A day at the Art/Book fair

During the month of September, local artist-run culture gets into the full swing of things with an annual swarm of show openings throughout the Vancouver area. One centre, however, is creating a new tradition in the first week of October.

The Peak sat down with founder Tracy Steffanucci, as she prepares for the third annual Vancouver Art/Book Fair, which is produced by Project Space and takes place on October 4 and 5.

The Peak: Could you start by giving us a bit of background information on Project Space? How did it come about and who was involved?

Tracy Steffanucci: Project Space is a non-profit organization dedicated to publication as an artistic medium. Our main projects are the Vancouver Art/Book Fair, Project Space Press, OCW Magazine and projectspace.ca.

The organization evolved out of a magazine I co-founded in 2006. In 2011, under the leadership of Jaz Halloran and I, we opened a bookshop/gallery in Chinatown and began operating under the name Project Space. We closed the storefront in 2013, but we are still very active with our other projects.

Peak: Why the Vancouver Art/Book Fair as an event? This is the third installation of the fair — have you noticed anything changing in the Vancouver publication community now that the fair is a mainstay?

Steffanucci: VA/BF was founded in response to an absence of art book fairs in Canada and on the West Coast (though after we founded the fair we were pleased to see Printed Matter launch an LA Art Book Fair). Our city and country have active and vibrant artist publishing communities, and fairs are an ideal place to circulate books, generate discourse, engage new publics, and foster relationships between artists, publishers and the public. VA/BF acts as an invaluable piece of cultural infrastructure; it seemed absolutely necessary to launch one here.

In Vancouver in particular, we have a fairly sizable and active community that is producing art books — though we are still working on helping to make the various smaller communities that make up this broader community more visible and connected. I do see results and am excited for ongoing development in this regard.

For example, Nathan Jones and Michael Lachman’s Print Ready exhibitions at Dynamo Arts Association are fostering a community around artists’ zines. Or 221A’s recent collaboration with Brick Press for Dan Starling’s bookwork The Part of No Part is a good example of an artist-run centre collaborating with another art publisher. We’ve also been posting art publishing–related events to our blog at projectspace.ca, and are impressed by the number of groups hosting such events and how frequent they are.

Peak: They say the third time’s the charm. What can visitors expect, or be surprised by, at this year’s VA/BF?

Steffanucci: VA/BF takes over three floors of the Vancouver Art Gallery Annex to present works by hundreds of artists and publishers — from exhibitor tables to installations and other displays — as well as hourly talks and performances, an art and coffee lounge (with free organic, fair trade coffee from our official coffee sponsor Ethical Bean) and more.

This year, some highlights include Jordan Abel, award-winning Nisga’a poet and author of a new artist book we’ve published titled Un/inhabited; Hugh Frost of Landfill Editions, a Stockholm-based publisher that produces books as well as various other art objects.

Other highlights include Rachel Gontijo Araujo of A Bolha Editora, a Sao Paulo–based publisher that is committed to disseminating under-represented Brazilian works in other countries, Lauren Mackler, founder of Los Angeles’ Museum of Public Fiction, which produces an art journal that compiles print artist projects and texts in connection with thematic group exhibitions; and Helena Keeffe, a San Francisco–based artist whose project Standard Deviation discusses valuation of artistic labour.

The passion evident in the work on display at VA/BF is palpable. There is nothing quite like talking directly to an artist or publisher about the work they’ve created — hearing the back-story and the intention from someone who is incredibly passionate about it.

The range of work on display is outstanding, meaning there is something for all kinds of book lovers and also that it is almost impossible to not discover anything new and exciting.

Of course, there are also things like free tote bags given out at the door — which doesn’t hurt. Give yourself lots of time, as there are many rooms of books and artists’ projects to explore, as well as hourly talks and performances.

The Vancouver Art/Book Fair opens with a Members Preview October 3 and runs October 4 and 5 from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. For the real book aficionados, be sure to check out Artists’ Books Week, which is a series of events in parallel to VA/BF that runs September 29 to October 5. For more information, visit vancouverartbookfair.com.

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