SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) is a non-profit, artist-run centre in Canada dedicated to increasing the visibility of culturally diverse artists by curating and exhibiting their work, providing mentorship, facilitating professional development and creating a community for our artists. SAVAC was founded to be an organization staffed by people of colour, committed to support the work of artists of colour.
We promote self-representation by developing artistic practice that is often informed by cultural identity through a range of mediums, aesthetics, forms, and techniques. We support work that (in)directly addresses the ways histories of people of colour are represented alongside the story of ongoing colonialism on Turtle Island and post-colonial histories of the global south. These works are challenging, experimental and offer multifarious perspectives on the contemporary world.
For over 20 years, SAVAC has operated without a gallery space as an explicit, political choice. Instead, as a means of pushing diversity mandates within the Canadian arts ecology beyond the minimum, we partner with galleries, institutions and museums to integrate artists and curators of colour into the curatorial and programming practices of those institutions.
Canada has a unique history of artist-run culture, which began in the 1960s. For more information please check out the following resources:
- ARCCO (Artist-Run Centres and Collectives of Ontario)
- Canadian artist-run centres, Wikipedia
- Decentre: concerning artist-run culture | à propos de centres d’artists
- The Humiliation of the Bureaucrat: Artist-Run Centres as Museums by Artists, originally published in Museums by artists edited by AA Bronson and Peggy Gale. Art Metropole, Toronto 1983. (ISBN 0-92095-613-0) pages 29-37.
SAVAC maintains an open and inclusive definition of South Asian that is based in the complexities within the region itself, amongst the various diasporic communities in places like the Caribbean, Africa and South East Asia, and within diasporic populations in the South Asian region. Within the diaspora, notions of home and identity become as blurred and complicated as the concept of South Asia itself.
Given the complexity of South Asia, SAVAC is not limited by political boundaries drawn onto maps and resists the temptation of overdefining and being overdetermined by an a land mass whose borders have been persistently renegotiated. Instead, SAVAC prioritizes themes that relate to the historical and lived realities that people of colour have encountered over time.
Members of the SAVAC community don’t necessarily produce work that is solely influenced by fixed entities such as the nations and geographical regions from which their ancestors hailed, or by the ones in which they were born. Similarly, they don’t necessarily adhere to circumscribed notions of “culture” within their own communities or in society at large. The strength and vibrancy of their art lays in the multitude of individual histories–journeys that destabilize, and interrogate fixed notions of culture and identity.
Strategic Plan 2022-2025
Against the backdrop of its 25th anniversary, SAVAC will continue its mandate to not just support artists of colour, but to elevate and recognize the organization’s efforts and labour (visible and invisible) to make and hold space, advocate, name, and engage in sector-wide advocacy on issues that matter.
Reshape SAVAC’s relationship to and with community
How can SAVAC have a meaningful impact in our community?
- We will recommit to greater sector wide advocacy initiatives on social issues affecting artists of colour.
- We will focus on connecting with newcomers artists & continuing connection with local artists.
SAVAC celebrates its 25th year of existence. What has our role been as an identity based organization? How is our role changing within the contemporary political, social, and environmental context? Who is our audience?
- As part of the pandemic and post-pandemic transition and shift in programming, we aim to analyze who the audience used to be, who it is, and who we hope to reach.
- We will prioritize recognizing and implementing tools to measure, survey, and understand audiences and engagement.
How far can we push the envelope of what programming can be and how can it reflect our experimental way of thinking?
- We will integrate the relationships between artistic presentation, pedagogical programming and community organizing within our operations.
- We’re interested in running programs as playful and experimental artistic practice.
Review organization staffing and structure
How can running the organization be creative and flexible?
- We believe that experimental programming will need experimental staff structure.
- We will review the organization structure, we hope to critically examine the relationship between the Executive Director and the Artistic Director — past and present.
- We aim to find a balance between creating stable jobs that can adapt to the needs of working artists, researchers and curators.
How is SAVAC transitioning back to the workplace after multiple lockdowns?
- We will reevaluate how we feel and operate in the workplace by prioritizing the need to slow down and maintain nimbleness.
- With the quickly changing public health landscape in mind, we will be identifying what is needed in order to keep staff, guests, and the community safe. Knowing that there will be restrictions, SAVAC hopes to be able to identify what will be needed for the space, in conjunction with 401 Richmond, as well as for potential public events.
Secure funding streams to support healthy & sustainable infrastructure
How will SAVAC secure funding to help achieve initiatives?
- We will get approval for TAC multi-year funding.
- We will explore various and sustainable funding opportunities.
What does SAVAC plan on doing with increased funding?
- We are committed to increasing total compensation of existing roles. We want to create a new organisational standard!
Increase the governance capacity of the board
How can SAVAC be direct and transparent about our organizational values and how we implement them? What does the future of SAVAC’s board look like?
- We will further identify and clarify organizational roles on the board and staff through language, visualization and policy.
- We will present something that is tangible and explanatory to visibilize the work, the history, and the intentions of the organization.
- We will aim to build board capacity. In order to achieve this, intentional recruitment and retention will be a focus. Professional development as a means to support oneself as well as to meaningfully support the organization will be explored.
- The board will better support staff by getting organized and intentional and direct about board roles. We will be able to support our staff and alleviate staff workload.
The SAVAC annual reports contain detailed information about the organization, including past programming, operations and finances. Coinciding with our fiscal year, they cover the period from February 1 of each year through January 30 of the following year.