Exploring Vibrant, Diverse Local Art in Vancouver

City Centre Artist Lodge, Photo: Gabriel Martins/VMF

Vancouver is a locus for talented artists who work in a wide range of mediums, experimenting with the exciting possibilities of creative expression. Its artist community is tightly knit, supported by the vibrant multiculturalism in the city that champions diverse ways of crafting meaning.

There are numerous ways to explore Vancouver’s local art, including larger art galleries, smaller studios, and lively art shows and festivals.

Art Galleries

Photo: Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG)

The city’s most prominent gallery is the Vancouver Art Gallery, located in the heart of downtown. The Vancouver Art Gallery is a multi-level space, which features a range of exhibitions, particularly focused on local art, Indigenous art, as well as art from Asia Pacific. Currently, they have four exhibitions: one on the work of Group of Seven Member J.E.H. MacDonald (until May 12, 2024); “Rooted Here: Woven from the Land” on four Salish weavers (until May 12, 2024); one on the legacy of Denyse Thomasos, a Trinidadian-Canadian artist (until April 1, 2024); and an exhibition on Emily Carr (until January 5, 2025).

Other top galleries include the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, which celebrates the lasting impact of the late Bill Reid, who melded traditional Haida artistic practices with contemporary techniques and aesthetic; the Contemporary Art Gallery, a public art gallery that specializes in contemporary art; Gastown’s Coastal Peoples Fine Arts Gallery, which showcases and sells Indigenous and Inuit art; Catriona Jeffries, a unique space for post-conceptual art; and North Vancouver’s Polygon Gallery, a gorgeous modern space at the waterfront, focusing on photography.

Beaumont Studios

Photo: Beaumont Studios

In addition to the larger galleries, Vancouver has a plethora of boutique galleries and smaller studios, which spotlight and bring together innovative artists and their work. The Beaumont Studios is a unique multi-purpose space opened by artist Jude Kusnierz, which functions as a site for artist studios, a venue for events, and a gallery. More than anything Kusnierz wanted a place where artists and small business owners could find community and support one another. The diversity of talent found within Beaumont Studios is impressive and includes pottery studios such as Rae Elta Pottery, Niamh O’Connor, and MIMOKO Ceramics; jewelry and watchmakers like Grace + Decay, The Dialed in Watchmaker, Sophie Spano, and Lunden Jewelry; and painters such as Doreen Finnegan, Lynda Davies, and Laura Zerebeski.

All sorts of other creatives also have made a home in Beaumont Studios, ranging from playwrights to those in music production. Events are equally as diverse, including hat-making with Marcia Martinez (February 26, 7-8:30pm); Artist Hangout Night (February 29, 7pm to 9pm, last Thursday of every month); and Neon Luminescence Life Drawing and Music (February 18, 4pm to 6pm; March 10, 5:15pm to 7:15pm; April 14, 7pm to 9pm).

Pacific Arts Market

Photo: Pacific Arts Market

Located in South Granville, Pacific Arts Market (PAM) is a recently expanded two-level space that features a gallery, seven working studios, as well as a market upstairs, where visitors can purchase goods crafted by local artists in a variety of mediums, such as leather goods, woodwork, photography, pottery, painting, and jewelry. Some noteworthy works for sale are prints by Indigenous artist Brad Henry, pendants by Linda J Shea (Little Bird Artisan Jewelry), and photographs of Vancouver and its surroundings by Gary Squire.

PAM also hosts lively and educational events and workshops, including A Night of Comedy (March 2 at 7pm), a Women’s Day Neon Paint Night (March 8, 2024 at 7pm), an International Women’s Day Art Fair (March 9, at 1pm), and Japanese Calligraphy (March 9, 1:30pm). Regular events include Open House Sundays (1pm to 5pm), Anyone Can Paint … with Ronn Martin (Saturdays, from 5 to 8pm), and Friday Night Fun! Sip ‘n’ Paint (7 to 9pm). Past events have ranged from Single & Mingle nights, to charity art auctions.

Granville Island Studios

Shira Gold and Amy Stewart studio; Photo: Tara Lee

In addition to an expansive public market, a Kids Market, great restaurants, numerous theatres for local productions, and plenty of shops for browsing, Granville Island contains numerous artist and artisan studios, which represent so many wonderful mediums, such as glass and metalwork, printmaking, pottery, sculpture, painting, fibre art, and woodworking. You could easily spend the whole day exploring Granville Island and its many studios.

Some highlights are Amy Stewart, an abstract artist who produces beautiful works that are both spare yet also evocative, often inspired by her relationship with her natural surroundings; Shira Gold, a photographer who creates richly textured works that play with light and colour; Banquet Atelier and Workshop, who specializes in screen printed prints, textiles, and stationary, as well as jewelry and clothing; New Leaf Editions, which offers collaborative printmaking; Studio 13 Fine Art, featuring the work of Skai Fowler and Alice Rich; and Art Works Wonder Studio, where Heather MacNeil engages in acrylic painting and mixed media work.

