Our Story

Oxygen Art Centre is Located in South Eastern British Columbia, West Kootenays, in the town of Nelson. Nelson is a community of 10,000 people that also services around 70,000 people living in remote outlying areas.  Oxygen is an integral and long-standing cultural hub for artists of all disciplines (including youth) in the West Kootenays and the Columbia Basin. Oxygen provides meaningful professional development opportunities to local artists and brings artists of national and international repute into our communities to produce new work.

Out of 21 artist-run-centres in BC, Oxygen is only one of two in a rural location, and the only artist-run-centre to offer a residency program. Oxygen has played a vital role in creating the vibrant arts sector that the region enjoys, and continues to contribute to its rich collective cultural identity and sense of place. The centre is open to all and provides affordable, accessible, and in many cases free or by-donation programming and membership. As an artist-run centre, it acts as catalyst and incubator for the development of the arts community and its audience.

Oxygen provides space and programming for artists and the public to engage in the creation, study, exhibition and performance of contemporary art in all disciplines. Our robust year-round Arts Education curriculum offers high-quality art instruction to children, youth and adults at a subsidized cost – a vitally important community service that is not offered at other local institutions.

Oxygen is the only organization in Nelson and region with such a unique legacy. It has and continues to support professional development in the arts, as well as supporting the region’s literary and academic community through readings, screenings events, and symposia.

Oxygen Art Centre is a long-time advocate for arts-based community development and cultural programming. We belong to the Canadian network of Artist-Run Centres, which have a rich history of supporting and providing platforms for experimental arts practices, academic dialogues, and diverse artistic networks. We are proud to be continuing this legacy from our uniquely rural context.

Oxygen Art Centre is an active member of the Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres, Canadian Museum Association, West Kootenay Regional Arts Council, Nelson and District Arts Council, Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism, and other local organizations.

Vision Statement:
Fundamental to the regional cultural landscape, Oxygen Art Centre is a rural artist-run centre that nurtures contemporary professional practices while engaging the wider community through multi-disciplinary programming.

Mission Statement:
Through education, residencies, exhibitions and events Oxygen advances rural cultural development and achieves experimental, accessible and inclusive programming.

History:
Oxygen Art Centre was founded as the Nelson Fine Art Centre Society in 2002 by former writing and visual art faculty at the Kootenay School of the Arts. Oxygen spent its first two years establishing its educational focus and in January 2005, the Society opened the Oxygen Art Centre in downtown Nelson. The Oxygen Art Centre is a 900 sq ft. renovated warehouse studio and serves as a classroom, exhibition space and residency centre.

Acknowledgements and gratitude:
Oxygen Art Centre acknowledges with gratitude that we are located on the unceded traditional territory of the sn̓ʕay̓ckstx, Sinixt Arrow Lakes, Sylix, Ktunaxa, and the Yaqan Nukij Lower Kootenay Band peoples. We recognize the enduring presence of First Nations people on this land and is home to the Métis and many diverse Indigenous persons.

We are grateful for the financial support we receive from Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, BC Gaming, Province of BC, Government of Canada, Vancouver Foundation, Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, Columbia Basin Trust, Osprey Community Foundation, United Way, Nelson Lions Club, and Nelson and District Credit Union.

We offer thanks to Elephant Mountain Literary Festival and other key partners including Hall Printing, Speedpro Signs, and Selkirk College for their support.

We especially thank all of our volunteers, donors, and members.

Priority Operating Areas: 2019-2022 Strategic Plan

Operations

Goal Statement: An organizational structure that supports all goal areas. A happy, healthy, well-organized and financially solvent society is critical to successfully meeting our goals. At this time in our society’s life cycle, we will focus efforts on clarifying our internal structure, documenting institutional memory and creating a multi-year funding strategy for an increase in operational funding.

Programming

Goal Statement:  We are known for our challenging and experimental programming across sectors.  We will continue to host regional, national and international events, exhibitions and residencies that support diverse artists in all stages of their careers. We are particularly interested in work with regional relevance, interdisciplinary work and work that engages audiences in participatory processes.

Education

Goal Statement: We have developed a reputation for rigorous, inclusive and responsive offerings. We will continue to offer classes, workshops, camps and events with emphasis on incubating and supporting emerging artists and sustaining our vibrant arts community, as well as engaging the general public, through quality arts education offerings for all skill levels.

Community Engagement

Goal Statement: We have a strong profile, presence and substantial network within the community.  We seek to maximize outreach and efficacy of our organization to achieve our mission, ensuring best use of our staff and volunteers’ skills, passions and available time.  We program Special Projects and community collaborations that represent the mission of Oxygen Art Centre and are responsive to our community.

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