The Surreyalists’ Big Little Art Show steps outside the classroom

By Kristi Alexandra
[culture editor]

Since their solidification in Fall 2010, the Surreyalists have done a lot to boost exposure for student art.
The group, which operates as the sole collective for Kwantlen fine arts students, started off with a meagre 13 members. After having put on a few small shows in the Kwantlen community, as well as the larger scale Psychologically There exhibition in Gastown in early June, the members have been multiplying.

The Surreyalists’ newest exhibition, the Big Little Art Show, aims to gain even more exposure for the growing bunch, this time featuring over 60 pieces of art that will be displayed on 8×8 and 12×12 canvasses in the Arbutus Gallery on Surrey campus. Chelsea Lawrick, who co-chairs the group alongside Andrés Salaz, says she got the concept for The Big Little Art Show from the North Vancouver Arts Council.

“The North Van Arts Council does this thing every year called the Anonymous Art Show, and what they do is take 8×8 pieces and everyone makes their own piece. They line the walls and you can’t have your name shown,” she explains. “The whole idea is you buy this art and you don’t know who did it, but it’s all priced at the same price point.”

The Anonymous Art Show’s price point is a solid $200 for each painting, with half of the money going to the arts council and the other half going to the artist. The Surreyalists’ prices are a tad more modest, starting at a minimum donation of $40 for the smaller canvasses and $60 for the larger ones.

“I just like the visual impact of a show where everything is the same size, on the same grid but everything is so different,” says Lawrick. “I thought ‘hey, that would be cool for us to do as a fundraiser.’”

In the past, bake sales have done just fine for the arts students — especially in helping with paying for the Psychologically There exhibition that was held off-campus. Lawrick laughs when considering she “didn’t know people wanted cookies so badly.”

The off-campus show was a huge success in terms of exposure, and helped affirm the goals of the arts collective.
“We had a lot of foot traffic. It’s [the old Access Gallery, 206 Carrall Street] right in the middle of Gastown so it wasn’t just people who were invited and it wasn’t one of those things where you’d have to climb stairs to find, it was just people would see it and come in. The opening was more successful than any of us could have imagined. I don’t think there was an official count but it was a crazy amount of people and we were all so happy to have people packed into our space and wanting to see art,” Lawrick beams.

“It was cool to think we were just a school group and it was neat to see people out there and taking themselves seriously and really being like ‘we’re going to do this, we’re not just a school group, we’re going to do this in real life, too’ so it was neat to do the show off-campus. That was a huge deal for us.”

Though the current exhibition will be focused on campus, The Surreyalists see stepping outside of the classroom to create art as a huge feat in itself.
“I think it’s neat when people want to do work that’s outside of the classes,” Lawrick says of the upcoming Big Little Art Show, and the collective in general. “When you’re in school, I think sometimes you get stuck on the idea that ‘I’m just going to school,’ so I thought it would be neat for people to have the opportunity to do something outside of school and display it for something that’s outside of the classroom.”

The only blip in an otherwise seamless art show and sale is convincing penny-pinching students to cough up their cash. On the same token, it can be hard to convince an artist to give up their work for such a small pittance. But the collective is looking at it fairly positively.

“We’ve had moments of ‘how do we approach that?’” Lawrick admits. “In a way, of course I don’t want to give something away $40 because in the end, 50 per cent goes to the collective and 50 per cent goes to the artist, so you’re not really making any money. I think people are looking at it like they’re donating their time to the collective rather than making a profound art piece that they need to sell for $1000.”

And for the frugal student, $40 isn’t really too much when put in perspective.
“We’re looking at it as gift-buying opportunity as well. It’s personal,” she says. “It doesn’t need to be for your bedroom, it can be for  your mom or your sister, you know what I mean? It aligns really well with the holidays.”

You can purchase art from The Big Little Art Show from 1-4 on Nov. 21 to Nov. 25.
The opening reception will be held at the Arbutus Gallery on Surrey campus from 1-4 on Monday, Nov. 21. There will be tea and cupcakes by donation.

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