Meet Mariana Rivera, founder of The Art Shop – Scout Magazine

During the week, Mariana Rivera is an art and curatorial coordinator for a leading art consultancy. But on weekends, she seeks out local emerging artists and hosts pop-up exhibitions alongside an online gallery known as The Art Shop. Six pop-ups later, TAS finally opens their own somewhat permanent showroom in the City Center Hub of the Vancouver Mural Festival.

“TAS got involved with VMF by building a community,” said Rivera, “City Center Artist Lodge feels like the perfect fit for our Show Room because of VMF’s long-standing community building efforts, great artists in the spotlight and make art accessible to the public.” Following the recent announcement of this exciting news, we caught up with Rivera to learn more about TAS and the driving force behind it…

Rivera immigrated with her family to Vancouver from Mexico when she was nine years old, eventually pursuing art studies at the famed Corcoran School of Art and Design in Washington, DC. While working with the Mexican Cultural Institute and other galleries in DC, she attended an art fair in New York. It was here that the whole art world opened up to her and led her to study Art Business at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York). During that time, Rivera interned in many galleries (typical of anyone trying to gain a foothold in the art world) and was confronted with the pretense of everything – there was a barrier to just looking at art. At a gallery where she worked (now closed), visitors even had to zoom in to see the space. This all seemed such a shame – to have so few visitors through the doors, when there were incredible exhibits and artwork inside. Since then, Rivera has been on a mission to compete to make art approachable and accessible – bringing art to ‘the people’.

It was during the height of the pandemic that Rivera was out of work. Instead of working, she used this time to think and dream, and came up with a business plan for The Art Shop. In August 2020, she had rented an expensive retail space in the heart of Gastown, where she hosted the first-ever TAS pop-up. Held for six days, the exhibition art for the people featured 14 artists and was well received. Rivera found that even (or especially) during pandemic times, visitors craved the opportunity to meet, support, and buy art from local artists—many for the first time.

Riviera reflects and speculates on the growth process: “I think emerging artists reacted to us faster than the public because of the lack of spaces showing their work in the city. The public started reacting to TAS when they got to know us. In every show, and in everything we do, our goal is to be as welcoming and accessible to those unfamiliar with art, and I think our audience has grown with us as a result.”

Since that first exhibition, TAS has held five more pop-ups in various locations, such as the Museum of Vancouver and August Studios, each with a themed and educational component. The last show took place in April 2022, in her hometown of Xalapa, Mexico. titled The monarch, the exhibition bridged the gap between the work of four artists from Vancouver and four artists from Xalapa. TAS found a model for providing an accessible environment for viewing art, including an online gallery, and an accessible price for acquiring art. Available works generally range from $50 to $1,000, (rarely more), with an average price for an original artwork of $200-400.

“By creating a support system in the beginning, these artists will continue to create, find spaces, form a community and ultimately continue their creative careers. I believe we need to build at the beginning and help push to have a strong and supportive journey at the end to shape. “

Through The Art Shop, Rivera has also found a new way to represent artists – one that isn’t exclusive, to begin with. She maintains relationships with emerging artists, promotes their work, manages their inventory on the website, and finds opportunities for them to exhibit their work and for the public to see and interact with it.

For Rivera, discovering local artists and creating a community is something she is passionate about. It’s like discovering hidden gems, where one artist often leads to another. Artists are here in our community, we just have to look. As for the future of TAS? Rivera imagines a TAS Toronto! and TAS Montreal! Her hope is that The Art Shop will one day continue to exist outside of herself.

By creating a support system in the beginning, these artists will continue to create, find spaces, form a community and ultimately continue their creative careers. I believe we should build at the beginning and help to form a strong and supportive journey at the end.

After so many successful popups, why make the switch to a more permanent setting? Finding a longer-term space was not part of our original plans, but as with anything accidental in life, we truly believe that the coincidence of community and opportunity led us to this decision. When the opportunity presented itself, we thought about the logical aspect of affordability. Renting temporary spaces is incredibly expensive in Vancouver. Part of our original goal was to have our pop-ups in high-traffic locations to get as much exposure as possible. A temporary exhibition of 5-7 days would end up costing us more than you can imagine. Now we are excited to build a community with our fellow creatives at City Center Artist Lodge and we hope that by having a more permanent space we can welcome many more visitors and grow our audience.

The City Center Hub is home to many artists’ studios/companies, but eventually, when the building is demolished, all these people (including yourself) will leave their housing and look for affordable spaces again… happen to you in the Vancouver art scene to make the city an artist-friendly and art-accessible place to live in all areas? Yes, the City Center Hub will unfortunately not last forever, but I think the initiative could be a great example of future opportunities to provide affordable spaces to the local arts community. As the city grows and will continue to grow, the changes in ownership and structure of buildings provide a transition period for creatives to enter. But beyond that, I think we need more people to support emerging artists to make Vancouver more artist-friendly and art more accessible. The term ’emerging artist’ seems rather redundant as it is used a lot, but I mean artists who are starting their practice, who have just finished school or who are working from their apartment, or who have never shown their work to the public. . By creating a support system in the beginning, these artists will continue to create, find spaces, form a community and ultimately continue their creative careers. I believe we should build at the beginning and help to form a strong and supportive journey at the end.

Tell me about an exciting or surprising discovery of an artist that you have experienced that stays with you. There is so much incredible local talent. I think one of my favorite stories is how I started working with TAS Artist Wendy Hanlon. It seems old-fashioned compared to how I normally research artists through social media or their websites. I walked into Arbutus Coffee in Kitsilano on a sunny Sunday morning and was immediately captivated by two large paintings hanging on the wall. I still remember the life-size figures and the typical colors that Wendy uses. That same day I sent her to meet and since then Wendy has been part of two of our shows, one in Mexico, where two large paintings now live.

Check out the TAS Show Room on weekends starting this week. The first show is called Reassess deductibles and features p Ben Evely, whose work makes use of the excess and waste left over from creating art. It opens on Friday, October 7, with a reception from 7-9pm – save the date! Evely’s work can be seen every weekend until October 23. The gallery’s opening hours are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This is also the first time TAS is presenting mini solo exhibitions, giving each artist the freedom to use and transform the space as they see fit. Other artists we can see in the coming months include: Ketty Zhang, a new addition to the TAS roster of artists, who works primarily in painting; and collage artist Isabelle Grue Lee. For the holidays, TAS is planning a group show on the theme of luck and chance. Follow @tasvancouver for more details.

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