Artist-run centres are non-profit organizations, run by and for artists, supporting new and innovative practices in the arts. With a rich history that spans over thirty years, artist-run centres have had a significant impact on the cultural ecology in Canada and around the world. Generally, these centres exhibit contemporary art which parallels the larger public institutions and private commercial galleries – offering an alternative to artists in determining how to represent their work. Most of Canada’s best known and internationally recognized contemporary artists, curators and cultural practitioners have come out of the artist-run centre movement.
Artist-run centres support established and emerging artists through research, development, production, presentation, promotion, and dissemination of contemporary art practices. They act as information and resource centres for the arts and the public through archives, publication, exhibition, and educational events. They perform advocacy for contemporary art and artist culture through organizing their constituents, educating the public, mentorships and intern programs. Decisions concerning focuses and programming are made by practicing artists through either curatorial boards or artist curators.
The activities of the Ontario artist-run centres have contributed to the development of contemporary art practices and production, provincially and nationally. They continue to lead the way in new media, theoretical discourse, innovative aesthetics, and methodologies. They provide artists with resources and facilities to produce work presented to an audience of their peers and an audience interested in contemporary art practice. Viewed with envy by artists worldwide, our country’s network of artist-run and media arts centres have been a major catalyst in the development of visual and media arts in Canada.
Despite their influence, artist-run centres are by nature smaller organizations and spread throughout the province and due to geographical barriers and limited resources (human/financial) are quite often isolated from their peers, both provincially and nationally. Through its services (advocacy, communications) and activities (PD workshops to national conferences), ARCCO serves as the vehicle and communication network connecting the community with each other.