Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide: RIP George Riste

Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide

This small residential hotel in downtown Vancouver was stubbornly saved from demolition by its amazing owner, the quietly determined George Riste. George resisted numerous attempts by BC Hydro to buy his building, continually asserting the rights of his tenants to remain exactly where they were.  In the end, BC Hydro was forced to wrap its complex around George’s property and you can see the BC Hydro building above,  towering over George’s Del Mar Inn. George died on Wednesday, November 24th. He was 89 years old.

The permanent text art piece above the front door is a collaboration between artist Kathryn Walter and George Riste, and it echoes the philosophy of George’s lifelong work. For more information on the piece, scroll down here.

By providing space in this building, George, his wife Marjory, family and son Mike have generously supported the arts in Vancouver in a quiet, humble way for years. I’m involved with the non-profit Or Gallery that now occupies the building’s main floor at a generously reduced rent. Before we occupied this space, the Contemporary Art Gallery and then the Belkin Satellite Gallery lived there, also under the generous protection of the Ristes. In the rooms above the main floor, the Riste family has kept its tenants comfortable for decades, often doing the janitorial work themselves. To read the Or Gallery director’s letter about George, click here. Read the Globe and Mail story on George here.

Rest In Peace, George.

The board and everyone who cares about the Or Gallery would like to send their gratitude and condolences to the Riste Family. The gallery is hosting George’s memorial service on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2-3 pm, 555 Hamilton Street. It will be packed, because as one of our board members said, George’s spirit is legendary.

Photo above is by Shallom Johnson, photos below by Squeaky Marmot and Jason Vanderhill, all from the Flickr Creative Commons. Many more images here.

Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide

Below, album in honour of George by the London Improvisers Orchestra:

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10 Responses to “Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide: RIP George Riste”

  1. K Says:

    Brilliant! That a energy conglomerate, an SRO and multiple nonprofit galleries can coexist not just on one block, but as essentially one building inside multiple architectures, is profoundly inspiring. Cheers to staunch and curmudgeonly visionaries like Mr. Riste.

  2. LB Says:

    I hope you heard that, George.

  3. Andrea Says:

    Everything about this post made my eyes prickle with warmth.

  4. Dorothy Field Says:

    I wish I had known George Riste. Reading this is so moving. May we all learn to stand for what we believe and may the arts flourish despite the setbacks of these last years.

  5. LB Says:

    The memorial service today was great. George’s wife Marjory, elderly but quick, gave a really accomplished speech, impromptu and quite comic, and George’s son Mike also gave an excellent speech that included (among other things) a harrowing story about George’s experiences in the war as a commando parachuted behind German enemy lines — he was sent in to destroy decoders but was taken prisoner of war, after which he then managed to escape through Portugal. Mike said George used to say of The Great Escape with Steve McQueen “that was nothing compared to what happened to me!” But generally George never discussed the war. Many said that he didn’t like to discuss himself either, or be talked about or praised, and that he would never have agreed to attend today’s memorial had he been alive, which made everyone laugh. It was an informal memorial with many people giving speeches, especially the four curators who have worked in the galleries harboured over the years in George’s Del Mar Inn. The real surprise was an unknown man who stood up and introduced himself as the broker/dealmaker who had been hired by BC Hydro 30 years ago to pressure George to sell the Del Mar. He said it was a shock not be able to make a deal, but that he found George one of the most amazing and memorable people he’d ever met in his career, and that he felt he wanted to come today to pay his respects. He was in tears when he sat down. Marjory was presented with the George Riste Day proclamation signed by the mayor and then gave it right back to the Or Gallery to hang in our office. I will print the proclamation below.

  6. LB Says:


  7. LB Says:

    Office of the Mayor
    City of Vancouver
    British Columbia

    “George Riste Day”

    Whereas George Riste is a community treasure who graced the City of Vancouver with immense generosity over many decades,

    and whereas George Riste provided low income housing to those in need and saved a heritage hotel,

    and whereas George Riste generously provided space at reduced rents for non-profit art galleries in Vancouver including the Contemporary Art Gallery, the Belkin Satellite and the Or Gallery,

    and whereas George Riste believed in giving back to society by providing affordable spaces in the city in order to build community,

    and whereas George Riste demonstrated great courage and vision by refusing to sell the Del Mar Inn or let it be demolished for any price,

    and whereas George Riste’s collaboration with artist Kathryn Walter to produce the text on the Del Mar Inn that reads ‘Unlimited Growth Increases the Divide’, continues to serve as an enduring and poetic statement about the perils of free markets without limits and the need for a social conscience in all matters,

    and whereas George Riste was an elegant, understated hero in the City of Vancouver, leaving a legacy and reputation that stands as an example to be emulated,

    and whereas George Riste would have turned 90 on December 22nd,

    and whereas for all this, in celebration of his life and in our sadness at his passing,

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, Gregor Robertson, Mayor of the City of Vancouver, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM December 22nd, 2010 as


  8. john neufeld Says:

    I have wondered over the years about that building’s odd turn of a phrase, and I googled it to find this. The first time I went past this building, I was staying at the old “Alcazar” which was nearby while going to a cousins wedding.

    I can’t say for certain when I first noticed the sign, but I did see it on my way to work when I was at H.A. Somon and Ass. in their office at #5 W. Pender and later on when I walked back after work to the Railway.

    I am saddened with the upturn in gentrification in all but especially this area in the GVRD.

  9. Chris Melanidis Says:

    Bravo to George for believing in the greater good of comunity and humanity and not the almighty dollar. His legacy is set and will hopefully be remembered and cherised for years to come……..rest well George.

  10. A. Johal Says:

    God bless you George,

    A wonderful soul,

    I can only wish more people will be like you,

    Rest in Peace.

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