Vicky Chainey Gagnon, the Campbell River Art Gallery’s new executive director, didn’t encounter art until she went to college.
Growing up in mining towns in B.C., the Yukon and Quebec, she spent her time going to the countryside and climbing mountains.
“The most important experience of my life…was when I saw Ann Hamilton’s exhibition at the contemporary art museum in Montreal in 1991 or 92, it was called Mattering,” Chainey Gagnon said. “I was so startled and blown away by this thing called installation art that I had never in my whole world experienced, that right then and there I dedicated my life to it, and that was it for me.”
Chainey Gagnon arrived in Campbell River from St. John’s Newfoundland on Canada Day and started her new position as the executive director of the art gallery on Tuesday.
“I’m really stimulated by the possibilities of this gallery,” she said.
Chainey Gagnon started working as a curator in the early 2000s. She discovered her passion for organizing exhibitions while she was working alongside a group of artists call The Loop Collective in Toronto.
From Toronto she moved to Sherbrooke, Que. to work as the director curator of the Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University.
“There I was studying concurrently for another research degree at the time and I was really interested in civically engaged curating,” Chainey Gagnon said.
She worked there for 10 years, during which she and a colleague started a project called the Community Art Lab, a hub where community members have access to issues that were common to them and common to the arts, Chainey Gagnon explained.
“That was really the first time I got heavily involved in community work.”
At the time, she was working on her PhD, but she set that aside when she was hired to curate Manif d’art, the Quebec City biennial in 2014.
She coordinated 36 artists across public spaces in Quebec.
From there she was recruited to work at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in Newfoundland as the director and chief curator.
“I went from really small to really big,” she said.
For three years she managed 12 employees and curated shows. She said she was run off her feet.
Though she loved living in Newfoundland, she was intrigued by the opportunity to contribute to contemporary art practise as well as indigenous arts in Campbell River.
“To me that is really critical and really important to create dialogue across all of our communities,” she said. “I see curating at its best as a process of facilitation and mediation of content with artists and for artists. So curating is a privilege, because you are doing it on behalf of an artist.”