What is an Artist Run Centre?

You've probably heard the term a lot: artist run centre - or, if you live in the US, artist run space, or artist run inititative in other countries - but what is an artist run centre? How does it differ from a regular art gallery? How does it benefit you as an artist?


The idea of artist-run centres started in the 1960’s, and since then, thousands of small institutions have been founded, built and run by artists and for artists all over the world. The biggest difference between commercial galleries and artist run centres is that ARC’s are non-proft arts organizations. What this means for the average visitor is that the centre will never charge admission fees, and for artist showing their work in the centre, there is much less of an emphasis on selling the works tthat are in a given exhibition.


A photo of the interior of 221a, an artist run centre in Vancouver, BC

Artist run centres were founded on the basis that artists needed more opportunities to network with other artists, as well as gallery owners, curators, writers, and other professionals in the art sphere. Because success as an artist is so dependant on making good connections, an organization that was built to help initiate and foster those connections was naturally a popualr idea.Showing your work in an environment that de-emphasizes sales can actually be a good thing for getting your foot in the door - it takes the pressure off both you and the gallery director, and can give you the exposure you need to get more shows, eventually leading to commissions or more sales of your work.


You can also volunteer at an artist run centre to get experience working behind the scenes in a gallery setting, and to get to know the artists and gallery workers who are helping keep the art scene alive in your neighbourhood.


Because they are non-profit organizations, artist run centres are usually founded by a combination of grants and donations from benefactors. In Canada, the Canada Council delivers a large chunk of the funding for artist-run centres. This monetary aid often comes in the form of a two-year funding grant. The organization has to keep applying for grants in order to stay open. Many artist run centres, particularly those that have been running for a few years, will offer small rewards packages for donations - donating is a good way to support your local art community.  


[image source]


Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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