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Artists in! Billionaires out!

Rave Against Renovictions
Ryan Schebek

August 11, 2019

This weekend people took to the streets of Point Grey, just outside Chip Wilson’s mansion, in a protest organized by local artists. Rave Against Renovictions featured a full roster of local Djs and speakers to highlight the injustice happening within Vancouver’s art spaces. Billionaire Chip Wilson, founder of lululemon and owner of the most expensive property in Vancouver (a mansion estimated at $73.1 million), has began a new campaign of gentrification and displacement.

Under his development company New Tide Properties, Wilson has began buying up properties and displacing previous tenants. This includes the tenants of art spaces, art collectives, non-profits spaces and local businesses. Once properties are purchased the tenant’s rent is increased drastically and becomes unaffordable even if the venue is playing sold out shows. While at the same time Wilson renovicts artists, he donates money to events like the Vancouver Mural Festival. At these events artists are commissioned to paint art on Low Tide properties. In effect this increases the value of the buildings and landlords can now charge higher rents in these neighbourhoods.

Because the artists are commissioned by the developer, its the developer that gets the final say on the subject matter of the art, not the artist. This process, referred to as “art washing”, has nothing to do with promoting art or community but only to increase profits.

People vs. property
People gathered to listen to music, dance and have their voices heard. Banners read slogans like “Gentrification Is Class War Fight Back” and “No Renoviction on Stolen Coast Salish Land.” Chip Wilson also made two brief appearances. His words of wisdom? “Socialism will always fail” and a poor economics lesson on how the problem is the market not valuing art.

Councillor Jean Swanson of COPE responded by explaining that the city needs to tax companies like Low Tide and Amazon and use the money to provide housing and promote art. Councillor Swanson responded further with: “The market is private power... We need to get things out of the market, we already got health out of the market. Now we need to get housing out of the market and art out of the market.”

Whose wealth?
Wealth is being stolen and concentrated into the hands of very few people. This is often at the expense of the most vulnerable. Professional artists have one of the most precarious jobs in Vancouver as city hall estimates the average artist makes only $22,000 per year and the average musician makes only $18,000 per year.

Roughly one hundred attended the rave at its peaked and hundreds more signed an open letter against Wilson and Low Tide Properties asking for businesses to disengage with Wilson and show solidarity for the on going fight against gentrification. As the letter states, “These are only the first steps in his vicious campaign to hoard $1.5 billion worth of property, which he plans to carry out over the next 7 years.”

Wilson is expanding his billion dollar empire by making Vancouver an unlivable city for artists or anyone who is not a millionaire. This, accumulation for accumulation’s, sake is the inevitable outcome of capitalism, unless we fight.

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