Mandate, Mission, and Methods
The mandate of the Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society (VACS) is to widen public engagement with contemporary art free from the restrictions of the market imperative. We do this primarily through programs that build cross-cultural resilience in communities through art, and by promoting the work of established and emerging artists within these communities. Our programs are designed to build lasting, supportive, symbiotic networks between artists and communities. In this way, artists can more easily survive beyond the pressures of the commercial world, and communities can develop healthy relationships with art, building self-esteem and a sense of belonging. Toward this end, VACS allows and encourages community members to make art themselves. And by opening up opportunities for them to participate in creating art, mentored by professional artists, we break down some of the barriers that separate people from contemporary art and from each other. We focus on contemporary art, since contemporary practice requires the audience to do some of the work of creative interpretation – to become, in a sense, co-creators.
VACS holds that anyone can be creative, regardless of their background, so long as they have the resources available. In fulfilling our mandate, our mission is to make space, tools, motivation, and community available for people to experience contemporary art as audiences and as creators, across cultural, financial, disciplinary, linguistic, gender, disability-based, and generational boundaries.
As an essential part of this mission, we try to ensure that members of marginalized communities in Vancouver have access to cultural opportunities for artistic self-discovery. Our programs are heavily intergenerational and intercultural, and utilize untapped public and private spaces. The objective is to develop inclusive communities of cultural exchange with more culturally diverse points of view. We pursue this objective not only to expand the cultural resources of isolated groups, but to expand the cultural resources of local contemporary artists by giving them access to different ways of interpreting the world, enriching their creative process.
We also strongly believe in art as a means of change. Art evokes empathy, and empathy leads to action. We recognize art as not just an abstract way to pursue aesthetic pleasure, but as a way to see oneself and the world differently. Vancouver is considered a "lonely city" by sociologists, because of its rapid growth, mobile population, different language groups, and other factors that inhibit community formation. At VACS, we visualize a future where the city's inhabitants can discover and create ways to transform themselves and their city to grow new connections between people. By reaching across social boundaries to share personal and creative struggles, we not only reveal the illusory nature of some societal constructs based on differences, but we release the forces of social change. And one of the social changes we try to promote is to grow increased public support for the arts to ignite the imagination, instil the long arc of joy, and inspire the next generation of future leaders.