Project Description

There are currently thousands of square feet of unoccupied commercial real estate across the city, starkly contrasting the mounting urgency and strong civic policy direction to unlock more physical spaces for both individuals and organizations in the culture sector.

Hessey has collaborated with Vancouver Mural Festival on the multi-phase project Unleased: Temporary Artist Spaces. The project takes up the challenge of exploring how these underutilized spaces can be leveraged to provide immediate, short-term spaces for cultural production and exhibition, specifically for emerging and BIPOC artists.

About the Vancouver Mural Festival

The Vancouver Mural Festival (VMF) is a non-profit arts organization dedicated to artistic and cultural development in Vancouver with the mission to create meaningful experiences that connect art and people. Through their signature festival, consultancy work, and other community collaborations, the Vancouver Mural Festival works to cultivate a city that values and encourages a vibrant, accessible arts and culture scene. Read their description of the Unleased project.

Project goal: Provide understanding of the opportunities and roadblocks of using these underutilized spaces for short term cultural production and exhibition.

This project is being undertaken in 3 phases:

  • Phase 1: Feasibility Study
  • Phase 2: Pilot Projects
  • Phase 3: Sustainable Annual Program

As Lead Researcher, Matt Hessey worked closely with the Unleased Project Team to gather key insights for Phase 1. The team assembled key stakeholders such as Vancouver-based artists, building owners, the City of Vancouver, and local neighbourhoods. The engagement process for Phase 1 involved deep dive sessions to understand the true barriers and opportunities involved. This work convened through dialogue sessions to facilitate active community participation to ensure that the project’s direction reflected the true needs and desires of those involved.

Phase 1 of the project demonstrated the opportunity and value for stakeholders, identify major barriers and solutions, and proposed a delivery pathway for Phases 2 and 3.


Adrian Sinclair, Vancouver Mural Festival
Germain Koh, Artist
Matthew Richter, Cultural Space Liaison, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
David Duprey, Local Artist Studio Operator




Research + Proposal
Project Management