Vancouverites have always been very keen on art, and galleries are not an exception. The series of articles about galleries in Vancouver might reveal a new, inspiring dimension of the city that will leave you speechless. Last time, we took you to the world of the mythical yet surprisingly modern world of First Nations and Inuit art. This article will attempt to reveal the best of the galleries run by people who truly understand art: artists themselves.
It is said that artists make terrible managers and that they’re unable to maintain any discipline. These are the reasons why artists often leave their galleries in total chaos but also the reasons that provide allow visitors to embrace their point of view. Artist-run galleries are often those that enable the artist to express how he feels about art in general and bring us closer to it. They show us what is relevant for artists themselves, often leaving visitors bewildered. We’ll walk you through some of the well hidden jewels of Vancouver when it comes to galleries.
221A Artist Run Centre
Before they got a dedicated space in Chinatown in 2008, 221A’s projects were very different. 221A started as an initiative of students from Emily Carr University of Art and Design who, as they say, “desired a wider critical context and participatory learning space.” They achieved this through an interesting series of one-night, non-judged exhibitions that provided artists public space to exhibit, talk, and learn through 2005-2007.
The centre is a non-profit organization trying to support and broaden the contemporary design and art scene. Over its seven years of existence, the organization has become a major establishment for Critical Design. Critical design is an emerging field of contemporary art that seeks out a wider space for work that examines and challenges the application and implementation of design. The 221A organization takes on three to five curatorial residents a year, creating a Curatorial Residences Committee. The Committee is the source of “exhibitions, talks, workshops, or publications, as well as but not limited to co-productions, social and dialogical practices, public art, and performance projects.” The gallery is one of the rarest projects in Vancouver, and it definitely deserves a great deal of attention.
Located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Gachet is one of the largest artist-run galleries in the city. It went from organizing one exhibition a year in 1993 to coordinating about 12 exhibitions a year in over 3,000 square feet of art space.
The gallery was established to provide a focal point for dialogue amongst dissident artists — those who wouldn’t have been accepted by other galleries that easily. This largely reflects in the most extraordinary character of the gallery.
Over the years, the Gachet gallery has developed a unique set of values and rules of engagement in art presentation. The uniqueness comes from the amount of attention the gallery pays to social, cultural, and economic justice in art. They proclaim the practice of art and culture as a human right and promote its role in the development of healthy society.
In the spirit of art development among the community, Gachet also reinvented the Art School, offering a variety of workshops, computer training, artist talks, film nights, and professional development sessions for artists of all levels.
This other non-profit centre is mostly focused on the West Coast contemporary visual and language arts production. The great thing about Artspeak is that they aim to support mainly local, young, and emerging artists and writers. However, Artspeak has a long history of cooperation with already well established and known artist from the region. Artspeak provides opportunities to exhibit, publish, and present new work to quite a significant Vancouver-based audience interested in contemporary production. In their own words:
Artspeak actively contributes to the cultural community through our commitment to artists producing challenging, innovative work in diverse media, our affiliation with like-minded groups and organizations, and the public interest we generate in contemporary art.
Artspeak was established in 1986 in association with the Kootenay School of Writing. It is quite small but surprisingly ergonomic in design. With its floor-to-ceiling front window, the gallery is anything but cramped. Clean and sparse, all its attention is dedicated to showcasing contemporary art.
Arts Off Main
Arts Off Main is an exciting initiative that was established nine years ago, in 2003, by seven artists who decided to open a collective gallery to provide the space to present and sell their work and offer consignment space for other artists as well. The gallery started up at the old café place, giving it a unique atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else in the city. Arts Off Main also offers high-quality framing services for very reasonable prices. The gallery’s artists form a diverse collective that has a lot to offer. The collective encompasses a wide range of media and talent.
Or Gallery resides in an exactly-100-year-old building on Hamilton Street, in one of the most interesting neighbourhoods in Vancouver. It was established in 1983, and it is currently run by director and curator Jonathan Middleton. The Or Gallery in Vancouver also has a sister gallery in Berlin, one of the world’s cradles of contemporary art. The connection to Berlin gives it a fresh and youthful outlook on the current trends in modern art.
The Or Gallery is well known for its support of conceptual experimentation, research, and proposition making. It mainly includes artists whose art practice is of a critical, conceptual, and/or interdisciplinary nature.