When 221A put out an open call for tenants for 30 units of artist housing in 2021, the organization was not expecting an overwhelming response of 477 applications in 2 weeks.
Located in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, 187 E 3rd is now home to 30 artists and their families, as well as Ethọ́s Lab, an organization that empowers youth in S.T.E.A.M. to transform communities and shift culture. The tenants moved in between December and January, and attended a meet and greet with 221A staff earlier this month to welcome residents into the building and allow everyone to meet their neighbours. After a round of introductions, the space fostered a burgeoning sense of community. Notably, Ethọ́s Lab founder Anthonia Ogundele expressed collaborative interest with the artists present and was immediately approached by a number of tenants excited to share their artistic practice with the youth. Opportunities to share the joys of art and culture are central to the space and more importantly, to the experience of its residents.
This type of connection is key for artists both in terms of their creative growth and their experience of community. A tenant emphasized how these two factors go hand in hand: “Arts and culture are strongly linked to dictated housing and communities, thereby giving room and space for growth and expression.”
This past Thursday, 221A and the tenants of 187 E 3rd celebrated the official launch of the space alongside the City of Vancouver and the Community Land Trust. In her comments, artist and resident Ndidi Cascade talked about feeling stability in her life for the first time, having faced racial discrimination and “renoviction” in past housing situations. The tenanting process for 187 E 3rd prioritized Indigenous, Black, racialized, disabled, Deaf, and LGBTQ2S+ artists, in addition to consideration given to applicants’ housing needs based on a combination of their income, current housing costs and housing conditions. Between the overwhelming number of applicants and the growing waitlist for tenancy in the building, the need for affordable housing for historically excluded artists in the city is unmistakable.
When asked why it’s important for artists to have access to this type of housing in the city, Joshua, a tenant of the building summarized it best.
“I always felt this thing was killing me, like it was not sustainable to be an artist in Vancouver. And it really started to affect my art, by either straying away from it or risking the integrity of why I do art for money. Art gives truth and culture to the city, ties communities, reminds people of magic. Artists need to be supported! Artists also need communities of other artists to feel like it’s okay to be this way!”