Story by Vacay.ca Staff
VANCOUVER – For weeks, one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist attractions has been occupied by protesters and now as the city tries to shut it down, officials are saying Occupy Vancouver could be damaging valuable artwork.
The Vancouver Art Gallery has been operating as usual, open to visitors on the Robson Street side entrance, and if visitors only stay on that side of the street, they would never see just a few more steps away is the tent city that has been erected by protesters with Occupy Vancouver along Georgia Street.
The encampment of dozens of tents and between 100 to 200 protesters living there daily since October 15 faces the other side of the VAG, downtown’s most prominent art gallery.
In a court hearing on Friday, the city of Vancouver, which is fighting to shut down Occupy Vancouver, raised concerns that staking tent pegs into the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery could have lasting effects.
The city’s lawyer said digging into the grounds of the art gallery could penetrate the membrane that protects the gallery’s valuable permanent collection of artwork stored in an underground vault. Less than five per cent of the gallery’s collection is displayed at any one time and works stored underneath the vault reportedly includes works from Emily Carr and the Group of Seven.
The Vancouver Art Gallery, the former main courthouse in the city, is western Canada’s largest art gallery and the fifth biggest gallery in Canada.
Since Occupy Vancouver began more than a month ago, the encampment, which includes a medical centre, a lending library, a centre for elders and even a media tent, has sprung up on the plaza outside the gallery.
About one foot below that surface of Occupy Vancouver is a waterproof membrane that is supposed to protect the vault.
It’s not the first time that protesters and their activities have raised concerns about the potential damage their actions may have on the items in the art gallery’s underground vault.
Every year, on April 20 in an event known as the 420 Rally, and again on July 1, for the Cannabis Day Rally, thousands of marijuana smokers gather at the same spot to hold Canada’s biggest smoke-ins.
The waft of marijuana smoke has been detected in the vault, which has worried some people that the smoke could damage the art collection underground.
A lawyer for the protesters at Occupy Vancouver said the concerns raised by the city are unfounded. “This isn’t a dirty, squalid little squat,” Jason Gratl told a B.C. Supreme Court justice. Trenches dug for the encampment don’t go any deeper than five centimetres into the ground, the lawyer said.
But the city’s lawyer Ben Parkin argued that Vancouver’s recent period of heavy sustained rain and the trenches dug by the protesters could damage the membrane preventing water from seeping into the art collection below.
At this time, the Vancouver Art Gallery, through its spokeswoman Dana Sullivant, said there is no concern about water penetration but the gallery will continue monitoring for any potential leaks.
ABOUT THE VANCOUVER ART GALLERY
Location: 750 Hornby Street, Vancouver
Contact: Tele: 604-662-4719; website: www.vanartgallery.bc.ca
Hours: Daily 10 am to 5 pm; Tuesdays until 9 pm
Admission: $17.50 (adult); $12.50 (seniors and students); $6.25 (children 5-12); free (children 4 and under); $50 for a family of maximum 2 adults and 4 children.