What motivated you to work in the arts sector?
I’d studied art history and I spent about six years working overseas in the global, commercial art world in Hong Kong and Singapore. I moved back here just to be closer to family, I have two kids and one of them is getting to be school-aged. We wanted them to be close to family and to benefit from spending time in this part of the world.
The board at the time of Open Space approached me to take over as acting executive director. I was thrilled at the opportunity because as a student I used to volunteer here. In terms of the national arts ecology in Canada it’s one of the oldest and most significant artist-run centres in the country.
The artist-run-centre ‘movement’ you could say got started in the 60’s and 70’s and really helped shape the contemporary Canadian art scene. Open Space was founded in 1972 and we’ve been at the same space since then. Considering how much has changed in downtown Victoria over the years, that’s a rare thing. We’ve had the same phone number since 1972!
And what is the most rewarding part of the work?
In the context of Open Space, other than just mounting exhibitions, we’re completely interdisciplinary.
We support visual arts, literary, we do poetry readings and new music.
What we have going right now is our summer residency program where we support research for potential future projects.
So it’s rewarding to see the artists be able to execute all this but from a more selfish point of view, what I gain out of it is all this exposure and knowledge that I otherwise wouldn’t have had.
What’s been the most challenging thing that you’ve come across working here?
We’re a not-for-profit. In terms of our capacity we’re always fighting against that. We have good, stable funding, mostly from government sources, but we’re always wanting to do more. So that’s always a challenge.
Although I love being in this space, an old heritage building right downtown, the location is pretty amazing. But being on the second floor, we’re not as visible to the public in general or people who are not necessarily plugged into the art scene. And not to mention accessibility is an issue. The board is actively trying to figure out a solution to that.
Do you have a relationship with other galleries or artists downtown?
Absolutely. Victoria, being the size that it is, we have relationships with every arts organization you can imagine that’s in town. We’re part of an arts advocacy organization called Pro Arts Alliance, which advocates for the arts and culture sector. We sit at the table with everyone from organizations like the AGGV to the Intrepid Theatre to Pacific Opera.
Do you engage with the business community at all?
We’re always trying engage with the business community whether its in the form of sponsorships or just things like hosting events. We get our supplies from different places, keeping it local where we can.
Do you have favourite places downtown?
I’m often stuck to my desk, but we’re super lucky to have Picnic downstairs and Koto Sushi. I go there more often than I should! In terms of other arts organizations, I like the 50/50 arts collective on Douglas.
Is there anything you’d like people to know about Open Space?
We’re coming up on 50 years in 2022. At this point we’ve been around for quite a number of years in Victoria and now we’re trying to pivot towards a wider visibility and be known in the community at large.
We invite everyone to come to our openings or shows, or even just to come upstairs and say hi.
All our events are completely free. We put on concerts, poetry readings, artist talks and exhibitions.