THE Red Raven Gallery is moving again – and this time, it doesn’t know where.
The gallery, run as a non-profit enterprise by local artists, has been in various locations within the Skeena Mall for 21 years, but was given notice yesterday that it had until close of business tomorrow to leave altogether.
Gallery members had just moved to the current location two weeks ago.
“We just got in here two weeks ago,” said Sylvia Hart, one of 21 artists who are part of the gallery collective. “And now we’re told we have until Thursday at 9 p.m.”
The gallery has had a unique arrangement with the mall by paying a percentage of the gallery sales for rent, and covering its own phone and hydro bills.
“The mall itself has always let Red Raven have a spot somewhere, when the spot rented out, they’d move us to another location in the mall,” said gallery chair Susan Kinney, who has been with Red Raven since 1998.
But with the mall under renovation and new businesses keen to move in, that arrangement appears to be over.
In its letter to the gallery asking them to cease business operations, mall owner Bosa Properties says the decision came after discussions with the city.
“We did not anticipate the response by the City of Terrace with regards to the new location,” reads the letter, signed by Malcolm Graham, Bosa Properties. “They have given us no choice but to enforce the immediate closure of your place of business.”
After calling the mall’s on-site manager, Amber Hansen, Kinney said she was told it would be too expensive to do the renovations the city required.
“Loon (Properties, which manages the building) would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on it to bring it up to code in order to house Red Raven,” said Kinney.
David Block, the city’s director of development services, explained that although many spaces in the mall are currently vacant while the mall undergoes renovations, many of those spaces cannot be occupied due to lack of permits and building code deficiencies.
Such was the case with Red Raven’s new location, which “has several fire and building code violations in its current state. The temporary partitioning of the space and a blocked fire exit door are two specific issues that are required to be addressed prior to any tenant occupying this space,” he said.
The city was also not given notice of Red Raven’s recent relocation and change of address – something required by the city, he said.
But the city “has absolutely no involvement or influence in any lease agreement or decisions made by the owners or lease manager of the Skeena Mall, nor any other commercial property owner, and their respective tenants. Any negotiations or arrangements regarding lease decisions are strictly those of the property owner and their agents,” said Block.
“It is extremely unfortunate and wholly inaccurate to suggest that the City of Terrace has been the cause of the Red Raven Gallery being told by the mall agents that they now have to vacate the mall,” Block said. “The decision to force the immediate closure of a lease or to remove a tenant from the mall is solely at the discretion of the Skeena Mall. Unfortunately, the lease manager and/or site construction supervisor did not communicate clearly with each other and with a city building inspector prior to the relocation of this tenant.”
Red Raven is questioning why it was moved to a new location in the first place, just to be asked to leave two weeks later.
“They could have just told us,” said Hart, noting that gallery members could have used the time to find a new home elsewhere.
“We’re putting the word out into the community who own property, who’d like to house us and promote local art,” she added.
“The fact is, we have to go,” added Kinney. “It’s a new beginning.”
Since opening day on May 8, 1992, the gallery has built up a loyal clientele of locals, not to mention a healthy amount of traffic from tourists looking for local souvenirs to take home.
“This is local artwork right here,” said Hart. “It’s a local icon, a part of Terrace. Where else do you go? We have a niche in the community you can’t get anywhere else.”