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Vancouver artists turn rented van into roving art gallery

Lack of affordable studio space forces artistic couple to get creative
Kent Lins and Sandy Buck are taking their art show on the road. Photo Dan Toulgoet
Kent Lins and Sally Buck are taking their art show on the road. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Kent Lins and Sally Buck were pretty stoked to have their work in any way associated with the Vancouver Art Gallery.

It’s safe to say most part-time artists would as well.

Their work, however, wasn’t actually in the gallery, nor was it even displayed on the gallery grounds. Instead, their art — photos and videos — was rolled out to the public adjacent to the gallery through the side door of a rented van.

Their travelling exhibit will continue to operate in that way for the foreseeable future.

That’s because the cash needed to house the couple’s art was so far out of reach, they had to get creative beyond filters, colours and angles.

Enter Van Galleries.

“A lot of people are talking about leaving the city,” Lins told the Courier Friday. “A lot of people are looking at this as having potential for this to become a bigger thing where there are more van galleries showing art locally. But is it really a solution to the problem? I don’t think so.”

Lins and Buck are taking part in the this month’s Capture Photography Festival, which features works from scores of photographers at dozens of galleries across Vancouver and the region.

The pair scoured spaces last fall to find a home for their current exhibit but couldn’t find any viable options. The dwindling amount of art space was one thing, but the costs were altogether prohibitive: $800 a night in some cases.

“We have a lot of artists friends of different generations who when we’re on walks with them around the city, they’ll say, ‘That used to be my studio up there,’” Buck said. “What they’re pointing at is now a luxury condo. With each year, the change is exponential.”

The duo approached Capture organizers with their plight and were given the blessing to go the roving route. They’ve since displayed each weekend this month outside the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery, near the Equinox and Monte Clark galleries and at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Where they end up this weekend depends on the weather.

The irony is not lost on the pair that they’ve previously found affordable display space in more populated locales — New York City, Toronto or Montreal — but are stymied in their hometown.

“Other artists in the city are experiencing similar things,” Buck said. “They’re great people, they have great ideas, they think with a lot of imagination about solving every problem that they encounter. That’s their approach to life, but this is a tricky one.” 

The pair has reached out to the city’s bylaw department to make sure what they’re doing is above board and were given the green light.

So with friends leaving for cheaper cities and a squeeze on arts space, why not leave Vancouver altogether like so many of their contemporaries have?

“We are urban people,” Lins said. “We just love being in a big city and having all the culture, so to move to someplace else, it has to be a big city. All big cities are struggling with the same thing. Housing is a commodity, investors are taking over the cities and playing around with the numbers. People are just struggling.”


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