Victoria’s Fifty Fifty Arts Collective marks 10 years as hub for emerging art

The Fifty Fifty 10 year celebration is Friday, Jan. 11, from 7 to 10 p.m. 2516 Douglas St. and is free.

Fifty Fifty Arts Collective board members Jzero Schuurman

Fifty Fifty Arts Collective board members Jzero Schuurman

Its neighbours are auto repair shops and appliance outlets in what can be called the outer orbit of Victoria’s downtown core. An art gallery in the 2500-block of Douglas St. looks distinctly out of place.

But within its whitewashed walls decorated with neatly hung paintings, the Fifty Fifty Arts Collective has established itself as the centre for art in Greater Victoria that is distinctly outside of the mainstream.

“At night the space does seem quiet, but there is a lot of activity happening here,” says Renee Crawford, one of the four board members of Fifty Fifty Arts Collective who also works for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. “This space is an arts hub.”

The collective is celebrating its 10th anniversary today (Jan. 11) with an exhibition from 15 local artists. Over the past decade, the gallery has hosted some 300 emerging artists and 500 musicians in what has become an institution in Victoria’s arts scene.

“Our role in the community is to give emerging and experimental arts space and support and experience,” Crawford says. “Those artists on the edge of mainstream or who are totally underground have a space to showcase their work.”

“New artists in town can have a hard time breaking into the scene. We can let them give a show,” adds Jzero Schuurman, a board member of the collective.

“We want to show Victoria is more than Emily Carr,” he continued, although noting he’s not opposed to the works of Victoria’s arguably most famous painter.

The collective has seen many members come and go, but key to its survival has been a steady stream of volunteers dedicated to fostering an arts space. It also helps the rent is reasonable at their Douglas Street space.

When Schuurman joined a few years ago, the gallery was open one day a week – now it’s seven, all staffed by volunteers. “This is a major part of our lives. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it,” he said.

The gallery has allowed emerging artists to learn lessons not necessarily illuminated in art school. At Fifty Fifty, artists must assemble and promote their own exhibits.

“This is a very DIY space. The artists have to curate their own shows. They get a key (to the building) and they set it up. It gives artists a dry run on how to put together their own exhibition,” Crawford says. “Art schools don’t teach how to curate shows or how to get exhibits or create a portfolio. Being involved in an artist-run centre, in a short time you learn how the profession works.”

Fifty Fifty launched in 2003 in a retail space on Craigflower Road, and moved to Douglas Street a few years later. Allan Kollins, one of the founding members who sat on the board until 2009, said in 2003, the stars aligned. The idealism of a group of young artists to create a collective art gallery became reality, due to an affordable retail space.

He said the name “Fifty Fifty” was drawn from a hat.

“I think the person who submitted that name wanted more of the money to go to the artist. They didn’t want (the gallery) to be commercial,” Kollins said in an interview from Vancouver. “We wanted art that was conceptual, more experimental, not pretty pictures on the wall.”

Kollins said in the early days, the Douglas Street space had its struggles with the City of Victoria. A few times, evening music shows would attract dozens of people, along with police and bylaw officers. At the same time, Fifty Fifty also received project grants from the city’s arts board.

“It was different bureaucracies. The arts and culture grants board supported us. The bylaw officer wasn’t as friendly,” Kollins said.

Fifty Fifty now primarily fundraises through hosting music shows at venues around the city. Where other artist-run spaces have come and gone over the years, Fifty Fifty is looking to expand.

“It’s survived in part because of a burgeoning arts community in Victoria. Certain individuals and the community helped keep it alive,” Kollins says. “The collective has seen dire times. But we’ve also seen commitment from the community from fundraising and support.”

The Fifty Fifty 10 year celebration is  Friday, Jan. 11, from 7 to 10 p.m. 2516 Douglas St. and is free. See thefiftyfifty.net.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
School bus driver laments motorists who pass while red lights are flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

Victoria police are seeking home surveillance video and witnesses following a prowling incident in Esquimalt Jan. 20. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt prowler removes air conditioner, peers into person’s home

VicPD is seeking video footage, witnesses following Jan. 20 incident

A cyclist navigates the shoulder in traffic along Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria. (John Luton Photo)
Oak Bay council supports Fort Street bike lanes

Victoria bike lanes would connect to Cadboro Bay Road

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Victoria police are warning people of a continued rise in cybercrime. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
Victoria police warn of rising cybercrime called spear phishing

Fraudsters continue to trick people out of large sums of money

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Most Read