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Vancouver Guides: An inside scoop of Vancouver's Arts & Culture scene

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DH Vancouver Staff Jan 28, 2015 9:35 am

Born in Cloverdale, Graeme Berglund is an artist and arts administrator in Vancouver, best known for his event The Cheaper Show, an annual arts event he co-founded in 2001 that promotes emerging artists in a uniquely inclusive manner. He has worked persistently in the arts in Vancouver for 15 years in many facets from curation to policy generation.

Graeme has a passion for cultural community development as well for making art. He shares a studio in Mt. Pleasant with the recognized national artists Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun and Shawn Hunt, and he also serves as an Art Buying Consultant, given his extensive experience in the market, along with Jamie Smith and Elliat Albrecht.

He’s well versed in the current arts and cultural scene in Vancouver and has shared with us his love for the city, some thoughts around the art community and a mini city guide of his favourite galleries and hangout spots.

What do you like the most about living in Vancouver?

Vancouver is the biggest small town on earth; it’s actually challenging to meet someone that doesn’t know 30 of your friends. In that, it’s a town that is remarkably easy to impact, as word travels fast. People are hungry for culture here as we collectively establish our own distinctions. Every third person you meet here is an entrepreneur, many within the social space.

The exponential growth over the last 10 to 20 years has been phenomenal to watch, for the positive and the negative. There are platitudes of us being a fairly cold city socially, but it’s pretty easy to cut through to immediate warmth with a single hello.

As an artist, how do you see the local arts scene?

Geographically locked, there really seems to be something in the water here, and at this point it’s not bitumen. Some of the most successful artists in Canada in the last 30 years hailing from the Eastside continue to have profound influence on the emerging art scene. From Rodney Graham, Jeff Wall, and Stan Douglas, to ECUAD instructor Elizabeth Macintosh, ideals and modes of art generation have infected the minds of the youth and much of the work is iterative of these aesthetic and intellectual notions.

Further, the rather stale state of the art economy has artists creating work well outside of the aspirations of commercial ideals you may find in a more established art city. This allows for a distinct convulsive approach to art practice and display. Often there are nights mid week with five openings.

What do you think it is still missing?

I’d like to see some greater tax incentives for art galleries and other cultural spaces. The corridor of Main & Cambie and 2nd & Broadway (and other pocketed areas) should have a re-haul on usage and zoning for turning this warehouse district into a diverse cultural district. Stringent building codes need to be changed so we can give our local architects something to work with. There should be a greater visible means of celebrating our relations to the Native people who have lived here for thousands of years outside of just souvenirs and Stanley Park totems. I could go on.

This is Graeme’s list of favorite galleries in Vancouver and places to go for a drink, for dinner or to keep it mellow with friends. Check the map below to discover his selection and you can also save this list clicking on the SAVE icon right beside the heart.

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Which are your favourite galleries in the city?

  • WAAP – Wil Aballe is a great personality in this city for his curatorial vision and for his earnestness of hosting some of the best national shows in his living room/kitchen. I met Wil ten years ago at Dadabase and was immediately taken with his extraordinarily keen interest in Vancouver art, it has only grown since.
  • Sunset Terrace – Zeitgeisty kids shitting gold flecked shit all the live long day. Very smart model of a studio/gallery space; always worth a trip up the hill to see their exhibitions.
  • Field Contemporary – Very new, but posting some strong ideas straight out of the gate. Daniel is willing to look beyond Vancouver to bring in some relevant talent that is creating an interesting dialogue between local and international artists.
  • Other high points – CSA Space, Grunt Gallery, Avenue Gallery, Monte Clark

Your favourite places to hangout with your friends?

  • Brassneck – Founded by former boxer Nigel Springthorpe, they have a great interior (like a shed designed by Michel Gondry) and a steady rotation of unique small batch beers, including one brewed with Cap’n Crunch.
  • Six Acres – Triumphantly protected by the statue of Gassy Jack, this place is an authentic cornerstone in Tourista-ville. I think it generally goes unnoticed but owner, Corben ______ has been personally making the mixtapes for this place for years and the music is incredible. 2nd best chicken wings in the city.
  • The Diamond – It’s kinda bougie enough to deflect most people I hang out with, but as far as cocktails are concerned they on completely on point with the classics and some new imbibables. If you catch a window seat when the sunset is crashing on the cobblestone, you’ve got some good pre-drinks in motion.

Three bars/nightlife spots

  • The Projectionist Room – New joint above The Fox. Cut Scene: LA 1983, you’re in a B movie with a grip of hack actors, David Lynch’s hand is steadily moving up your thigh. I’ll take a Boulevardier, and this lady will have a vodka soda.
  • The Brixton – Searing psych/metal, hot flatbread, cold Snakebites – just wish someone would throw a rock through the TV. Archeologists would have a heyday with that washroom on the left.
  • Index Gallery – Because it’s an “installation, with plants”. You want a guy like Ken Tsui to serve you drinks forever. Patrick Campbell did this place right. I can’t immediately correlate it with the atmosphere of another city. It feels very Vancouver, Eastside. Most nights go later than many sleepovers, and it’s worth the sore jaw.

Your top three restaurants in the city?

  • Josh Pape’s Wildebeest – Eat like the Flintstones in a Gastown loft.
  • Shira Blustein’s Acorn has a veggie central menu that is a salubrious and mouthwatering break away from greezy carbs and meatsicles available elsewhere. A hit for every carnivore I’ve dragged in there.
  • Tannis Ling’s Bao Bei is easily one of my favorites for its dead simple Chinese home cooked cuisine and its distinct sense of Eastern ambience (an early touch point of Craig Stanghetta’s design). An authentic extension of a disappearing Chinatown. When friends visit from out of town, this is usually the first stop.

Favorite coffee shop?

Gene. The hipster aquarium of Mt Pleasant. Great coffee. Croissants forged by God. Lovely weirdo staff. Two blocks from home and studio.

A place you can’t stop going to?

No man is an island, but if I was, I would choose Beer Island.

A must do in Vancouver?

Leave; it is a crime to live this close to the mountains and not get up in them and cruise yourself. Don’t do it for Instagram, do it for your soul, bruh.


‘Vancouver Guides’ is an exclusive series of interviews created by Hayo Magazine for Vancity Buzz to discover the city through the eyes of its people. We have selected personalities from various disciplines to show us what Vancouver is like for them.

Feature image: Sydney Gregoire

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DH Vancouver Staff
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