Artrepreneur: All Art and No Sandwich

It’s 8:30 p.m.

I’m driving Scott Marsden, curator of The Reach Gallery, in Abbotsford, and erstwhile curator at the Yukon Arts Centre, back to his hotel. He wants to catch the dining room before it closes at 9.

That’s when I learn he hasn’t even eaten lunch yet.

“I went to get a coffee and I just kept running into people to talk to.”

Marsden packed a lot of networking into his four-day return to the territory, if not a lot of lunch. It’s his first trip back to the territory since he left two years ago.

He chatted with lots of Whitehorse folks about The Reach, this new gallery he’s curating. He’s been involved in creating it from the ground up. The gallery opened in September.

But it’s not just a gallery.

The Reach, in Abbotsford, combines a public gallery, a museum and archives. The gallery and museum display spaces are combined in one “great hall”. The four walls are the only permanent fixture.

The gallery is equipped with “tall walls” of 19 feet that can be set up wherever they’re needed in the gallery. The museum cases can be moved around. A “Unistrut” comes down from the 30-foot ceiling, with plugs in it so that track lighting can be positioned wherever it’s desired.

In this great hall, the museum and gallery shows intermingle and talk to each other. Currently the museum is featuring a show about the StÓ:lÔ Nation (pronounced sto-lo) and the Indo-Canadian community, the region’s First Nation and largest non-European group, respectively.

Marsden wants to create opportunities for dialogues like this in his curatorial practice. He’s excited by the possibilities of combining the museum and art gallery functions. The Reach is the only organization to do this, so far, that he knows of.

Another curatorial interest Marsden is pursuing is “Cascadia”, the eco-region that runs from Oregon to Alaska. He’s aiming to pair artists from different areas of the region whose work can “talk to each other”, opening interesting dialogues with his museum programming and with each other. By means of these shows, Marsden will explore the “visual and material cultures” of this region.

Marsden is interested in both art and craft. “I don’t draw a distinction between them.” That’s part of the “material culture” his position gives him licence to investigate through both museum and gallery programming.

As his first foray into portraying the art of Cascadia, Marsden will present a show of 20 artists selected from the Yukon Artists @ Work Co-operative, this summer. I was working with him on co-ordinating this show.

Through What’s going on up there? the Yukon Artists @ Work Co-operative, Marsden aims to give the people of the Fraser Valley a taste of Yukon landscape and character. He selected work with an eye to presenting the “diversity of materials and practice” in the group’s showcases.

He’s also interested in Yukon Artists @ Work as a social organization.

Its unique role in the Yukon arts community, as a self-supporting co-operative entity, intrigues him. He thinks the organization is an example of “true Yukon grit”. An artist talk, which will include a short history of the organization, will take place before the opening.

The show will also occasion a mini “Yukon Arts Festival”. Eight artists, whose work is in the show, will travel to Abbotsford to conduct interactive demos of their various media, with the Abbotsford public, the weekend after the opening June 5 to 7. The week before the show, Kim Barlow and the band, Annie Lou, will play in Abbotsford. On June 5 and 6, Marsden hopes to also screen short films by Yukon filmmakers.

The Touring Arts Fund of the Yukon Arts Branch will help defray the costs of bringing What’s going on up there? and eight of its artists to Abbotsford for this festival.

Marsden also aims to pair the work of Yukon artists with artists from other regions of Cascadia, for future shows.

Check out their site at for more information.

And believe it or not, this trip was “downtime” for Marsden. He’s working on his PhD in Arts Education at the University of Victoria at the same time as working full-time at The Reach. His courses (that he’s both taking and teaching) wrapped up for the year, so he came up to Whitehorse for a kind of break – but not a sandwich. Maybe he never eats lunch …

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