Vancouver is so expensive, these artists are living at sea

Four artists will journey from Vancouver to Shanghai this year by cargo ship. The project they're part of, 23 Days At Sea, has received such a reaction from the international art community, a Kickstarter campaign has launched to expand it into a three-year endeavour.

A one-of-a-kind artist-in-residence program seeks backers on Kickstarter

Can't find a place in Vancouver? Look elsewhere. 

It's a harsh reality if you live and work in the city, home of the most unaffordable homes in North America. Condos, houses, studio space — places to live and work are in short supply, so when the city's Access Gallery set about launching an artist-in-residency program, they needed a creative solution. They looked elsewhere, alright — toward the horizon and into international waters.

Nearly 900 artists, of various disciplines, reached out from Sao Paolo and St. Petersburg and all places in between, asking to participate.

The result is a project called 23 Days at Sea, and its title can be taken literally. Four artists have been selected as artists-in-residence by the gallery. This year, they will travel from Vancouver to Shanghai by cargo ship, a journey that takes, you guessed it, 23 days. The boat, which they'll share with a freighter vessel's crew, will serve as their studio, where they'll log their experience day-by-day.

Whatever a voyage at sea calls to mind, its appeal proved universal. This past December, when the gallery announced the project, they were flooded with applications. Nearly 900 artists, of various disciplines, reached out from Sao Paolo and St. Petersburg and all places in between, asking to participate.

Overwhelmed by the enthusiasm, the gallery has expanded the project. Their goal? To make 23 Days at Sea a three-year endeavour, one that will produce a book and large-scale touring exhibition. But they need funding to make it happen. 

A Kickstarter page launched last week, with the fundraising goal of $11,000. The cost of passage alone is $3,000 per person. And if that's what you're already paying in Vancouver rent, hot tip: cargo-ship voyages are always open to the general public. 

According to the Kickstarter write-up, $11,000 will allow Access Gallery to sustain the project over three years. Major endeavours, such as this one, are not covered by the government grants that sustain their regular operations.
If you back the project, you will receive regular dispatches on its progress — and news about the voyage is already coming in.

Right now, Nour Bishouty is somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. She's the second artist-in-residence to take the journey. The first, Vancouver's Elisa Ferrari, returned from the experience in late July. Halifax photographer/sculptor Christopher Boyce will ship off Sept. 8, followed by Melbourne-based choreographer Amaara Raheem. 


Fascinated by regimented crew-life, Ferrari recently said that she plans to produce a mixed-media installation inspired by the experience. It will likely feature audio she recorded on board.

Follow the progress by finding Access Gallery on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. As of writing, $3,935 has been pledged toward the project so far. The campaign wraps up Sept. 3.

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