I’ve gotten this question a lot, and rightfully so. It’s a good prompt to introduce myself in my own words, and share some Fall/Winter program teasers.
Before becoming Executive Director at UNIT/PITT, I held positions with local non-profit arts organizations, including The Cinematheque, Capture Photography Festival, Discorder Magazine, and VIVO Media Arts Centre. I completed a BFA at UBC Okanagan in 2013, which instilled in me passion for, and urgency towards, institutional critique. In the last few years, I have worked on projects that interrogate artwashing and gentrification, and more broadly question abuses of power and privilege in the arts. I believe in radical transparency, and will always champion compensation and the fair treatment of artists, arts workers, and community organizers.
This is the intention I bring to U/P. I am conscious of the space we occupy on the threshold of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside at 8EAST, on unceded lands belonging to the xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and səlil̓wətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh First Nations. I look forward to facilitating programming that empowers locally based artists and residents.
This summer myself and the board of directors began modifying our mission and vision in conjunction with a three-year Strategic Plan that will see our operations and decision-making made more transparent, as an act of accountability towards the communities we serve. The artist-run centre, demystified.
Over the next few months, U/P will host programs that recognizes people living and working in our immediate neighbourhood. September 21 is the first instalment of Lil Comedy, a new monthly series at 8EAST hosted by An Te Chu, Andrea Jin and Alistair Rogden. Our Retail Residency kicks off with an Agony Klub pop-up, and an evening of music and readings TBA. U/P will be at Vancouver Art/Book Fair Oct 18-20. Wrong Wave returns in November with a lineup curated by NuZi Collective. Tear It Down will also return with original works by five local artists TBA, exhibited on poster kiosks across Vancouver.
If you’ve ever considered becoming involved with U/P, now is the time. I encourage local artists to submit to the CV Bank to get on our radar. If you want to support our programming and also receive special invitations to events, you can buy a membership ($10-50). U/P is a charitable organization, and a donation of $20+ will get you a tax receipt. As opportunities arise over the next year, we will put out calls for volunteers and knowledge-exchange. Or perhaps you want to join the leadership? We are actively recruiting for our board of directors—email [email protected] for more information.
I hope to see you soon,
Brit Bachmann, Executive Director
Join us in celebration and dance to say goodbye! to UNIT/PITT’s outgoing ED Kay Higgins and hello! to our new ED Brit Bachmann! We’re gonna raise $$ to help pay for health care benefits, and also dance our asses off to the selections of DJ Because I Said So. Cash beverages, nice people, good vibes.
Sat, July 6, 2019. 9pm to 2am.
$5-15 sliding scale, no one turned away.
Volunteers needed! Email [email protected]
Beginning her tenure in 2010, Kay Higgins has led notable projects such as UNIT/PITT Radio, the 2055 Project for UNIT/PITT’s 40 Year Anniversary, the return of Wrong Wave Festival and ISSUE Magazine, the Art & Community Reading Group series, the #tearitdown2018 poster project, and more recently the relocation of UNIT/PITT to 8EAST in 2018.
In May we welcomed multi-disciplinary artist, writer and former Editor-in-Chief of Discorder Magazine Brit Bachmann, whose practice includes ceramics, radio art and community organizing. Brit is committed to instigating critical public dialogue, and working with diverse and emerging artists and writers to continue UNIT/PITT’s trajectory for many years to come!
Hello! Goodbye! also marks UNIT/PITT’S one-year anniversary at 8EAST with NOW Society. Hello! Goodbye! will raise funds towards health care benefits which UNIT/PITT’s Board of Directors have identified as an ongoing priority for the well-being of UNIT/PITT’s staff, and to ensure equitable and sustainable growth and higher working standards within the organization and more broadly, within the non-profit arts sector.
UNIT/PITT is grateful for opportunities to host events and artist projects, though we respectfully acknowledge that our activities take place on the traditional, unceded and stolen lands of the the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓wətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations.
UNIT/PITT is located at 8 East Pender Street in Chinatown, Vancouver. It is on ground-level, no stairs. Our main door measures 34 inches and swings inward. The bathroom is not wheelchair accessible. There will be seating available. Please contact [email protected] to make arrangements to accommodate your needs.
This is almost certainly my last post on the Pitt site. I was the one responsible for the day-to-day affairs of the Pitt starting in early 2010, after some sudden cuts in provincial arts funding, when we were presumed dead by many in our community. Following the shutdown of the Helen Pitt Gallery’s Alexander Street location in late 2009, a dedicated board of directors kept the organization alive, and I was hired in February 2010 to take care of “administration, maybe two days a week” as it was explained to me.
What this gave me was a chance to envision a relaunch of the Pitt, not starting with a blank slate obviously because there was (at that time) 35 years of history behind every move the organization made, but a re-imagining that drew on the parts of its history that seemed to be needed in the moment where we found ourselves.
