VestaFire Entertainment provided Stilting, Juggling, and roving street entertainment at the Greatest Street in Canada Festival this Sunday! We had a BLAST!
‘Arts-first’ approach helped turn Commercial Street into a winning destination
Chris Koehn, The Daily News
Published: Monday, June 20, 2011
An arts-first approach may have elevated one of Nanaimo’s historic streets from glaring eyesore to the greatest street in Canada and the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association threw a party on Sunday to recognize the achievement.
Commercial Street claimed the title of Greatest Street in Canada in the first annual Great Places in Canada contest in May.
People were free to walk the streets without cars while performers entertained downtown visitors, but according to members of the arts community downtown wasn’t always this charming.
The ‘Ice Queen,’ Amie Gravell, lets 3-year-old Savanah Heshka have a look into a crystal ball. Heska was with her father Trevor and grandmother Lorie at the Commercial Street Party on Sunday.
Chris Koehn/Daily News
“There was vandalism and empty stores,” says Camela Tang, president of the Central Vancouver Centre for the Arts Nanaimo. “Now we have galleries and our own building that houses administration offices, not-for-profits and other studios.”
The CVICAN has managed the old CIBC bank building since 2001, and once it took hold and filled up with tenants, the town has slowly come back to life, she said.
“Then Flying Fish came, then Gallery 223. They all came and it’s getting full. We drew that line in the sand and said no more decay and that the arts groups would help, and we did it.”
There has been great co-operation from the city and businesses, she said, and the DNBIA’s street party is a great example of community spirit.
Gerda Hofman is a painter with a studio on Commercial St. and she said that there should be a street party every month.
“It takes me two hours to walk two blocks because of all the people I talk to,” she said.
That is the feeling enjoyed by many downtown.
“We’re shouting like neighbours from across the street here. It’s a community, that’s what old downtowns used to be,” said Tang.