Canadian artist-run centres

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Canadian artist-run centres (ARC or ARCs) are galleries and art spaces developed by artists in Canada since the 1960s. Artist-run centre is the common term of use for artist-initiated and managed organizations in Canada. Most centres follow the not-for-profit arts organization model, do not charge admission fees, pay artists for their contributions (exhibitions, presentations, performances) are non-commercial and de-emphasize the selling of artwork.


The centres were created originally in response to a lack of opportunity to present contemporary work in Canada and a desire to network with other artists nationally and internationally.[1] In the 1990s there were over 100 artist-run centres across Canada. Today there are at least 60 artist-run centres with continuous operating funding.

Similar artist-run organizations have been developed worldwide. In the US, they are commonly identified by the term artist-run space and in Australia by the term artist-run initiative (ARI).


Each artist-run centre has a unique program, but most present contemporary art by Canadian and international artists, often in combination with critical writing and other public events such as lectures, performances, screenings, etc. The centres have tended to focus on emerging artists and artists working outside the commercial gallery system. Some centres have been developed to support creative production, particular in the areas of video, new media, photography and printmaking.



The primary source of funding for artist-run centres is the Canada Council which has a specific program of two-year operating support for artist-run centres. Most centres also receive funding from the Provincial governments, most of which have an arts council to financially assist individual artists and arts organizations. Centres may also receive funding from their local municipal or city governments. Centres sometimes will secure funding for specific projects from corporations that manage lottery earnings or public and private foundations. Centres have tended not to pursue individual sponsors or patrons, neither corporations nor individuals, in part because they are in a critical relationship with the traditional and established art system of museums which have the resources to pursue that type of support.

Support for artists[edit]

Artist-run centres create opportunities for artists to present their work. Centres typically accept submissions openly and make selections by a peer jury process although some centres also use curators to select projects. Centres provide a venue but also help the artist to install the work and will often facilitate the creation of a critical text published in conjunction with the exhibition. Centres will also promote the exhibition or presentation.

Canadian artist-run centres are committed to the principle of paying artists for the exhibition or presentation of their work. Indeed, centres are required to do so if they receive funding from the Canada Council.[citation needed] A recommended schedule of payment is provided by Canadian Artists Representation (CARFAC), an artists advocacy group.


Artist-run centres advocate an artist-centric approach, promoting artists self-determination of what to present and how to present it. This approach has widely influenced the contemporary art scene.[citation needed]

The artist-run centres are collectively represented by associations formed by region or constituency, which associations are themselves represented by a national association. These associations advocate on behalf of their centre members on issues of public policy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bronson, AA "The Humiliation of the Bureaucrat: Artist-Run Centres as Museums by Artists." Museums by Artists. AA Bronson and Peggy Gale, eds. Art Metropole, Toronto 1983.


  • Bonin, Vincent, ed. "Documentary Protocols/Protocoles Documentaires (1967–1975)." Montreal: Galerie Leonard et Bina Ellen Gallery, 2010. ISBN 978-2920394810
  • Bronson, AA, ed. "From Sea to Shining Sea: Chronology of Artist-Initiated Activities in Canada 1939–1987." Toronto: Power Plant, 1987. ISBN 0921047207
  • Bronson, AA "The Humiliation of the Bureaucrat: Artist-Run Centres as Museums by Artists." Museums by Artists. AA Bronson and Peggy Gale, eds. Art Metropole, Toronto 1983. pp. 29–37. ISBN 0-920956-13-0
  • Khonsary, Jeff and Kristina Podesva, eds. Institutions by Artists: Volume One Vancouver: Fillip Editions and the Pacific Association of Artist Run Centres, 2012. ISBN 978-1-927354-02-5
  • Wallace, Keith "A Particular History of Artist-Run Centres in Vancouver." Vancouver Anthology 2nd Edition. Stan Douglas ed. Or Gallery, Talon Books, Vancouver 2011. pp. 29–51. ISBN 978-0-88922-614-2
  • O’Brian, Melanie, ed. "Vancouver Art & Economies." Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press and Artspeak, 2007. ISBN 978-1551522142
  • Tuer, Dot. "Mining the Media Archive: Essays on Art, Technology, and Cultural Resistance." Toronto: YYZ Books, 2005. ISBN 0920397352

External links[edit]