British Columbia Art League

December 18 1920 - 1930 - ?


The B.C. Art League was founded in Vancouver in 1920 with two objectives: the first being the foundation of a school of arts and crafts in the province (ideally Vancouver); and the second being the foundation of an art gallery in Vancouver. It took the group five years to accomplish the first objective, when the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts opened in September 1925 as a direct result of the Art League's work, along with some willing assistance from John Kyle in the Government.

At the first general meeting of the League, on February 3, 1921, it was noted that "it is not intended that this shall be an entirely permanent and unchangeable institution."

The founding members of the Art League were noted as follows:
Bernard McEvoy Journalist
J.A. Radford Architect
John Innes Artist
Edgar Bloomfield Barrister at Law
W.J. Dart Engineer
Irene H. Moody Widow
Moses B. Cotsworth Accountant
Herbert O. Frind Financial Agent
Charles H. Scott Art Supervisor
James Leyland Fine Art Dealer
C. Marega Sculptor
Arthur L. Bell Photo Engraver
Edwina Constance Estcourt Law Clerk (witness)

The 1925 LIST OF MEMBERS noted that "affiliated members" included the Summerland Branch of the B.C. Art League, although little more is known about the Okanagan group, its members, or activities.

The Art League put on exhibitions in borrowed spaces, but eventually had their own gallery. In October 1926 the "gallery was dismantled, preliminary to change of location". The new gallery at 649 Seymour Street opened on November 10, 1928, the space provided courtesy of the Hudson's Bay Company. In those days, as now, arts organizations existed on the thinnest of financial threads, and willing patronage such as that given by the Hudson's Bay Company would often mean the difference between success and failure, between the ability to continue exhibiting, or having to close.

After the art school opened in 1925, it took the Art League another six years of hard work and political lobbying before they had the pleasure of attending the opening of the newly-built Vancouver Art Gallery on Georgia Street in 1931. In the meantime, they resorted to exceptional measures in their efforts to get the government to provide financial backing for a Civic Art Gallery. In 1926, for example, the Art League found sponsors willing to provide $100,000.00 (a huge sum of money in those days, and substantial even now) for the purchase of art to fill the gallery - if the government was willing to fund the gallery. This fundraising was discussed in the Curator's Report in the February 1926 issue of "Museum Notes" (Vol. I No. 1), published by the Art, Scientific and Historical Association of Vancouver. In 1926 the League had a membership of 538. By 1930 this number had dropped to 240.

The League also started their own art collection, held "in Trust" for the impending (it was hoped) construction of the "Civic Centre" that would include a new Art Gallery. Their art collection was yet another "artistic carrot" being dangled in front of the politicians to induce support. Actually, the collection was also an "artistic stick" of sorts, as it was also used to embarass politicians when they were asked why they couldn't provide even the simplest of shelter for even such a tiny collection as the Art League's.

Although its members continued to be active in the arts scene once the Vancouver Art Gallery opened in 1931, the Art League itself retired after completing their mission of establishing two substantial and vitally important institutions in Vancouver. Both the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (now Emily Carr Institute) continue to prosper and expand to this day, reaching international recognition and status, more than one hundred years after the Art League's dream of building them was first envisioned.




B.C. Art League folder - on file at Vancouver Art Gallery Library

B.C. Art League Fonds - on file at Vancouver City Archives; Add. MSS.168 Vol. 1 & 2


"B.C. Art League Committees Are Active"
      From "Artists and Their Doings", Western Woman's Weekly, October 9, 1920

"Important Meeting of B.C. Art League"
      From Western Woman's Weekly, April 23, 1921

"The B.C. Art League"
      From Western Woman's Weekly, July 23, 1921

"The meeting of the B.C. Art League on Wednesday evening last was a great success. The audience was large and highly intelligent." (continues)
      From "By the Way in Art" per B.C. Art League
      Vancouver Daily Province, Thursday October 6 1921, page 12

"The exhibition of Japanese art from the brush of Sekido Yoshida, which opened Saturday in the B.C. Manufacturer's exhibition rooms, corner of Cordova and Cambie Streets, was also an initial inauguration of the room in which the B.C. Art League will shortly begin their permanent art gallery of worthwhile paintings."
      From "By the Way in Art" per B.C. Art League
      Vancouver Daily Province, Thursday October 6 1921, page 12

"Fine Art Advisory Board to the Vancouver Exhibition Association"
      From Western Woman's Weekly, July 29, 1922

"The B.C. Art League, 929 Granville Street, has at the present time the finest collection . . ."
      From Western Woman's Weekly, June 14, 1924

"For three or four years the B.C. Art League has been working with this end in view, and successive committees have procured and tabulated a vast amount of information ... (continues)"
      "Coming Art School"
      The Daily Province, January 13 1925

"From the information available it would seem that after years of work by the B.C. Art League, including several deputations to the minister of education in Victoria ... (continues)"
      "An Arts and Crafts School"
      The Daily Province, July 7 1925

"This, it is hoped, will be for a short time only, as, owing to the activity of the members of the B.C. Art League, notably one of our own directors Mrs. F.T. Schooley, some public spirited citizens have been induced to make the very handsome offer of $100,000 for the purchase of works of Art, provided the citizens authorize the erection of an Art Gallery for the accommodation of the same. So that there is every hope that an effort will now be made by the city to start erecting the long-talked of "Civic Centre," which will accommodate both the Art Gallery and Museum."
      From "Curator's Report, by T.P.O. Menzies
      Museum Notes, Vol. 1, No. 1, February 1926.

"A Few Facts re The B.C. Art League"
      From "Citizens' Loan Exhibition of Watercolours" catalogue, October, 1929

"That the exhibition of Saturday was held in rooms which, compared with those other sordid locations, were palatial, is due to the astonishing surprise which has been sprung upon most local people interested in art by the executive of the B.C. Art League, in securing from the Hudson's Bay Company a spacious and lofty room at 649 Seymour Street which, except for its approach, is superior to anything the league has ever had, and in getting it ready for the opening on Saturday in such a short time that the labor involved must have been of an exceptional and vigorous nature."
      From "B.C. Society of Fine Arts", by Diogenes
      Vancouver Daily Province, November 13 1930