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Cheaper Show: Art and Accessibility in the DTES Community

This Saturday, June 26th, the culmination of thousands of hours of hard work and creative brainwaves will take shape in the form of The Cheaper Show No. 9. It’s a project that I’m very proud to have helped out in a small way as a volunteer. As the finish line nears, and final preparations for the Show are made, I’ve been thinking about the community focus that’s a principal driver behind the show and the relationships that develop with volunteering.

First, about the Show: The Cheaper Show is a one-night only event that has grown leaps and bounds since its original inception (“Cheaper Than A One Night Stand”) ten years ago. However, the concept has always remained the same. For one night, a collection of artists showcase their work to the community, and agree that everything displayed will be sold for one, accessible, price. For the past two shows, that price has been $200. While this represents a remarkable a bargain for the work that’s available, the Show is not about being a fire sale for art. Rather, the act of sacrifice (on the part of the artists, some of whom regularly sell their work for many times the asking price) shows a concerted willingness to engage everyday people with the arts and offer them a chance to own a piece that sings to them. With the cost barrier lowered, many more people can participate in the normally rarefied air of art collection, which in turn, promotes a different level of interaction with what’s in the gallery. Even for those not looking to buy, the strength of the show and the chance to commune with so many talented people promises an extraordinary evening for everyone passing through the doors.

As a volunteer, I’ve had the chance to appreciate the talent and dedication behind this show first hand. A small corps of staff and volunteers have completely transformed the W2 Storeum into a gallery space to be proud of. Behind the scenes, the Cheaper staff have marshalled funds, recognition, and artistic support to make this the largest art show in Western Canada. I’ve met incredible people through the Show (many times working back to back painting, mopping, or measuring hanging points) and I know we all share deep feelings of pride and satisfaction as the night approaches. I’ve felt similar feelings working with the Strathcona Business Improvement Association and their green zone initiative in the Downtown Eastside. It’s no accident that the Show is located on the edge of Vancouver’s most challenged neighbourhood. The motivations behind bringing art to the public echo the efforts being made by innumerable groups to improve the quality of life of many of the DTES’s residents.

Saul Good Gift Co. is proud to be the gift sponsor for the Show. We will be recognizing the efforts of the volunteers by putting together unique customized gift boxes for everyone who helped make this event happen!