Fonds RBSC-ARC-1609 - Western Front Society fonds

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Western Front Society fonds

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds

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Physical description

21.7 m textual records and other material

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Biographical history

The Western Front was founded in 1973 by eight artists who wanted to create a space for the exploration and creation of new art forms. It quickly became a centre for poets, dancers, musicians and visual artists interested in exploration and interdisciplinary practices. One of Canada's oldest Artist Run Centres, the organization is situated in a turn of the century wooden building that houses a gallery, concert hall, dance hall, and production studios for electronic and print media.

As a focal point of experimental art practice through the 1970s and 1980s, the Western Front, in connection with other centres like it, played a major role in the development of electronic and networked art forms in a national and international context. This included video art, sound-art, the use of telecommunications to establish a global arts network, and the development of interactive technologies to explore the connection between the art-viewer and the art-space. In the 1990s the organization produced a number of multidisciplinary festivals and city-wide collaborative exhibitions including the Electronic Arts Festival, Reinventing the Diva, and Jiangnan.

Over the years the organization has become the training ground and springboard for many young artists, especially those working outside the commercial art market. With a staff of ten people plus interns and volunteers, the centre now produces over 100 events a year. Its artist-in-residence program invites artists from many different countries to produce new works in media/electronic art. It maintains five programs (Exhibitions, Front Magazine, Media Arts, New Music, and Performance Art), and publishes monographs, catalogues, audio works and a magazine which serves both as a newsletter to members and as a vehicle for new writing, photography and interdisciplinary performance. The Western Front maintains an extensive archive (video and audio tapes) of work created and presented over the past thirty years, and is committed to preserving the artistic legacy of Canada's artistic community.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of administrative files including operating and project grants; correspondence; artist and project files relating to events, productions and exhibitions; and promotional and publicity materials. Some files include photographs and drawings.

The fonds have been arranged into nine series: general programming, administrative, exhibitions, Front Magazine, Luminous Sites, media arts and video program, new music, performance art, and publicity and promotional materials. As much as possible, the files are arranged as they were by the original curators and program administrators. Early records (1973-1983) for all the programs are grouped together. Video program files were separated starting in 1976 when the program began. Following 1983, the programs each had individual curators.

Notes area

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Immediate source of acquisition


The following boxes were omitted from accessions: 11, 12, 30, 33, 34, 42, 49, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 59, and 62. From the boxes that were included in accessions, the following files were omitted: 38-102, 44-(4-9), 44-14, 46-02, 60-10. 60-16, 60-17, 60-19, 60-23, 60-24, 60-27. 61-06, 61-07, 61-(15-18), 61-26, 61-(38-42). No reasons were provided by the creators for these omissions. The exclusions are reflected in the box and file numbering found in the current finding aid.

As much as possible, the files are arranged as they were by the original curators and program administrators. Early records (1973-1983) for all the programs are grouped together in the General Programming series; prior to the late 1970s/early 1980s, the various Programs did not have dedicated administrative bodies. Video Program files were separated starting in 1976 when the program began. Following 1983, the programs each had individual curators.

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Finding aids

Previous fonds inventory created by Western Front Society staff in August 2007 is available by request; however, the file-level descriptions from that inventory are included in this AtoM record. Please not that previous inventory no longer accurately represents the extent of the Western Front Society fonds.

Generated finding aid

Associated materials

The archives of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (UBC) holds records of artists associated with the Western Front and its founders, including the Kate Craig fonds, Glenn Lewis fonds, Eric Metcalfe fonds, Morris/Trasov Archive, Vincent Trasov collection, and Henry Greenhow fonds.

The Western Front maintains its own archive which contains, as of December 2023, nearly 2,000 video tapes and 500 audio recordings on magnetic media; approximately 30 meters of textual and graphic material; legacy technical equipment; performance props and costumes; and original artworks, as well as the fonds and collections of some artists, including Kate Craig and Hank Bull.

Related materials


Further accruals expected.

Physical description

21.7 m textual records, 370 photographs, 282 negatives, 48 slides, 2 VHS tapes

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Finding aid revised by Malcolm Fish, November 2023.

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