Nanaimo has taken off with a new creative energy in the last few years. The growing popularity of live art events, new artist groups and organizations, and, most importantly, VIU’s introduction of a Visual Arts Major with the expanded course selection, are just a few of the signs of the changing landscape. Inspired by these new opportunities for art production, The Navigator has taken a tour of Nanaimo’s art venues and assembled an incomplete, two-part list of places where artists of all ages and stages can show off the product of their sweat, tears, and talent. Part one looks at five art-friendly businesses in Nanaimo. They may differ in style, audience, nature of business, or quality standards, but all have the following: a venue to submit your art framed and hang-ready, accompanied with a name tag, price, and contact information.
Nanaimo Arts Council
The Nanaimo Arts Council (NAC), the central institution of Nanaimo’s arts community, runs a gallery and retail space in Nanaimo North Town Centre on Rutherford Rd. and offers exhibition opportunities to members as well as artists from outside the group. Every year, the gallery organizes member group shows, seasonal showcases with broad themes such as “Autumn Equinox” or “Bling Before Spring,” and a spring youth showcase for artists under 18 years of age. Their latest exhibition highlights the works of VIU students and alumni. NAC is also expanding its exhibition spaces to the Port Theatre and Nanaimo Conference Centre downtown, although these locations are still a work in progress.
While the North Town Centre gallery is a community space open “to all abilities,” NAC president Melanie Godel says works submitted to the two new spaces will have to meet the criteria set by a showcase committee regarding both quality and scale.
Regardless of the location, all works have to meet the standard requirements mentioned above. For more information, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The Vault Cafe
The Vault Cafe is a versatile spot for a range of leisure and cultural activities. Aside from hosting gatherings and live bands, the licensed café offers its stage to live painting shows, spoken word, or performance; and its olive green walls to paintings, photographs, projections, and small-scale sculptures.
Owner Amanda Scott also encourages artists to have solo exhibitions. “It’s something we want more of this year. It’s fun to give people a chance to meet the artist and make an event out of it.”
The Vault’s patio on the corner of Victoria Cres., Wallace St., and Albert St. can accommodate outside installations of weatherproof or weather-responsive art. “It would be nice to make the corner a little bit wacky,” Scott smiles.
The average show length is between three weeks and two months, “or until something else comes up,” Scott says. She has no preferences regarding the style or content, but if some works are louder and overbeat the antique decor, the café will have it on display for a shorter time period.
The Vault charges no commission, because they’re “happy to just have the art on the walls,” and accepts credit and debit card payments to promote the art sales. Works have to be hang-ready, and large heavy pieces must be equipped with wires. Scott also requires the artists to come and collect their works after the show to prevent damage in the very limited storage space.
Artists can message the café via The Vault Facebook page, call 778-441-2950, or walk in and speak to Scott who is happy to find the next suitable show date in her event book.
The Electric Umbrella
The Electric Umbrella Gallery and Tattoo is unique in terms of artistic focus and the amount of spotlight young artists can get in Nanaimo. Each month, the gallery showcases one artist in a professionally presented exhibition, bringing large crowds to opening nights. Solo shows sometime alternate with group exhibitions. Owner Russ Morland says the gallery’s main focus goes hand-in-hand with the skating and street art culture he endorses, which attracts a somewhat specific demographic. On the other hand, the tattoo studio exposes the artworks to a bigger audience who wouldn’t see it in a different location.
Artist Sean Anderson, the author of “After Fukushima,” a large scale mixed media exhibition which the Umbrella hosted in August 2013, says he is “a lot more comfortable to show there, because you’re working with people who have the same mindset and taste. And Russ is a good person to approach if you have a crazy idea—he’ll be open to everything.”
True to its lowbrow, underground approach, the gallery has very few requirements from the application package. Morland says all he needs to know about the artist is a sample of their work. No resume or application package is necessary.
The average waiting period is one year, but applicants may take advantage of ocassional openings when scheduled artists cancel. “No one knows for sure where they’re going to be in a year,” Morland concludes.
Studio 34, a fairly new gallery and workshop facility, will cheer up sculptors and creative minds with a weakness for street art. Hidden neatly under the Nicol St. side of the Firehouse Grill’s heritage brick building in downtown Nanaimo, the red-and-white-and-black door is hard to miss once you’re in the area. These are the flagship colours of Studio 34 owner Briant Faubert’s artistic style. They are also the main colours of paint dripped all over the wooden floor of the studio, which, according to Faubert, helps his guests and clients feel more comfortable with getting their hands dirty with art. The studio currently operates as a workshop, offering the space and tools for sculpture as well as affordable training classes in mold-making, metal work, and stone carving. Faubert also plans to reinvent Studio 34 as a community gallery space and facilitate weekly exhibitions in the front space in the middle of February.
Faubert has no stylistic preferences regarding subject matter, medium, or form because he “like[s] to see them all and provide the reasonable space,” but he will base his selection of artists on the merit of their work. Studio 34 makes no commission on sales, and Faubert is happy to give a helping hand on hanging and set up. He requires a portfolio of 20 images, artist statement and resume, and a $50 fee per week to cover the rent and expenses. Visit their website for contact information.
The Globe Hotel offers a diverse environment for diverse artwork. The venue hosts a range of music events from electronic club nights to punk concerts, as well as Latin dance classes and poetry slams. The foyer can accommodate painting or photography, the two stages provide space for a temporary display of three-dimensional work. It’s a perfect venue for projections or live painting in combination with music shows. Given the eclectic program, there are no requirements on the style, content, or artistic prowess.
“We like to ‘mix cliques,’” Boulter says. He prefers not to intervene in the installation and exhibition as long as laws and health and safety standards are met.
“I think full freedom is more what I’m going for, tempered by adherence to liquor laws and other legal restrictions,” he says.
Regarding the time period reserved for display, Boulter thinks in terms of hours rather than days or months. “Time limit? We have to shut off liquor at 1 am and have everyone out by 1:30,” he says. “We can’t open until 11 am. If we don’t have anything else, and someone wants to do something immediately or the next day, that is ok.”
Boulter says his experience with guest artists has been fantastic. He is happy to provide the outside patio for art installations as well but recommends that the artist choose weatherproof pieces.
Artists interested in exhibiting at The Globe can fill out the form online, pay a visit to him during his office hours at the Globe daily between 7 and 9 pm, or call 250-754-4592 between 2 and 5 pm.
Part two in issue 11 will outline a young artist’s options beyond businesses and membership-based art institutions—”guerilla” art, pop-up galleries, and underground venues.