top of page

There's a place for you here.

A learning community dedicated to the advancement of art education through comprehensive programs and presentations for adults of all ages

About us

Whether you want to take only one art course or complete a full-time program, there is a place for you at our school. We have courses for people with absolutely no experience as well as courses for artists who might want to learn new skills. Our classes are small -usually around 8-14 students per class. Our demographics vary from 18-80 so every course you take at VISA is a small microcosm of the world at large.


When you take a course at our school you will find that you are part of a community. it is a great place to meet people and make friends. Within no time, you will feel right at home in our contemporary classroom space located in one of Victoria’s treasured downtown heritage buildings.


Why choose the Vancouver Island School of Art 


Quality of Education 

The Vancouver Island School of Art (VISA) is an independent, non-profit art school that offers high-quality education in the visual arts. VISA has a rigorous academic program that emphasizes hands-on learning and individualized attention with experienced faculty who are practicing artists. VISA is designated by the Private Training Institutions Branch of the BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education. The school also has a British Columbia Quality Assurance designation which allows the acceptance of international students into the program. In addition, VISA has transfer agreements with Emily Carr University and Vancouver Island University. After completing a Certificate of Visual Arts at VISA, students can enter the second year of the BFA program at both these institutions.


Specialized Curriculum​

VISA offers a one-year Certificate of Visual Arts that includes and courses in painting, drawing, photography, art history and contemporary art. All the courses at VISA art open to individuals not in a program who only want to take a course or two at a time.  VISA also offers specialized workshops with local and visiting artists on Saturdays in the Fall and Winter semesters.


Access to Resources​

VISA has a large well-ventilated and well-lit classroom space, a well-stocked art library and excellent downtown central location. VISA also shares their space with the Slide Room Gallery which is a separate non-profit society with its own Board of Directors. The gallery gives the students first-hand access to work of local Victoria artists. VISA also has strong connections to the local arts community, with partnerships and collaborations with local galleries and other arts organizations.


VISA’s Executive Director and other instructors are available for one-on-one mentoring whether students need help applying to university, or for grants or exhibitions.



VISA is known for its strong community of artists, with a supportive and collaborative environment that fosters creativity and experimentation. VISA hosts regular exhibitions, lectures, and other events that bring together students, faculty, alumni, and the broader arts community.  

The Vancouver Island School of Art is a learning community dedicated to the advancement of art education through comprehensive programs and presentations for adults of all ages. The focus of the courses and workshops offered by the school is on technique, personal expression and contemporary context.

Mission Statement



The Vancouver Island School of Art (VISA) was established in 2004 by artist and educator Wendy Welch. VISA began in a commercial space in the Rock Bay area of Victoria. There were 54 students registered in the Fall 2004 semester, and by Winter 2005, VISA was out growing the 1000 sq. ft space on John Street with the student numbers increasing to over 125 registrations.


By Fall 2005, VISA procured a de-commissioned school owned by School District 61 at 2549 Quadra. To rent a 9,000 square foot space that was purposed for a school was a dream come true. The two-storied building with large well-lit classrooms, office spaces and library room was a perfect fit a school with ever-increasing enrolment. The growing vibrant community of the Quadra Village was an ideal place for a new art school.

In 2005 also came accreditation with the PCTIA (now PTIB, Private Training Institutions Branch) allowing VISA to offer programs such as a Certificate of Visual Arts and Diploma of Fine Arts. With options to take high quality courses and workshops in mornings, afternoons, evenings and on weekends, VISA appealed to a great number of people in the community. All of the faculty hired had Master of Fine Art degrees and teaching experience. Many of the MFA graduates from the University of Victoria were hired to teach at VISA.


In 2007, the Slide Room Gallery was formed and located in the lower level of 2549 Quadra St. The gallery’s name came about because the room was formerly used to show slides during art history lectures. The gallery hosted many exhibitions, artists talks and community events over the years. At this time another program was added to the curriculum: Independent Studio, where a student would work on an independent body of work and exhibit the work at the end of the year in the Slide Room Gallery.


In 2012, VISA acquired transfer agreements with Emily Carr University, Vancouver Island University and the University of Gloucestershire in the UK. Many of the students took advantage of these opportunities and moved to Vancouver and the UK to study.


In 2015 to celebrate VISA’s 10-year anniversary, Xane St Phillip designed a razzle-dazzle painted mural for the outside of the building. The design was inspired by the “razzle dazzle” ships of WWI (the striped design was used as camouflage). This design gave the school a fresh new look and added much vibrancy to the neighbourhood.


VISA was forced to leave the 2549 Quadra in the Spring of 2018 due to the school board needing the building for other uses. For a brief period, VISA was located at the former North Park Bike Shop at 1725 Quadra, however the space was much too small to accommodate the needs of the school and an alternate location was found at 950 Kings (the top floor of the former Blanshard Elementary School). VISA did some major renovations to the space and created two main classrooms and 24 studio spaces to rent out to artists in the community.

Prior to the pandemic, the plan was for VISA to move into a purpose-built space in partnership with Aryze. With the uncertainty of what was happening with the pandemic, VISA decided to look for a smaller, more manageable space.


As of June 2021, VISA moved into a downtown location in an historic building known as Maynard Court at 302-733 Johnson St. VISA continues to offer a range of courses and workshops for the general public, as well as a Certificate of Visual Arts which is transferable to Emily Carr University and Vancouver Island University. The new space is VISA’s permanent location.

