Ed Varney, curator, describes the concept…

After staging at least a dozen Mail Art Exhibitions over the past 20 years, I was interested in hosting a Mail Art show in 2010 loosely based on the model of the Olympics. I wanted to give artists, who would have no opportunity to take part in the Olympic extravaganza hoopla a visible venue for  participation. I also wanted to produce an event which would parallel the original premise and spirit  of the Olympics, a celebration of the amateur – rather than the  cynical, over inflated, hyped, professional and corporate form that the Olympics has taken in the last 30 years.

To that end, I consulted a number of friends and came up with the idea of a  Mail Art Exhibition with three events (whittled down from an original five events). I inquired about funding from several sources (including the Vancouver Olympic Committee, the Canada Council, the Vancouver Foundation, the City of Vancouver, and the BC Arts Council) only to be told that this project did not fit anybody’s parameters. I decided to go ahead anyway. It turned out to be one of the largest Mail Art projects ever and a substantial amount of time and work.

The best part of this project was opening the envelopes. I was continually amazed at the imagination, cleverness, skill, quality, and generosity of Mail Artists. It was incredibly exciting to receive so many wonderful art works, often in colourful decorated envelopes.

I wanted three sites for the physical display of the exhibition, with one in Vancouver itself,  and I found four – although the time frames of two of them overlapped. With over 800 art works, I simply split the show in half, which made two manageable parts.

In the fall of 2010, after the fourth exhibition in Wells, BC, my brother Jim applied to the BC Government Spirit Festival for a grant to exhibit the show at the Oceanside Arts Council (now named the McMillan Arts Centre), to expand the catalog (which was already printed) and to set up a web site. He got the grant! A sixth venue was set up at the Art Gallery of Swift Current in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Exhibitions held in 2009-2010:

Comox Valley Art Gallery, Courtenay, BC, Canada
November 14 – December 31, 2009

Pentiction Art Gallery, Penticton, BC, Canada
January 21 – March 14, 2010

Havana Gallery, Vancouver, BC, Canada
February 21 – March 6, 2010

Island Mountain Arts Public Gallery, Wells, BC, Canada
July 16 – August 8, 2010

Exhibitions Scheduled for 2011:

MacMillan Arts Center Gallery, Parksville, BC, Canada
Hosted by Oceanside Community Arts Council
February 3 – February 26, 2011

Art Gallery of Swift Current, Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada

Additional shows can be arranged – contact Ed Varney for more information.

So thank you, artists, for your contributions to this exhibition. I owe you all an ongoing debt of gratitude for participating in my fantasy.

Ed Varney