City Centre Artist Lodge

Paulo OConnor of Mnemonic Design Labs; Photo: Tara Lee

One of the most exciting artist and community-building projects is The City Centre Artist Lodge in Mount Pleasant. Formerly the City Centre Motor Hotel, the building has been transformed into 79 working spaces, offering low-cost studios, particularly for marginalized and underrepresented artists. The exterior features brightly eye-catching murals by Joon Lee, Fiona Ackerman, and K.C. Hall, curated and produced by the Vancouver Mural Festival (VMF).

The City Centre Artist Lodge houses over 100 artists, who you can make appointments to visit. Alternatively, some of them have an open-door policy when they’re in. You can also visit participating artists on First Saturdays, which are open studio days on the First Saturday of every month for studios across the city. Centre Centre features a north and a south building. In the south building, you’ll find artists like Lukas Lundberg, who specializes in vibrant murals and paintings of people and animals; Mallory Donen, who produces embroidery and digital art; Niki Brown, a floral and multimedia artist; Enigma Arcana, who does custom design; Elana Sigal, who creates jewelry, photography, and textiles; and Hayley Nicole Crichton of Happy Nomad Candles, who makes inventive candles. And in the north building, you’ll find Paulo OConnor of Mnemonic Design Labs, a visual design artist who plays with lines and shapes, notably in an Icons series of well-known Vancouver landmarks; and Tracy Anne Northey, a visual artists who produces both abstract and more realist art.

Parker Street Studios

Parker Street-Studios; Photo: Joshua Wright

East Van is a hive of artistic activity, happening in studios—both big and small—all across the neighbourhood. If you’re looking to visit the most studios in a short amount of time, definitely go visit the Parker Street Studios, which is home to over 200 artists who do their work in 110 studios. This former mattress factory is huge, with 4 levels for wandering around and getting to know artists. It’s very easy to get lost in this century-year-old building but you’ll always find something interesting as you make your through. Some studios are by appointment, others have an open-door policy when they’re creating, and others have designated hours for visitors. Many also participate in the First Saturday of the month open studio days.

There is certainly an abundance of talent at the Parker Street Studios, encompassing almost every medium imaginable, including woodwork, jewelry, button making, painting, printmaking, jewelry, photography, fibre arts, furniture restoration, and sculpture. Artists include Rachael Ashe, who specializes in paper-cutting and sculpting; Sung ah Cho, who does porcelain painting and visual art; and the photographer Jonathan Lee.

Art Festivals and Events

Vancouver has numerous events and festivals through the year to get to know its local art. February is Black History Month, with numerous happenings around the city to celebrate Black culture and stories past, present, and future. For example, the Vancouver Art Gallery is hosting three events: a film screening of All the Colours of the World Are Black and White, in partnership with VIFF (February 15, 6:30pm at VIFF Centre, Vancity Theatre); Beloved: Flower Crown Workshop with Poet in Residence Jillian Christmas, an Afro-Caribbean writer (February 16, 2pm); and Jillian Christmas in Conversation with David-George Morgan (February 16, 5:30pm).

Pacific Arts Market is celebrating Black History Month from now until February 25. Each weekend (e.g., February 10, 17, 24) will feature special events, such as exhibitions, live performances, poetry readings, speakers, and workshops. As well, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) is holding an event called Afrofuturism and the Black Speculative Arts Movement (February 15, 7pm and February 16, 4:30pm), which involves a tour with Ethọ́s Lab creative directors Jazz Groden-Gilchrist and Olúwáṣọlá Kẹ́hìndé Olówó-Aké, and MOA Curator Nuno Porto. Ethọ́s Lab and MOA are partnering for a creative arts and science project.

Other ways to get to know Vancouver’s art scene include First Saturday Open Studios; The Lantern City (until March 1, 2024, various locations), an annual public display of lanterns by local artists around the city; the Vancouver Mural Festival (VMF), held in August to celebrate murals in the city with a range of events and programming; the WMF Winter Arts Festival (February 22-27), which spotlights art, light, and storytelling; the Downtown Eastside’s Heart of the City Festival (usually in the fall), which has a visual arts component; Art Vancouver (April 11-14, 2024), a global art fair; the Queer Arts Festival, a transdisciplinary festival in June; the Eastside Culture Crawl, a huge open studio multi-day festival that takes place in November; and the Harmony Arts Festival, held in West Vancouver usually in August, which celebrates visual arts and music. Finally, Vancouver Foodster periodically hosts Art, Eat and Sip events during which attendees can eat, drink, and visit the studios of local artists of a particular neighbourhood.

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