Indigenous Media Arts Group (IMAG)
Community Radio Education Society/Coop Media Arts Committee (CRES)
Redwire Youth Media Society
Irwin Oostindie co-founded the CCTCA project in 2004, when he began working as Gallery Manager at Gallery Gachet. Over a period of years CCTCA worked to navigate the stages of the approval process, and in 2006 were approved by the City to develop their space for the new Woodward’s building. Over a period from 2004 to 2008, with Oostindie taking on a leadership position, the CCTCA worked together to design and plan the use of the space, develop a business plan, and move forward to develop a new media space. As shifts occurred in the project, some original member centres lost interest in the project, as not all of the desired amenities were ultimately included in the space that was designed for the new Woodward’s.
The idea of developing the community media and arts centre was in one sense prompted by a desire to provide marginalized artists who identified with the Downtown Eastside with access to a wide range of technologies for media-driven practices. The Woodward’s building location played a role in this goal, as a contested site of gentrification taking place in the neighbourhood. Non-profits acting together were attempting to develop in a way to protect space for working class and socially engaged art practitioners that had long been present in the neighbourhood.
In 2008, the name CCTCA was dropped in favour of W2, after a consultation with interested members of the community. W2 has since continued to focus on bringing together different members of the community in one space. It has occupied various spaces in order to begin its programming, but has continued to focus on developing its permanent home at Woodwards as a site for cultural practices involving technology. W2 now acts as a “hub” organization that hosts and supports the programs of many member organizations and individuals. It is fashioned as a public meeting space that can host partnership to produce programming for the public, operating as a presenting centre that is much like a community centre or venue.
With its focus on developing facilities that can accommodate media-based practices, W2 is working to implement live streaming for media events. They are committed to network culture, which includes working in real-time with other media centres across the globe.
W2 finances its operations primarily through the support of its members, by producing events at its venues, and through occasionally through grants. The W2 Media Cafe includes multiple spaces that concentrate on providing a place for new and existing projects related to creative uses of technology. Through these various amenities, the centre pursues its objective to bring different constituent communities together in one environment, and to continue to support the efforts of Vancouverites who continue to work toward bringing social inclusion to fruition.
The Centre for Creative Technology and Community Arts was founded in 2004.
Founding Members of the Centre for Creative Technology and Community Arts:
Irene Loughlin, Video In Studios
Julie Gendron, Video In/Video Out
Pauline Butling, Kootenay School of Writing
Stephen Long, Gallery Gachet Society
Don Walchuck, ICTV
Skeena Reece, Indigenous Media Arts Group (IMAG)
Don Chow, Chakras/TEASPACE
Kristiana Clemens, Community Radio Education Society/Coop Media Arts Committee (CRES)
Marika Swan, Redwire Magazine
Community Project Partners
Alexandra Lohan, desmedia
Dan Feeney Carnegie Community Centre
Amir Alibhai, Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Society
Greg Lian, VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users)
Mary Ann Anderson, Community Arts Consultant
Archer Pechawis, Technical Consultant, Media and Theater Artist
Jeff Derksen, Professor of English as Simon Fraser University
Incorporated in 2008 as W2 Community Media Arts Society.
W2 Media Arts Society Founding Directors
1. Office in Raincity Studios, 1 Alexander, in Gastown, Sept 2008-March 2009
2. Golden Crown Hotel, 2 floors, 116 W Hastings, February – March 2009
3. Office and Gallery in the Flack Block Building at Cambie and Hastings, April 2009-November 2009
4. W2 Culture & Media House, 4 floors of offices, media production, studios and exhibition space in the Perel Building,
112 West Hastings, November 2009-April 2010 (Leading up to and for the duration of the Olympics), 12,000 square feet
5. W2 Storyeum, Offices, presentation space and event venue, 31,000 square feet. 151 West Cordova Street, April 2010 – April 2011
6. W2 Media Cafe, 3 Floors, Partial move-in (offices) Dec 2010, Fully operational as of September 2011.
Performance Studio, Live Production Control Room, Voice-over Audio Control Room, Concession Booth.
Social enterprise cafe and catering service, Atrium seating, Exhibition display space, Video Cube
Community meeting space, Community group hot desks, Letterpress studio, Public lounge and washrooms, Open Web Tech Lab, Creative Technology Incubator, W2 Offices