Hop on the Contemporary Art Bandwagon to Chinatown

Artists run the centres and galleries you’ll visit as part of the Surrey Art Gallery’s bus tour

Installation image of Lam Wong’s Mind in Transition at Canton-sardine. (submitted)

For only $39.00, a contemporary art bus tour hosted by the Surrey Art Gallery can whisk you away to studios around Vancouver’s Historic Chinatown.

Your day begins at 9:00 a.m., Feb. 27, with a probably much needed coffee before SAG Curator Jordan Strom and Interpretive Programmer Cecily Nicholson guide you around the city until 3:00 p.m.

“Initially we were looking at Chinatown and some other galleries around the East-Side of Downtown Vancouver because there are so many galleries between Gastown and Commercial Drive and throughout the downtown core, but we decided to focus right in on Chinatown because there’s so much going on there,” says Strom. “The historic neighborhood of Chinatown is so important to the history of where we live and it’s so important culturally as well.”

The first leg of the tour is around the BC Artscape Sun Wah building, which strives to provide affordable rental space to cultural organizations and artists who are engaged in the surrounding communities. The tour will swing by SUM Gallery, the heart of the organization behind the Queer Arts Festival.

Next up is Centre A, the leading public art gallery for Asian art. Canton-sardine will follow, and finally, the tour will take you to 221A Gallery and the Pollyanna Library.

According to Strom, mitigating and contributing to gentrification will be a topic of discussion between tour-goers, gallerists, and curators. He says that galleries like 221A have been “very conscious” of the influx of art spaces popping up around the neighborhood.

“It’s certainly part of the conversation and we hope to hear more about what is being done to be part of the solution rather than be part of the problem,” he says.

The demographic for these events tends to be people who are retired or working part-time and, as such, available during the day. The experience, however, could prove valuable for post-secondary students, even outside of the faculty of fine arts. It offers a chance to network with others who share a passion for the arts and a curiosity for the community, or who just want to get to know the culture of their city in a safe space.

The program was encouraged by the Surrey Art Gallery Association, which is the non-profit partner of the SAG.

“We really liked the idea because it encourages people to be curious about art and, by extension, the world around them,” says Strom. “We are very interested in fostering interest and supporting people’s interest in contemporary art. That’s part of our mission.”

As curator, Strom is particularly excited about the bus tour. He’s looking forward to meeting with and discussing the work of artists and gallery directors who may be outside the SAG’s usual scope. It is his opinion that hearing directly from these institutions may be stimulating enough to for participants to encourage them to return.

“Chinatown is an exciting place for art right now, so I think our guests and people who join us on the tour will really like it,” he says. “Come out and visit. Meet other people who are interested in art!”

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