Vancouver painter John Ferrie argues that major real-estate developers are missing out on opportunities to support the work of smaller, local artists.
Ferrie said artists are often asked to submit proposals for art installations to be included in development projects, which can be required by the city’s zoning process.
But he claimed many of those requests are for large-scale, complex installations that can have budgets of over $100,000—factors that put them out of reach for many artists with limited resources.
“What they’re sending out is not attainable for an artist,” Ferrie told the Straight by phone. “It’s a design team that can do that kind of thing. And most artists are not a design team. But it all seems to fall under the umbrella of ‘we worked with an artist.’ It’s like, no you didn’t.”
Ferrie also complained about developers asking artists to provide artwork for free, in exchange for display space in presentation centres or condo developments.
“It’s just, you know, like, ‘Oh, we’ll show your work here and it’ll be great exposure for you,’ is kind of the key words that you get,” he said. “And it’s just like, ‘Oh, but there’s no pay.’ … Exposure doesn’t pay your rent, which is a jagged pill to swallow and I still keep a waitering job because I never know when a painting’s going to sell.”
What approach does Ferrie think developers should take?
“What I would like to see is, if in fact the City of Vancouver is saying, ‘You’ve got to work with artists,’ then go and find actual artists that are living and working in Vancouver, that can sign their work and put it on the wall and say, ‘This is what this is.’ And that’s actually working with an artist. Putting out these ridiculous proposals, you know, that are supposedly working within the artist community, is ridiculous.”
One developer who agrees with Ferrie is Payam Imani, president of Vancouver-based Imani Development.
As part of a 93-unit residential project on south Main Street, located in Ferrie’s neighbourhood, Imani commissioned the artist to create a painting of the building for $1,800. Imani is also looking to buy work from a handful of other local artists, even though he has not been mandated to do so by the city.
“We’re trying to get down to the grassroots artists,” Imani told the Straight by phone. “It’s the local, small, and not-so-business-savvy artists that we’re focusing on, to help them develop a little bit in the community.”
Ferrie’s vibrant acrylic painting is on display in the project’s sales centre on Main Street and will be installed in the development, which is expected to be finished in summer 2015.
For Ferrie, the commission may not exactly be a financial windfall, but the support makes a difference.
“Payam is a gem,” Ferrie said. “I wish that other people would follow his lead because this is the true way to work with an artist.”