There is something about creating opportunities for yourself that is supremely satisfying. It's even more gratifying when your creation inspires similar events and continues to enrich the community after 20 years.
That's the pride Pnina Granirer, co-founder of Artists in Our Midst, feels.
"There are certain things that you cannot do in the arts without grants," said the visual artist who in 1998 saw a 40-year retrospective of her work at the Richmond Art Gallery. "But there are certain things you can. And let's prove that we can help ourselves, we don't always have to beg for money."
The 20th annual event where West Side artists open their studios and homes to the public happens May 19 to 21. An exhibit and birthday party at the Roundhouse Community Centre, May 16, precedes the openings.
During a 10-month stay in Paris in the early 1990s, Granirer saw an "extraordinary" event in the Bastille district. Hundreds of artists threw open their studio doors for a week, and the city mounted an accompanying art exhibition and issued a high-quality catalogue.
Inspired, Granirer approached her painter friend Anne Adams, who lived a few blocks away from her in Point Grey, and suggested they mount a similar, small-scale communitybased event in Vancouver.
The Eastside Culture Crawl and The Drift on Main Street didn't exist then.
Granirer and Adams, who passed away a few years ago, convinced the Courier to feature their call for artists and they heard from 30 or so wannabe participants. The first events happened over three weekends in three communities, Point Grey, Kitsilano and Dunbar-Kerrisdale. It rotated weekends each year to keep the event democratic and the staggered timing allowed the artists to meet those from adjacent neighbourhoods and check out one another's work.
Granirer and Adams insisted that artists display their work in their homes.
"We wanted it to have a community aspect. We have enough shows in galleries and museums; it's always an impersonal space. There's also this kind of fear of the art," she said. "So we wanted to take this away. We're people like everybody else and come and enjoy what we're doing."
She's particularly enjoyed visits from children who've accompanied their parents over the years. "You should see what children ask, and they have opinions," the 77-year-old said. "That's really wonderful because we want to have art lovers in the future."
Artists in Our Midst starts with an opening exhibit and sale that includes work of all of the participating arts. Art aficionados can determine which studios they most want to visit and plan their routes with the help of brochures that are distributed to libraries and community centres citywide prior to the event.
Studio openings have now been condensed into one weekend with 52 artists and work that includes paintings, ceramics, jewelry and photography.
Merchants along West 10th Avenue also display artwork in their windows."The street becomes a gallery," Granirer said.
Artists in Our Midst offers volunteer artist residencies and artists program at Byng Arts Mini School and it includes emerging artists in its main exhibition. The group has been hosting Philosopher's Art Cafes at the school for five years.
Artists in Our Midst offers a "different flavour" than the popular Eastside Culture Crawl, Granirer says, but she doesn't understand why some malign Artists in Our Midst for exhibiting the work of middle class artists.
"We all have to live somewhere," she said, noting some participants work in the crawl's popular destination, Parker Street Studios.
Granirer notes the crawl runs with more funding and less organizational blood, sweat and tears from the artists, which has its drawbacks.
"In our group now, we have artists from all over and many of them are new in Vancouver. We have two Iranian women, a young man from Spain, French people, it's a very eclectic group, and they've found community," she said. "The fact that we were on teams together and worked together on committees brings you closer together."
She's pleased with the legacy she and Adams created with Artists in Our Midst."It has a very human aspect and that's what I like about it," Granirer said.
The exhibit runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 181 Roundhouse Mews. The reception begins at 7 p.m. with birthday cake from T Room on West 10th Avenue at 7: 30. Studios open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 19 to 21. For more information, including maps, see artistsinourmidst.com.
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