Fredericton’s artist-run-centre begins a new season of programming under the direction of new Executive Director, Kasie Wilcox.
For more than thirty years now, Fredericton’s only artist-run-centre has championed the work of contemporary artists by providing an important platform to showcase and support their work in the province’s capital. And just like those they support, the organization has grown and evolved, adapting to the changing needs of the community and the artists within.
“Artist run centres are quite resilient,” said Kasie Wilcox, who took a few minutes out of her second day at the office to talk about Connexion ARC and her vision for the year ahead. “Connexion was founded in 1984 so they have a good running history.”
Over the past few years Wilcox has become a key advocate for contemporary arts in the region as a board member of Saint John’s Third Space Gallery, one of only five artist-run-centres in the province, and credits Connexion ARC for introducing her to art’s limitless potential as a source of inspiration and motivation.
“I first got into Connexion when I was in high school back when they were in the Chestnut Complex with artist studios and doing shows,” she said. “That was my introduction to the contemporary arts.”
Since leaving their gallery space at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre last fall, Connexion ARC has been operating out of the collaborative workspace at 65 York Street in Fredericton’s downtown, a move that will provide the organization greater opportunity to embed contemporary art within existing and non-traditional exhibit spaces.
“One of our mandates is to create community partnerships so we’ll be doing things that are more pop-up based.”
“We definitely have a lot of ideas and we’re taking a different approach this time around because we are a little more mobile,” said Wilcox. “We have our central location, which is our office space, are accessible to the public and encourage people to come and visit us.”
This type of operational model isn’t unusual in the world of artist-run-centres, with many similar arts-based organizations choosing to forgo the traditional gallery space and instead moving programming into public places.
“One of our mandates is to create community partnerships so we’ll be doing things that are more pop-up based,” said Wilcox. “We’re going to look at hosting events and core programming in places that are public, accessible and open. We can engage new audiences with contemporary arts practices, this model also gives people the opportunity to take artistic leadership and get involved in their community.
“Contemporary art, by its nature, is a little more challenging. We hope that people who are not necessarily familiar with these art forms can they have the opportunity to foster an understanding,” said Wilcox.
As she begins to help write the next chapter in Connexion ARC’s long and storied history, Wilcox hopes to strengthen the organization’s place within the provincial arts community by offering increased support to artists through traditional forms like workshops and exhibition opportunities, and also by fostering a stronger sense of community within the group’s membership.
“I think with any organization, each new director puts their own spin on things and creates new eras in the organization’s history,” said Wilcox. “While living in Saint John, I worked with Third Space and helped to organize community events for SAD DOG magazine. It’s important for us that people feel engaged to do their own work, that they have a platform for support that they can easily access, and I hope that people will feel that way with Connexion.
“We invite anyone who wants to be a member to get involved.”
“Connexion has a great history of supporting local artists and exporting their artists,” she said. “In the past we’ve been present at the New York Book Fair and the Vancouver Book Fair, bringing people from New Brunswick to the international stage. We want to continue to do those things while also helping with the day to day things that people struggle with as being artists.”
Connexion ARC’s membership is open to the public and Wilcox encourages anyone with an interest in supporting the arts to get involved, whether you’re an artist or not.
“We’re a member led organization so it’s really important to us that people feel they can access resources and have someone supporting them in their own community,” she said. “We invite anyone who wants to be a member to get involved. We allocate a portion of membership dues towards member-led programming so if you’re a member and you want to get something off the ground – and we have enough members – we have a community who can offer time as well as some financial support.
“I think opening membership to the broader community encourages growth and understanding,” she said. “You get to make connections you don’t necessarily expect to make and it’s really exciting when you see that happen.”
Connexion ARC will be announcing its new season of programming later this month.