Association for Non-Commercial Culture

Archives available at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver: Vancouver Association for Noncommercial Culture fonds. Information:;rad. The Vancouver Association for Noncommercial Culture formed out of the (N)oncommercial Gallery in 1986. It explored ideas of art, space, and community in a number of unique public art projects until its dissolution in 1998. In 1984, (N)oncommercial Gallery was opened as an independent artist-run space. It was funded by the directors and through private donations and staffed by volunteers. The mandate was to maintain a serious level of dialogue within the arts discipline while remaining attentive to the needs of the community. In the spring of 1986, the gallery closed and the founding artists, in conjunction with 8 others involved in the gallery officially formed the non-profit society, the Vancouver Association for Noncommercial Culture. The association was funded by private sector businesses through donations in kind and special accommodation of exhibits; the City of Vancouver through donation of space, and in 1992 from a City of Vancouver Cultural Grant; Canada Council Exhibition Assistance Program grants; and the financial and labour contributions of the directors and the association's members. The collective's members shared a commitment to nonhierarchical organizational strucutre, skill sharing, and to fostering a critical awareness of culture and the possibilities for social change. Rather than run a gallery in a fixed location and within a protected artistic milieu, the association worked on a series of projects aimed at opening up and/or reclaiming portions of the public sphere for commentary from its constituents. In this way, the association wanted to help reformulate the idea of public space, and whose interest it serves. In addition, they sought to explore what constitutes public audiences and their own positions as both culture workers and as members of those publics. To serve these interests, the association decided to focus on non-traditional forums for artistic activity. Projects undertaken by the association to meet their goals include "Objects of Labour" in November 1986, and exhibition about work and the workplace. From 1986 through 1988, the collective operated the "Window for Noncommercial Culture", a 24-hour lit viewing space in the urban core. The bus shelter project, "AdVerse Practises", was conceived as a way of further extending their mandate by using a private advertising venue in the public domain. The next project was "Urban Subjects", which ran from September to October 1988. It presented works installed in the commercial urban landscape lit and accessible 24 hours a day from the street. In 1989 the "Flyer Project" was undertaken, and consisted of a newsprint tabloid in which 16 artists from Vancouver's culturally diverse communities produced pages addressing the city's shifting residential demographics, communities and architectures. Other projects included "Private Addresses" in 1991 that consisted of works produced by 9 artists for outdoor residential locations, "Out of Place" in 1992 where works addressed the artists' personal perspectives regarding issues of dislocation, migration, visibility, and community. In 1993 and 1994, the association worked on "Benchmarks" and "Bench(re)marks" which featured rotating works by the association's artists on selected bus benches throughout the Lower Mainland. The association decided not to apply for Canada Council funding beyond 1996 as members withdrew to pursue educational and other interests. The remaining members chose as their last projects (and with the remaining funds) to create a video documenting the history of the association. Begun in 1996, the video, entitled "Non-Document", marked the end of the association, and was completed in 1998. (Source: Memory BC)