ARCLines Gallery Gachet: Art, Means, Survival

Gallery gachet was founded as an artist co-operative in 1992. It was first located in a basement studio downtown at the South end of Granville Street, with approximately 3000 square feet of space. The space was operated by a group of artists who emerged from the mental health system, and were pursuing their art practice as a therapeutic activity. Their endeavour was funded by Vancouver Coastal Health, as part of a program called the Consumer Initiatives Fund, which was introduced as a source of funding for former mental health patients. The fund was created following the closure of parts of Riverview Hospital in 1992.

After the first exhibition in their new space, the collective of artists hired Mary Ann Anderson to take on the role of Administrator. Anderson had experience working in municipal government, and was able to manage the finances for the group while they concentrated on their artwork and exhibitions. The exhibitions that happened in the early years were an opportunity for those who were part of the collective to show their work.

In addition to the exhibition and studio space on Granville Street, the collective was also renting a studio at 1000 Parker. After about a year of working this way, it became necessary to consolidate all of their activity into one location. Andersen located a suitable space at 88 East Cordova, with room for a street-level gallery, administrative space, and a large shared studio in the back that could be accessible to all of the organization’s members. The cooperative, which had by this time become registered as a not-for-profit, moved into the space in 1997.

Gallery gachet continues to operate on a collective model, with an administrator who acts as a caretaker for the organization. The name ‘Gachet’ is a reference to Dr. Paul Gachet, who was the doctor of Vincent Van Gogh in the final years of his life. The members of the organization form a supportive community for one another, and continue to be mainly comprising those who have had some involvement with the mental health system. Since moving to their location in the Downtown Eastside the organization has also become immersed in their surrounding environment. They have produced programming that extends beyond member-driven exhibitions to focusing also on art that engages community activism as well as socially engaged or marginal practices.

Gachet continues to be managed by a board of artists as well as staff members. The board is comprised of full society members, who make decisions based on consensus. The society also takes on associate members who may contribute to the gallery on an ongoing basis, such as curators and program leaders, or others who are former collective members. All full collective members donate volunteer hours to help run the space, and in return gain access to the gallery and studio space facilities.


South Granville Street at Helm(Gallery)
1000 Parker (Studio Space)
88 East Cordova (1997 – present)

Date Founded

Gallery Gachet was founded as a cooperative in 1992, and a not-for-profit society in 1993

Board of Directors in 1996

Lillith Walker
Anita Nairne
April Porter
Christian Stenfors
Tamara Szymanska

Original Society Purposes

Gachet Society is a not-for-profit society whose purpose is to use visual art to educate the public in and outside of British Columbia about issues related to the mental health consumer and abuse survivor population. To this end, the society supports the efforts of consumer/survivor artists through:

(a) providing venues to showcase their talent and their work to the public (through a public gallery known as “Gachet Gallery”)
(b) providing space in which to create visual art
(c) providing relevant educational programs and written materials to the public
(d) encouraging a high standard of artistic integrity in all exhibitions curated, produced, presented or supported by the society
(e) supporting and encouraging the professional and artistic development of members, volunteers, and staff in order to further the aims of the organization

3. The Society shall be operated on a not-for-profit basis. Any and all surplus funds and other assets shall be used to strengthen and develop the Society and its programs in order to promote its purposes. This provision is unalterable.

4. In the event of dissolution of the Society, all assets remaining after claims against them are settled will be donated to one or more not-for-profit organizations within British Columbia having similar purposes, as determined by the trustees of the Society at the time of dissolution. This provision is unalterable.

5. The Society shall be governed by a Board of Directors duly elected by its membership, structured and operated according to the Bylaws of Gachet Society.

An Early Mandate

“To create a safe borderless place of artistic expression for consumer and abuse survivors”

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