Artist and new to Vancouver? Don’t let the Vancouver art scene intimidate you!

So you’re a visual artist who just moved to Vancouver. If you have already made a name to yourself and have exhibited internationally, you’ll probably figure the ins and outs in no time. If you are, like myself, embarking on your journey as an emerging or mid-career artist, chances are, no one in Vancouver has heard of you and you’re just as unfamiliar to the scene as the scene is to you. So, before you get a panic attack, here are a few tips that might help you understand the art community, and perhaps find yours!

1.      Know your galleries

The Vancouver art galleries can be grouped this way: 1. Public Galleries: non-profit and usually affiliated with the city. Ex. Vancouver Art Gallery, Contemporary Art Gallery, Richmond Art Gallery and Surrey Art Gallery. These galleries have a lot of community outreach programs and they do a lot of calls and commissions, so keep your ears and eyes open. 2. Commercial galleries that are for profit and interested in works that, well, sell. Examples would be Gallery Jones, Winsor Gallery, Ian Tan, Beaux Xi, Equinox, and others. 3. Artist-Run centers or galleries such as Western Front, Access Gallery, Center A, James Black Gallery and many more, that are mainly not for profit and are the most progressive in my opinion. Here’s my tip for you, find which gallery group makes more sense for the type of work you do (highly recommend going on their website and reading their mandates) then go out there and meet them! They’re all friendly people and you can get more done face to face then over email, at least during the initiation process. Sending an email to book an appointment wouldn’t harm either. Look for their Open Calls on their websites and make sure to have an organized file or folder on your computer where you store your preferred galleries and organizations with their information, calls and deadlines.

2.   Be in the know

There are great online resources for classifieds, events, and resources. B.C Alliance for Arts is a key source for everything arts related, look out for their Artist Calls link! BC Alliance for Arts also give courses in grant writing but chances are you won’t be eligible to any grants until you have spent a year in B.C. You might however be eligible for grants in Canada if you moved from another Canadian state. If you want to know more about your rights as an artist then I highly recommend becoming a CARFAC member which is a community that advocates artists rights. There are many perks to becoming a member, check them out on their website! CARFAC have published an ebook (available on the iTunes store) extensively detailing the art practice in Vancouver, the galleries, the grants, the marketing, pretty much all you need to know. And finally, make sure to subscribe to Instant Coffee, an email newsletter that sends you art listings weekly and pick up or download a copy Preview, a free gallery guide published 5 times yearly. They pretty much cover everything that’s happening around the city and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

3.   Get it from the experts

If you are lost on where to start I definitely recommend taking courses in professional practice. Those classes will set you on the right track and will give you lots and lots of insights beyond this article you are reading. I personally benefited a lot from the course with Pennylane Shen through Thrive School. It was more geared towards painters, collage artists and photographers but any artist can benefit from it. I also recommend the professional practice course by Continuous Studies at Emily Carr University, pricier for sure, but if you have the investment, then might as well take both! Emily Carr also give grant writing courses, so does Richmond Art Gallery. So, stay tuned to their upcoming events or workshops.

4.      Build your own class

I want to reinforce the importance of taking classes or workshops, as I found it the fastest way to build a community when you’re still new and feeling lonely or isolated. And how about starting your own class? Do you have a skill or knowledge that you can share? It sounds complicated to organize but trust me, it isn’t as difficult as trying to be creative in the confinement of your own house! There are a lot of places where you can host an event without space charge. If you’re a media artist you can propose an idea for a workshop to Vivo Media Arts. If you’re more of a mixed media artist or painter you can connect with Opus Art Supplies to do one of their demonstration classes. Some spaces are very affordable, L’Atelier Coworking and the Profile are coworking spaces that are more geared to design and marketing professionals but they are open to any type of event that helps the community. The Toast is a free space that is super quirky and eclectic.

5.      Seek help

Have you read all the above and still feel at a loss as where to start? Find a good coach or art consultant! I personally hired a coach who’s greatly empowered me and helped me organize the mess in my head. Artists tend to be very chaotic or perfectionist which might mean procrastination. A lot of times discussing things with a trained professional can help you assess your priorities and see the potential in your ideas. They also try to connect you with like-minded artists or recommend you galleries or art spaces that fit your practice.

6.      Connect connect connect

Finally, I know it can be very tough when you just got here and don’t know any artists around you, so remember, Vancouver is not as difficult as people say. You just need to be very active and wear that extrovert hat of yours; I know you have it hidden somewhere! Don’t be afraid to reach out, to ask for help, to knock on people’s doors. One thing the Vancouverites are sure good at is referrals. They always try to connect you to someone who has something in common with you. So next time someone says, hey, I know this artist you’d get along with, ask for the artist’s number on the spot!

This is only the tip of the iceberg really. I am hoping it helps and if you want to do your part in helping please add to this by commenting below. 

Disclaimer: I have not shared any links as this is not for advertising purposes, if you need details or would like to know more please get in touch.