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HISTORY

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.

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Archives

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