Arts Umbrella’s New Home Expands Access to Art Education

The Granville Island centre is dedicated to youth arts programming.

Our childhoods pave the way for the adults we become. What we do and the things we learn all contribute to our future. With this sentiment in mind, five artists (all parents) established Arts Umbrella in 1979 as an arts education facility for Vancouver youth. In the 42 years since, Arts Umbrella has grown into a thriving centre for over 24,000 students aged two to 22 by providing tools and resources in all facets of arts education, from dance to woodworking.

With a mandate to provide youth access to the arts, the nonprofit centre provides bursaries, scholarships, and donor-funded community programming for students whose access to arts education may be blocked by financial restraints. When other prestigious arts education facilities can verge on elitism, expanding the accessibility of art-focused resources is essential to popping a privileged bubble within the arts sphere. Up to 80 per cent of current students take part in Arts Umbrella programs at little or no cost through its funding programs.

The centre reached a new milestone earlier this month when it opened the doors to its new home on Granville Island: a 50,000-square-foot facility with expansive studio and workshop spaces. The new facility will see an estimated 15,000 more students joining Arts Umbrella in the next three to five years. The building, which was previously the South Building for Emily Carr University of Art + Design, offers renovated studios for dance, music, film, ceramics, and woodworking, as well as a photography darkroom, public exhibition space, and a 132-seat theatre.


One of the centre’s six dance studios.


The impressive building, originally designed by Patkau Architects and now repurposed by Henriquez Partners Architects, is a harbinger of a new generation of artists, dancers, creators, and filmmakers whose future careers will be shaped by the centre’s groundbreaking facilities.

Photos by Kevin Clark.