The Collective

Enter Wolf/Sheep Arthouse, a buzzing hub of music, tattoo, street art and more in downtown Victoria

Wolf/Sheep Arthouse is a hub for artistic collaboration between musicians, tattoo artists, street artists, video producers and other members of Victoria's art scene. This video takes you right inside Wolf/Sheep's beating heart.

"What it always boils down to is our aim to demystify contemporary art."

This video is part of The Collective, a CBC Arts digital project that invites artists to tell their own stories. Learn more about the project, and watch more Collective videos.

Drop by Wolf/Sheep Arthouse in downtown Victoria some time, and you might just be treated to a scene like the one that kicks off this Collective video, with DJs spinning tunes as tattoo artists work on their designs and a graffiti artist paints a wall. Wolf/Sheep is a collective of about 20 artists, designers, writers, multimedia producers, tattoo artists, coordinators and more, who all come together with the goal of making art accessible to anyone who might be interested.

Here's what Wolf/Sheep's co-founder Erik Van Kobra had to say about the collective and their video:

What is Wolf/Sheep Arthouse? How did your collective get its start?
We started off as a group of painters, and it sort of took off from there. We began to incorporate all these other creative elements that we saw as being necessary to painting — like music and dance and photography — and it just went from there. We have about a 4,600-square-foot space in downtown Victoria. It includes a painting studio; it has a gallery atmosphere about it. We do tattoo art and design out of that space. We also have a retail storefront where we sell prints and clothing, and we hold events. Right now, we kinda try to centralize it around art, design and music.

Your members experiment with a wide range of art forms — from music to tattoo art to dance. How would you describe your overall artistic mission?
What it always boils down to is our aim to demystify contemporary art. A lot of people have a hard time breaking through the barrier of feeling like they're part of it. We try to bring everything together so that it becomes a tangible thing that people can get involved with. We keep our work as transparent as possible. Our studio is open to the public almost all of the time. We show parts in process, not just finished projects.

How did you pull off some of the striking shots in the video, like that single long take that brings us on a tour of the entire studio?
That was actually the hardest part of the entire video process, because it basically required having everybody in the space simultaneously, operating at the same time. But it made for a really interesting opening sequence, because it basically showcased almost every angle of our studio and the ingredients that go into what we do. There's a few times where people show up multiple times in the video. As we turned the corner in the space, people had to move in behind us to pop into the next scene. So it was tricky. It was like a little balancing act.

In the video, Erik, you said about art, "you cannot plan anything great." Why not?
Trying to plan great things really takes away the spontaneity and the creative element that makes art what it is. Too much planning takes away the excitement; it takes away the originality of it. An air of spontaneity really lends itself to absolute freedom. When you don't nail down exactly what it is that you do, creative things are just sort of spurred on. Even with that one take, we had no idea how we were going to do it; we just did it. We had a basic idea, but we didn't know how it was going to work. But it went well. And when that starts to happen in an environment where people can digest it, they can begin to understand it. And not only understand it — but enjoy it.

What do you hope people will take away from the video?
I think a lot of people tend to think of art as this mysterious thing that nobody can understand or explain. It's like some large force that people can't grasp. But when you actually take part in it, and you're actually on the ground level and living it, you understand it a lot better. It shouldn't be a puzzle, a riddle that people don't understand. Maybe what we should be doing is looking at why we produce it and how we produce it — and explore what connects us all through those things.

More about Wolf/Sheep Arthouse

Wolf/Sheep is a group of artists, designers, writers, multimedia producers and coordinators that merged art production and gallery space to create the Wolf/Sheep Arthouse.The group's mission is to make contemporary art accessible to everyone with the goal of proving how it can enrich lives. Erik Van Kobra is the creator behind Wolf/Sheep Arthouse, which is independent, and sustained from the collective's art sales. 

To learn more about Wolf/Sheep Arthouse, check out their website. You can also follow the collective on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Youtube