Art Downtown is relatively unique within the local Vancouver art scene. It is an outdoor art exhibition, lasting from early July to late September that invites people to walk around and experience artists from across the province.
If you were to go to a gallery or a similar art fair, you would likely be paying for the experience. Not this one.
Marlene Ferhatoglu, project manager with the Vancouver Visual Art Foundation, the organization that created and runs Art Downtown says that the experience is free, but it is full of more than just art.
“I would describe it as an outdoor art fair where people from all over B.C. whether they are tourists or live in the city can come down and enjoy art, interact with artists, listen to live music, maybe even dance,” she says. “We have demonstration areas they can try out. It’s mostly just a way for people to connect to artists in the community and learn and grow from that."
The success of Art Downtown over its short history has been remarkable, especially when it is considered that it was introduced to the city during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I always find the success is the returning artists and the new artists that join because of word of mouth. And even the people in public. We get emails, ‘When will Art Downtown return?’ And that just really excites me that people remember Art Downtown from previous years. And they’re excited for it,” Marlene says.
Returning artists say they enjoy the season-long fair because they are able to get outside and enjoy the Vancouver summer while still being involved in their careers and passion.
Outdoor visual art shows were scarce in the city before Art Downtown. But Marlene says that since they started, they have noticed others popping up.
“Over the past few years, we’ve even seen more outdoor art opportunities for artists…and it’s just growing and growing.”
For new artists, it has been word of mouth that has attracted them. Returning artists also get the opportunity to grow their community. Walk around Lot 19 during the exhibition, and you will see the artists interacting with each other just as much as they do with the art-loving public.
Marlene says many new artists want to be a part of that sense of comradery.
And when it comes to the public, give British Columbians an excuse to be outdoors in the summer and they will take it. But continue to show up each year, and they will grow to expect it.
Art Downtown returns next year at Lot 19 in downtown Vancouver.
By Nathan Durec