Vancouver Arts & Crafts Association

Bu N135 - [O'Brien Hall, Metropolitan Block and the De Beck Building, southeast corner of Homer and Hastings Streets] 1940.

Bu N135 – [O’Brien Hall, Metropolitan Block and the De Beck Building, southeast corner of Homer and Hastings Streets] 1940. This was the site of the inaugural exhibition of the A&CA, July, 1900. Interestingly, R. M. Fripp, who was later president of the Arts & Crafts Association, was the designer of O’Brien Hall. The Hall was demolished in 1940, presumably shortly after this image was made.

image2-3The Arts & Crafts Association came into being in April, 1900 and lasted little more than a couple of years.* It had as its “chief aim . . . to encourage artistic feeling and knowledge and to bring the designer and the workman or craftsman into closer relationship.” (Brochure, Arts and Crafts Association. Vancouver, B.C., Evans & Hastings [Printer?], n.d. {190-?], CVA Collection off-line).

The Association offered classes in a variety of areas:

  • Painting and drawing
  • Modelling
  • Art Needlework
  • Design and Execution of Furniture
  • Architectural Drawing and History
  • Mechanical Drawing
  • Photography
  • Painting on China
  • Carving

An “annual exhibition” was held in which members were entitled to submit their works for show and sale. The first of these was held in September, 1900 at the Theatre Royal (also known as the Alhambra Theatre), located at Pender and Howe. The second annual exhibit was in 1901 at the Fairfield Building on Granville at Pender. (There was a third exhibit that wasn’t one of the “annual” exhibits. It was an inaugural exhibition at O’Brien Hall (Hastings and Homer) to help celebrate the creation of the association. It was held in July, 1900.)**

Judging from the handwritten list of members held by CVA, about half of the 60+ paid members were women. The gender distribution among the executive was consistent with the time in not being representative of the membership, however the one woman among the ten officers – Mrs. Balfour Ker – was a Vice-President (the other V-P was S. M. Eveleigh). The President and a major force behind the Association was Robert M. Fripp.

Port P552 - [Robert MacKay Fripp] ca1888 J. D. Hall photo.

Port P552 – Robert MacKay Fripp. ca1888 J. D. Hall photo.

After the 1901 exhibit, the Association seemed to run out of steam. Mention was made in the press that the Association came to an end with the move of R. M. Fripp to California (temporarily) and “the scattering of other important members.”

Some of the functions of the Arts & Crafts Association were assumed by the Studio Club***(1904) and by the B.C. Society of Fine Arts (1908).


*The Arts & Crafts Association was birthed from an even more short-lived organization: the Art Workers Guild. Not much is known about the Guild except that it was established in early 1900. It was replaced by the A&CA when it was created about three months later.

**A. J. Davis showed some of his artwork and carving at the inaugural exhibit.

***Emily Carr was hired (briefly) in 1905 or 1906 by the Studio Club to be a resource person for one of their painting classes. William Thom quotes Carr regarding her time with the Club in his thesis: “The [Studio]… Club was a cluster of society women who intermittently packed themselves and their admirers into a small rented studio to drink tea and jabber art jargon” (Thom, 30). It won’t be surprising to anyone familiar with her acerbic wit that Miss Carr was dismissed from her job with the Studio Club after just one month. Her impatience with her students was doubtless exceeded only by her students’ distaste for ‘her’ sort of (decidedly non-Victorian) art!


City of Vancouver Archives. Off-line file on the Vancouver Arts & Crafts Association.

William Wylie Thom. The Fine Arts in Vancouver, 1886-1930: An Historical Survey. M. A. Thesis. UBC. April 1969.

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