Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Culture Crush: The Fate of the Waldorf Hotel

This past week, news came in the form of tweets, blogs and national articles, that the Waldorf Hotel, recent cultural hotspot, would be closing its doors for good by the end of the month. This was a serious blow to the Eastside arts community that used the Waldorf as a showroom for their creative productions. It was also a shocker, to the many patrons, fans and casual guests of the Waldorf, who witnessed the resurgence of the tiki themed hotel.

The newly created arts hub was the passion project of a local management team that together, with renowned architect Scott Cohen, remodeled the once derelict hotel into a multi-venue establishment.

The hotels original 1947 tiki theme was maintained and a number of different commercial spaces sprung to life offering music, visual art, foodie delights, souvenirs and even a hair salon. 

The Tikki Bar itself was retooled and remains one of the oldest in North America; Nuba Cafe moved in and provided causal diners with falafel treats and other Lebanese fair; Another eatery, the Leeteg Room, opened, offering a more upscale food experience; Barbarella, a love-child of our own Main Street vibe, set-up shop in the lobby; Two new nightclubs began to thrive; Cabaret shows were booked and a souvenir shop opened.

I know! All that under one roof..?

With all this bustle, management still had time and space to create the Black and Yellow visual art gallery, in Room 106. A number of local artists have since opened shows here; the latest is KT Kilgour.

But all this progress in reviving the arts may be lost. It's sad, but true.

This weekend, the community responded. A Love-In was planned and hundreds showed up to vocalize their support for a venue firmly dedicated to promoting the arts in Vancouver.

Multimedia artist Paul Wong was one of the presenters whose words remained long after the crowds dispersed: "If we don't have a place where the good, the bad and the ugly can come together... where can we intermingle and meet great people and talk and do things, we're not going to be a city that creates a great sense of ourselves and who we are."

The Sergio Leone reference was bit over the top, but the passion was there in force.

Even the Mayor stepped up, releasing this statement:
"The Waldorf closing is a big loss to Vancouver's growing creative community. They built a great culture hub, and it's my hope that they'll be able to re-launch and return in some form in the near future. Supporting Vancouver's dynamic arts and culture sector is a top priority of our City Council, and the City is exploring ways to support the Waldorf continuing as one of Vancouver's most unique and vibrant cultural spaces."
In a year that saw the sudden liquidation of The Vancouver Playhouse, the city cannot afford to lose another cultural mainstay.

As a Vancouver building project that places artistic space as a top priority, we would like to congratulate the community for their sudden and heartfelt response. We are behind you a hundred percent. The Waldorf needs representation and we are here to provide it.

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