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.
Starting in September 2016, SAVAC undertook a comprehensive strategic planning process to envision the next three years of programming. Focusing on re-invigorating our mandate and clarifying our organizational identity, we outlined three areas for action: mentorship and outreach; funding and programming; and organizational infrastructure.
- Renew and build stronger relationships with existing membership
- Restructure forms of evaluation, communication and outreach
- Increase engagement and strengthen relationships to new and emerging racialized and diaspora artists, communities and arts communities
- Redefine membership to reflect community
- Develop award-winning programming
- Get approval for Toronto Arts Council multi-year funding
- Increase funding and budget allocation for programming initiatives
- Advocate for SAVAC and artist self-representation while building diverse and robust inter-disciplinary partnerships and programming (including outside visual arts)
- Improve and build clear internal agency policies and procedures that are transparent and well-documented and identify clear pathways for implementation
- Revisit mission, vision and values
- Establish a staff structure that is responsive to the organization’s resources and mandate
- Source and secure a location to house the organization
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.