Mandate

SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) is a non-profit, artist-run centre in Canada dedicated to increasing the visibility of culturally diverse artists by curating and exhibiting their work, providing mentorship, facilitating professional development and creating a community for our artists. SAVAC was founded to be an organization staffed by people of colour, committed to support the work of artists of colour.

We promote self-representation by developing artistic practice that is often informed by cultural identity through a range of mediums, aesthetics, forms, and techniques. We support work that (in)directly addresses the ways histories of people of colour are represented alongside the story of ongoing colonialism on Turtle Island and post-colonial histories of the global south. These works are challenging, experimental and offer multifarious perspectives on the contemporary world.

For over 20 years, SAVAC has operated without a gallery space as an explicit, political choice. Instead, as a means of pushing diversity mandates within the Canadian arts ecology beyond the minimum, we partner with galleries, institutions and museums to integrate artists and curators of colour into the curatorial and programming practices of those institutions.

How do you define South Asian?
South Asia contains varied linguistic, social and historical landscapes. Over the course of the last century, the subcontinent went from the hands of European colonisers (English, French, Dutch and Portuguese) and locally ruled princely states to form the current day independent nations of Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, the Maldives and Tibet. While colonization by European nations significantly altered these regions, it is neither the beginning nor the end of their histories. Rather than being directed by the binaries of cultural “difference” or “sameness”, SAVAC seeks to look at South Asia as a polycultural space. The region has a shared history and culture in some parts; in many other ways it lacks coherent definition because it contains over 2000 identified ethnic groups who speak over 200 languages.

SAVAC maintains an open and inclusive definition of South Asian that is based in the complexities within the region itself, amongst the various diasporic communities in places like the Caribbean, Africa and South East Asia, and within diasporic populations in the South Asian region. Within the diaspora, notions of home and identity become as blurred and complicated as the concept of South Asia itself.

Given the complexity of South Asia, SAVAC is not limited by political boundaries drawn onto maps and resists the temptation of overdefining and being overdetermined by an a land mass whose borders have been persistently renegotiated. Instead, SAVAC prioritizes themes that relate to the historical and lived realities that people of colour have encountered over time.

Is SAVAC a gallery?
No. SAVAC is an artist-run centre which operates without a gallery space and collaborates with other artist-run centres, public galleries, universities and museums for exhibitions.
What is an artist-run centre?
An artist-run centre is a non-profit organization started and managed by artists. Artist-run centres emphasize a non-commercial approach to operating by not charging admission fees and by remaining uninvolved with the sale of artwork. ARCs work with professional artists, with a focus on contemporary art. Exhibition programming is often complemented by public screenings, artist talks, panel discussions and publications.

Canada has a unique history of artist-run culture, which began in the 1960s. For more information please check out the following resources:

When did SAVAC change its name to South Asian Visual Arts Centre from South Asian Visual Arts Collective?
SAVAC formally changed its name from SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Collective) to SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) in February 2008. The name change more accurately reflects the organization’s structure as an artist-run centre: including our membership, being under Board mandate and receiving operational funding. 
Can SAVAC sell my artwork?
No. SAVAC is a non-profit artist-run centre, and we operate on a model that is not commercial.
Do I need to identify as South Asian to be a part of the SAVAC community?
No. SAVAC serves artists who come from various regions and localities in the world, not simply geopolitically-categorized South Asia. SAVAC encourages artists who touch on themes of political/personal, location/identity, assimilation/resistance, architecture/space, city/suburbs, and above all, transnationality as a historical and contemporary force that shapes each individual work and each individual artist.

Members of the SAVAC community don’t necessarily produce work that is solely influenced by fixed entities such as the nations and geographical regions from which their ancestors hailed, or by the ones in which they were born. Similarly, they don’t necessarily adhere to circumscribed notions of “culture” within their own communities or in society at large. The strength and vibrancy of their art lays in the multitude of individual histories–journeys that destabilize, and interrogate fixed notions of culture and identity.

SAVAC 2020

Starting in September 2016, SAVAC undertook a comprehensive strategic planning process to envision the next three years of programming. Focusing on re-invigorating our mandate and clarifying our organizational identity, we outlined three areas for action: mentorship and outreach; funding and programming; and organizational infrastructure.

Mentorship and Outreach

  • Renew and build stronger relationships with existing membership
  • Restructure forms of evaluation, communication and outreach
  • Increase engagement and strengthen relationships to new and emerging racialized and diaspora artists, communities and arts communities
  • Redefine membership to reflect community

Funding and Programming

  • Develop award-winning programming
  • Get approval for Toronto Arts Council multi-year funding
  • Increase funding and budget allocation for programming initiatives
  • Advocate for SAVAC and artist self-representation while building diverse and robust inter-disciplinary partnerships and programming (including outside visual arts)

Organizational Infrastructure

  • Improve and build clear internal agency policies and procedures that are transparent and well-documented and identify clear pathways for implementation
  • Revisit mission, vision and values
  • Establish a staff structure that is responsive to the organization’s resources and mandate
  • Source and secure a location to house the organization

Annual Reporting

The SAVAC annual reports contain detailed information about the organization, including past programming, operations and finances. Coinciding with our fiscal year, they cover the period from February 1 of each year through January 30 of the following year.

Suite 450
401 Richmond St. W.
Toronto, ON M5V 3A8
Canada

1 (416) 542-1661
info@savac.net

Monday - Thursday
10am - 4pm

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exhibitions, and events at SAVAC.

Canada Council for the Arts Ontario Arts Council Toronto Arts Council Ontario Trillium Foundation