DigArts creates Van Island Digital Art Hub

Arts, Stories

“Part of the attraction to get people to move to an area is the availability of arts and culture. So, if anybody wanted to invest and create a business on Vancouver Island, everything, including arts and culture is already there.”  

Environmental conditions, cost of living, and accessible business prospects are all decisive factors for people and enterprises migrating to a new location. Many, however, would also love to add to the list a vibrant, immersive arts and culture atmosphere. Unfortunately, many of these art hub communities, such as Paris and New York City, have expensive living and business operating costs. But, did you know there is a blossoming arts powerhouse on the Canadian West Coast that possesses all desirable qualities of a large city?

Map of Vancouver Island shown as Arts and Culture Powerhouse for Digital Art

Starting with a $212,200 grant from the Canada Council for the Arts in March 2020, the Arts Council of Ladysmith and District (ACLD) established a group of Vancouver Island and Gulf Island art councils, called the Digital Innovation Group (DIG). Comox Valley Arts Council, Cowichan Valley Arts Council, Saltspring Island Arts, Old School House Art Centre, and Hornby Island Art Council are all DIG members.

Art’s Sustainability Depends on Digital Skills

One of DigArts’ goals is to transform the way Arts Councils “operate, communicate, and collaborate” while developing the digital art literacy of artists on Vancouver Island. The principal objective is to showcase Vancouver Island as an ‘arts powerhouse’ by leveraging digital art capabilities.

Vancouver Island is a “vibrant tech sector with 1,000+ companies who employ over 20,000 people ~ producing over $5B in annual revenues.” (Source).

ACLD member and DIG lead Ora Steyn stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of digital skills in sustaining the arts on Vancouver Island. Now there’s an enhanced sense of urgency to learn skills vital to thriving in this digital world. DIG is launching an arts-focused technology help-desk in late spring called Creative Coast, the “incubator for digital skills”.

Art’s Economic Value

DIG has already launched a groundbreaking study that illustrates the social and economic impact of art. This report will provide (comes out in September) essential data to the arts ecosystem, allowing artists to take advantage of new partnerships and innovations. They have also recently completed an IT assessment of the member arts councils to review their current technology toolkit and to assess any gaps or challenges faced.

“What I hope comes from this is that tourism, economic development, local governments — all our partners in our communities — realize the value of art,”

Ora Steyn is originally from Abbotsford but moved to the Town of Ladysmith, on the east coast of Vancouver Island, for the arts community, high quality of life and beautiful weather.

“Because they (people) can work remotely, a lot of people with tech background are moving here. So if any more investments are coming this way, there are already qualified workers here. Additionally, there are excellent educational programs that supply young workers. So, yeah, no question. Vancouver Island becoming the next Silicon Valley is quite plausible. And it’s already happening! Many people are moving to the island because it’s less expensive than Vancouver, not so populated, and such a joy in which to live.” Ora Steyn, Vice President of Arts Council of Ladysmith and District


Visit the DIGArts website to learn more about the initiative.


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Amrit Manhas

Economic Development Officer