Quick links

Faculty & Board

All our regular faculty members have an MFA or MA

Newsletter, Press & Archives

Discover our press coverage and newsletters

Our modes of study

Certificate of Visual Arts

One year full-time or a maximum of four years part-time

Full-time Study

  • duration: one year (consecutive Fall & Winter semesters)

  • credit requirement: 504 classroom hours

  • minimum course load: 21 hours per week (seven courses per semester)


Important note for Full-time students: We encourage September intake for enrolment in the Certificate of Visual Arts, however some exceptions can be made regarding a January intake for this program. Students applying for the January intake must exhibit prior drawing and painting experience so that they can enrol directly into Drawing: Introduction II and Painting: Introduction II (as Drawing: Introduction I and Painting: Introduction I are not always offered in the Winter semester). Students must register for their courses by August 15 (Fall) and December 15 (Winter) to ensure placement in required courses.

Who is the Certificate of Visual Arts for?

People who want to study art but have a limited amount of free time to do so (minimum hourly requirement per week is six hours)

People who need to develop a portfolio for admission to an arts program at the university level

People who are looking for a sense of direction or meaning in their life and would like to find this through art

Professionals in other careers who want to enrich their lives through art

People who have been taking art courses for several years and would like to start working towards a specific goal and complete a program

The Certificate of Visual Arts provides basic training in the fundamentals of drawing, painting, mixed media, art history and contemporary art. Students will finish the Certificate of Visual Arts with a comprehensive and diverse portfolio package. The Certificate of Visual Arts can be completed within nine months (September-April full-time) or over a period of four years (part-time).

Admission Requirements

1. Copy of photo ID. 2. 6 images (jpegs) of applicant's original work done in the last two years. Images must be a minimum of 640 pixels or 8 inches wide, 72 dpi is fine as long as image width is at least 640 pixels wide. Images can be sent on a CD, flash drive or through a file sharing program such as YouSendIt, Dropbox, WeTransfer or something similar. Include a list of titles, mediums and size of each image (submitted as a separate PDF or Word document). If you are emailing material use the following email address: with 'Application Materials and Your Name' in subject line. 3. 300-400 word essay describing your reasons for pursuing the Certificate Program. (submitted as a PDF or Word document) 4. Proof of high school graduation or mature student status (19 years or over and completion of english 12 or completion of BC Provincial english 12 exam with a minimum 60% or 'C' grade); or proof of post-secondary education (transcript). 5. Applicants whose first language is not English, are required to provide proof of completion of the TOEFL English Language Test (or equivalent) with a minimum of 70% on the results. Applicants who have completed a Degree, Diploma or Certificate from an English-speaking University, College or other Post Secondary Education Institution, will be exempt from having to provide an English Proficiency Test. 6. Completed application form with $50 application fee ($100 application fee for International students). Payment can be made by Paypal, E-transfer(, Interac or Credit Card (Mastercard or Visa). Application deadline: you can apply any time and applications are accepted on a first come, first serve basis (students wishing to apply for student loans will need to apply early to have their funding in place).

Application Assessment

Applications are assessed based on the quality of artwork submitted, the written document expressing reasons to attend the program and applicant's previous academic record. Assessment of artwork: Artwork is judged based on the applicant's knowledge of art techniques and use of materials; originality of expression; and ability to photograph their work in a professional-looking manner. The school is looking for applicants that have a strong interest in visual art and whose work reveals a level of engagement with artmaking. Assessment of written statement: The written statement required in the application process is used to assess the applicant's interest in art and also to see their English language writing skills as part of the program includes written assignments

University Transfer Agreements

VISA's Certificate of Visual Arts is transferable to the second year of the: ·Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Media Arts or Bachelor of Design degree at EMILY CARR UNIVERSITY OF ART + DESIGN. ·Bachelor in Arts, Major in Fine Arts Degree at the VANCOUVER ISLAND UNIVERSITY.

Mature Student Status

Applicants who are 19 years of age or older who lack the minimum program admission requirement may apply as mature students. The Director will consider written requests for admission as a mature student. Applicants are asked to provide, in writing, details of other qualifications or experiences and documents from any completed educational courses or programs. The Director may request an interview.

Academic Advisement

If you would like to discuss your future studies at the Vancouver Island School of Art, please call 250-380-3500 or email for assistance in choosing or registering for courses.

Required Courses

FALL SEMESTER: Drawing: Introduction I Painting: Introduction I Understanding Colour Art History Contemporary Art I Elective (36 hr course) Elective (36 hr course) WINTER SEMESTER: Drawing: Introduction II Painting: Introduction II Design Art History Contemporary Art II Elective (36 hr course) Elective (36 hr course)

The Vancouver Island School of Art is a Designated Learning Institution registered with the Government of Canada. DLI# O111345278377

The Certificate of Visual Arts program has been approved by the B.C. Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) of the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training.

Individual Courses and Workshops

On-going, no application required

The courses at VISA focus on drawing, painting, collage, art history and contemporary art. However, we also offer courses and workshops in mixed media and fibre arts.

Individual Courses

  • Discover a range of contemporary artists to use as inspiration for you...

    Starts May 10

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • Turn your love of flowers into exciting and experimental paintings.

    Starts May 7

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • Enjoy the summer evenings as you draw and paint nature in different lo...

    Starts May 8

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • Discover how photography can be a great source for making realistic or...

    Starts Jun 26

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • Areas of science such as biology, geology and astronomy will inspire y...

    Starts Jun 25

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • In this course you will learn to make landscapes that include both flo...

    Starts Jun 25

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • Gather some practical tips about acrylic paintings while making expres...

    Starts Jun 25

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • Use a range of cinematic moments as point of departure for your painti...

    Starts Jun 26

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • Learn more about our local Garry Oak meadows through study sketches an...

    Starts Jun 26

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • Discover a range of contemporary artists to use an inspiration for you...

    Starts Jun 28

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • This course is a great introduction to painting with acrylics.

    Starts Jun 28

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...

  • Learn to make exciting and dynamic process-based paintings in this cou...

    Starts Jun 25

    275 Canadian dollars

    Loading availability...