Created by long-time artists and community organizers, WePress is an accessible artspace located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) that welcomes diverse populations, including those marginalized by class, sexuality, gender, race, culture, disability, mental health, and addictions.
Our purpose is to use historic and contemporary methods of print and art-making to support learning, skills development and creative communications for personal and community benefit amongst residents and friends of the Downtown Eastside.
WePress knows that there are many artists living and working in the DTES who face the challenge of an ongoing shortage of working space, places to sell their work, and access to certain kinds of equipment and the training required to use that equipment. WePress provides access to a unique assortment of hard-to-access technologies, including a letterpress and type (wood, polymer, and metal letterforms, and soon, a set of 8000+ Chinese characters), an industrial sewing machine, and a 3D printer.
WePress started as the Ho Sun Hing Project, a large group of diverse people who came together in late autumn 2013 to raise money to purchase a set of Chinese type (over 8000 characters) from the Ho Sun Hing Print Shop in Vancouver’s Chinatown, which was closing down after more than 100 years of operation. The project gradually transformed when the old Woodwards letterpress and type collection, owned by the Community Arts Council of Vancouver (CACV), became available but needed a new home. Throughout 2014 and 2015, a small subset of the original group continued to meet and make plans. We found temporary storage for the letterpress and type, thanks to the generosity of Gallery Gachet, and kept the project alive. The real game-changer came when Candie Tanaka wrote a successful Vancouver Foundation grant and found our current space.
The name “WePress” emerged from a conversation between Francis Freeman and Candie over noodles in Chinatown when one misunderstood what the other was saying. Both agreed the new name suited the space and took it back to the group for consensus.
WePress owes a large part of its existence to the support it received from the Community Arts Council of Vancouver (CACV), Gallery Gachet, and the Vancouver Foundation. Through our partnership with CACV, WePress received a Vancouver Foundation Arts and Culture Field of Interest Development grant in 2015. As well, CACV lent its Woodward’s letterpress and type to the community through WePress, and helped administer our grant. Gallery Gachet has truly been the keeper of the press and type collection – storing it when it was first donated to CACV, and again while WePress was looking for the space it found in Chinatown. In January 2017, CACV further supported the work of WePress by selling us the letterpress and type collection for $1!
We owe a debt of gratitude to these organizations, and would like to recognize them for their generosity, sense of community, and long-term vision – providing major support to WePress during our first year. We will be forever grateful.
photo by john endo greenaway