If you’re expecting me to write an accounting of the things that followed, my apologies. Anyone who would like to see a list of the exhibitions, publication launches, talks, and public actions that happened while I was here can consult our Past Events page, which is reasonably complete. I’m not going to count the number of guest curators, artists, poets, first solo exhibitions and projects, and everything else. (I think it’s a reasonably high number, but really, I’m not counting. It seemed like a lot.)
Here’s what I want to talk about instead: what are our obligations as artists and cultural workers in an era of increasing inequality, environmental collapse, and rising fascism internationally?
No, it’s not an easy question. I don’t have the answers, but it is important that we carry on this discussion, which is already in progress in places, as a group — as maybe, a collective of collectives — and keep trying new strategies and tactics and reflecting on ones we have already tried.
We are trained in art school, and by received ideas about genius, to regard ourselves as being involved in solitary labour, waiting for a big opportunity that will enable us to vault to the next tier of the art world where our individual virtue will be recognized. In other words, almost all of us are being set up for failure and also being set up to consider that failure our own.
This is not what I believe. I believe, based on everything I have seen in my past decades of being involved with the creation of art and music and poetry, that culture is something that we produce collectively. For every exalted genius, there are dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of artists and cultural workers doing the work that enables them to occupy the top of the status pyramid.
One thing we often fail to realize is that the collective structures of art production contain untapped power. If we could refocus even part of the energy we currently spend on maintaining the system that creates individual (usually male) genius as its apex product, and devote it to some of the truly awful problems facing us, wouldn’t that be a good thing? This is part of the promise of artist-run culture, a promise that remains unfulfilled whenever artist-run culture serves as a feeder system and free curatorial research resource for the “legitimate” world of public art galleries and international art dealers, and whenever artist-run culture insists on mimicking stale administrative and corporate structures.
I believe that the most important potential of artist-run culture for affecting the world around us is collective potential. Whether we can learn to work more effectively together, respecting above all the diversity of our community and the wrongs that need to be redressed, is an open question. Best of luck, plus love and respect, to new Executive Director Brit Bachmann, and the board of directors, in working with this question.
Bye for now.
“There are few organizations on the West Coast as radical and calculatedly unpredictable as UNIT/PITT Projects, thanks to Kay’s leadership. I am excited to build on UNIT/PITT’s legacy with programming and community initiatives that interrogate the very structure and purpose of artist-run centres, and serve to support emerging artists and organizers.”
– Brit Bachmann, incoming Director of UNIT/PITT Projects
UNIT/PITT Projects’ Board of Directors is excited to announce Brit Bachmann as the organization’s new Executive Director. Bachmann is a multi-disciplinary artist and writer whose practice includes ceramics, playwriting, radio art and community organizing with a history of reinvigorating arts organizations, instigating critical public dialogue and working with diverse and emerging artists and writers. Bachmann is the outgoing Communications Coordinator for Capture Photography Festival and the Communications and Marketing Assistant at The Cinematheque.
Bachmann is well known for her inimitable work as the Editor-in-Chief at Discorder Magazine (CiTR 101.9FM) from 2015-2018 where she led a critical rebrand of the magazine, shifting its focus from music to community activism, social justice, creative writing and visual art. She prioritized Indigenous, queer, POC and women’s voices and highlighted issues around harm reduction, sexual assault, racism, accountability, labour, and housing.
In keeping with UNIT/PITT Projects’ ethos of “unruly criticality”, Bachmann will also bring her experience as a researcher on gentrification in Vancouver and the Downtown Eastside with W.W.A.S., and as a co-organizer of Bite The Hand That Feeds, a forum on art and developer money held at 221A in 2018.
Bachmann’s induction to UNIT/PITT Projects marks the end of Kay Higgins’ time as Executive Director, a position that she has held since 2010. The board is especially indebted to Higgins’ tireless work in establishing UNIT/PITT Projects as Vancouver’s leading space for radical critical discourse. Her dedicated leadership, community presence, and relentless support for emergent practices through experimental programming and rigorous publishing initiatives stand as a legacy the board wishes to recognize.
Notable projects initiated by Higgins during her tenure include UNIT/PITT Radio, the 2055 Project for UNIT/PITT’s 40 Year Anniversary, the return of Wrong Wave Festival and ISSUE Magazine, the Art & Community Reading Group series, the Ill Repute and What Future series of commissioned works, the #tearitdown2018 poster project, and more recently the relocation of UNIT/PITT Projects to 8EAST in 2018. Bachmann’s directorship coincides with the first year of UNIT/PITT Projects’ shift to a new non-exhibition model of programming.
“I was extremely fortunate to have the support of UNIT/PITT’s board, membership, and community during my tenure as director, and of all of the artists, curators, and volunteers who agreed on the need for spaces and organizations that do something other than reproduce stale administrative models and timid culture. I’m very pleased that Brit Bachmann is now there for the Pitt’s next round of risks, transformations, challenges, and successes.”
– Kay Higgins, outgoing Director of UNIT/PITT Projects