Opinion

Easy answer for Branscombe House

The interior of Branscombe House. - City of Richmond
The interior of Branscombe House.
— image credit: City of Richmond

It’s a house without a plan. But landing on one should be easy.

The city’s call for ideas on uses of the newly-renovated Branscombe House is relatively open-ended. The focus, however, should be the arts.

This beautiful historic house most certainly stands out in Richmond, where homes are being demolished and rebuilt faster than we can take stock of what Richmond is losing. Situated at Railway Avenue and Steveston Highway, it’s a relatively high-profile location perfect for promoting an important and often underserved need.

With capacity for 30 people, the main floor could serve as gallery space, public art studios, a small rehearsal room or presentation venue, instruction space and a gathering place.

Upstairs, a suite is being built, perfect for the city’s earlier idea of an artist-in-residence space.

It’s no secret the need of artists—professional and amateur alike—is affordable and sustainable studio spaces. Quite simply, this heritage space is ideal for a city arts facility—one with varying uses complementing the Richmond Arts Centre.

A major capital projects plan will soon unfold in Minoru Park. A new pool, seniors centre, revamped sports fields and fire hall are coming. All are needs, but arts space isn’t part of the package.

Relying on the private sector to create a culture of arts in Richmond only goes so far. Such spaces aren’t always available, accessible or sustainable.

Moreover, Richmond is changing fast. With a large new immigrant population and City Centre under reconstruction, we’ve lost some of our identity. Creating a new dedicated arts space—and funding it through existing budgets—is one small way to restore some of that identity.

Call out for ideas, sure, but narrow the focus. Find the gaps and opportunities in the arts that would serve our growing and diverse population and make it happen at Branscombe. It’s not a big space, but it’s something pioneers might have been proud of nonetheless.

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