John Wood and Paul Harrison, installation view from ‘I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW IT’, Contemporary Art Gallery, February 12 – April 24, 2016. Photography by SITE Photography

Exhibitions from the Archives | L.I.P. Service

Installation view from 'L.I.P. Service', Contemporary Art Gallery, July 11 - August 31, 2003. Photography by Althea Thauberger

This month for Exhibitions from the Archives, we return to 2003 when the Contemporary Art Gallery celebrated its 30th anniversary with the exhibition L.I.P. Service.

In the 1970s the Trudeau government started a new project that would be the first of its kind. The Local Initiatives Program (L.I.P.) was a new ambitious initiative lasting from 1971-1978 which allocated funding to be dispersed across Canada by local municipalities to grassroots employment projects, progressive programs and social, cultural and humanitarian enrichment. In Vancouver, led by civic planner Jonathan Baker, the city’s Social Planning Department was granted funds to pay artists a stipend of $100 per week to produce the “equivalent amount of artwork”; whatever interpretation might be drawn from this. Artists were invited to apply to City Hall to a standing committee made up of Baker, artist Jack Shadbolt, past Vancouver Art Gallery Director Tony Emery and architect Arthur Erickson.

Installation view from ‘L.I.P. Service’, Contemporary Art Gallery, July 11 – August 31, 2003. Photography by Althea Thauberger

Of those artists selected, there was agreement they would donate a work made during the scheme to the CIty of Vancouver to begin its first official collection. The project was a great success in engaging and supporting artists and soon, with the walls of City Hall full or some works donated unsuitable to hang due to media or scale rather than content, a space was needed to house the growing collection. What is now the Contemporary Art Gallery was born. Then called the Greater Vancouver Artist’s Gallery, this new informal space on Homer Street provided somewhere for artists to pick up and drop off their work, meet with one another and for the public to take a look at the growing collection. It was 1972 and this unique time of subsidizing artists’ work brought artists and citizens together allowing for important dialogues, networking and support within the Vancouver community to emerge. By 1973, after moving to 555 Hamilton Street, the gallery mounted its very first formal exhibition.

Fast forward to 2003 when CAG was now in our current building and its 30th anniversary prompted a reminder of this past government support for artists. The exhibition L.I.P. Service ran from July 11 to August 31, 2003 and featured a wide array of work reflecting the notional democratic support and reach of the initiative. Focusing on work made during and immediately after this initial L.I.P. era, CAG’s 30th anniversary exhibition included a selection of works from the City of Vancouver’s Art Collection by Liz Magor, Marian Penner Bancroft, Chick Rice, P. F. Rosenberg, Irene Smith, Judy Williams, Olga Froehlich, Leonard Brett, George Casprowitz, Wing Chow, Michael de Courcy, Robert J. Davidson, Chris Dahl, Bill Featherston, Richard Hambleton, Marken Joslin, Brian Lavery, Gary Lee-Nova and Glenn Lewis.

Installation view from ‘L.I.P. Service’, Contemporary Art Gallery, July 11 – August 31, 2003. Photography by Althea Thauberger

Described by the Vancouver Sun as “a rich cross-section of Vancouver’s art history — a heyday of bristling exuberance and creativity”, the show included paintings, printmaking, photographs, mixed media and sculpture, and across the façade of the gallery, installations of huge vintage photographs were installed in the window spaces. Photographs by Fred Rosenburg showed political protest on the courthouse steps and other candid captures of Vancouver history; Michael de Courcy’s conceptual photo-silkscreens involved the intermittent photographing of the Two Sisters mountains on the North Shore during a drive across Vancouver as well as the day-to-day bustle of the city in the 1970s; and as the Georgia Straight wrote, Liz Magor’s Spider Web Kit “quirkily anticipate[d] the profound feeling for materials that characterizes her contemporary, large-scale sculptures and installations”. In addition to the exhibition, a digital slideshow presented further works from the City of Vancouver Art Collection, showing the range and diversity produced during the era. Some of the L.I.P.-supported artists have since stopped making work entirely, while many are names we still know and celebrate to this day.

This post was written by Tianna Barton with research and images taken from the Contemporary Art Gallery archive.