Thursday, December 2, 2021
Dec. 2, 2021

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Vancouver’s Art at the CAVE explores art of the quarantine

Gallery invites everyone to participate in communitywide exhibit

By , Columbian staff writer
12 Photos
"Endgame" by Patrick Flynn (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)
"Endgame" by Patrick Flynn (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Pandemics may come and go, but art endures across the ages — and the human desire to create art will outlast any catastrophe. Downtown Vancouver’s Art at the CAVE (Contemporary Art Vancouver, Experimental) is stoking that desire with an open call to anyone who has created — or wants to create — art during the pandemic. The resulting works will become part of a communitywide exhibit, “Art of the Quarantine.”

“We’re all trying to express our experience here together. We want everybody included, even people who haven’t tried art before,” gallery owner Anne John said. She added that children are also encouraged to submit art for this exhibit.

“We want everybody, of all ages and all mediums, at any stage of their creative growth, to apply, because everybody is going through this,” gallery manager Sharon Svec said. “We all have different experiences and backgrounds, and it would just be lovely to reflect the whole gamut.”

Svec and John were inspired by a recent article in Time magazine relating how the Dadaist and Bauhaus art movements arose from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. They wonder what compelling artistic visions might come from COVID-19.

“Normally, we’re all processing our own personal thoughts and experiences and there’s not a lot of consistency. You can go and see a piece of art and say, ‘Well, maybe this is about this,’ but you’re not sure,” Svec said. “It’s a really unique moment in time because folks all over the world are sharing this same experience. It provides some synchronicity in our lives that we can connect on, and we can use art as a vehicle to make that connection.”

They hope other Vancouver galleries will join them in extending the call for art. John and Svec envision a broad exhibit that encompasses the entire Vancouver Arts District, held whenever things return to something resembling normal.

Art at the CAVE has already received about 20 submissions, some of which are now displayed in the gallery’s large front window to serve as a sort of appetizer to the main course.

“We were thinking about ways that we can come together when this is all over. … We thought we could do something to help the community in our little niche,” Svec said. “Putting out the call to art gives folks a goal to work toward and gives folks a place to express themselves and process this collectively.”

For a prolific and accomplished contemporary artist like John, creating art has long been her way to make sense of events both personal and societal.

“If you were to look at my portfolio going way back, it’s always been a form of therapy for me. I think it’s a form of therapy for everybody. We all choose our ways of dealing with things,” John said. “I definitely think that’s what art is all about, no matter who you are and what level you’re at.”

John is working on at least one small piece that will be in the show, she said. While she was cleaning out her attic, John came across an old photocopy made by one of her children and was struck by how it captured the feeling of confinement.

“He Xeroxed his face and hands against the machine and he’s squished up so it looks like someone trying to escape,” John said. “I finished it up and put it in these plexiglass boxes. It’s entitled ‘Socially Distant.’ It seemed appropriate.”

This is art of the quarantine, John said. It’s simply any art that has been created during the pandemic, whether or not it’s specifically about the pandemic.

“It can be an expression of anything,” John said. “It’s just whatever comes out of it, whatever we all create. It doesn’t have to make sense to anybody but the artists.”

To get complete details about how to participate, visit or Send an email with your name and contact information to Include a PDF or JPG image of the artwork, along with the title, dimensions and a brief statement. The gallery will show one piece of art per artist. The deadline to submit art is currently July 31, but that may be extended depending on circumstances. The gallery hasn’t yet determined a date for the final exhibit, which won’t be held until everyone can safely return to downtown Vancouver’s galleries.