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Wolf/Sheep: A house of street art

Gallery and studio marks its first year with a two-day show


Wolf/Sheep Arthouse presents: The End is Here

When: Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.

Where: 1517 Douglas St. Admission: Free

When he envisioned a longterm future for his passion project, the Wolf/Sheep Arthouse, artist Erik Van Kobra had a clear idea of what that should entail.

"One thing we didn't want to do was put art on the walls and simply put a price tag on it," Van Kobra said.

His dream was to create a place where visual artists, graphic designers, tattoo artists and musicians could operate under one roof, a place where art would be born but also sold. That dream become a reality as Wolf/Sheep navigated its first year in business out of an underground Government Street "art house" paid for entirely by the collective's artwork sales.

Running a combined production studio/art gallery/tattoo shop dedicated solely to up-and-coming artists resulted in a steep learning curve, Van Kobra said. But the journey produced some spectacular results. "What we're doing is filling a gap in this city," said Van Kobra, who is prone to 60-hour work weeks. "That's why it has taken off."

Wolf/Sheep is marking its first year in business with a two-day art show dubbed The End is Here.

In addition to providing a showcase for the street art, photography and mixedmedia work of Wolf/Sheep artists, Van Kobra hopes "the temporary aspect" of the event conveys the essence of the multi-disciplinary collective, which now has more than two dozen artists under its umbrella.

"There's an insistence to go [to these events] because if you spread them out over time, there's more of an art gallery atmosphere," he said. "We're largely about street culture, and that is something that's immediate."

The End is Here will also feature musical performances by locals Rhythmicon, Murge and Verse. There's also an undisclosed after-party featuring Murge, Van Kobra says, but in keeping with the guerrilla-type unpredictability of the event, the location and time of those performances won't be announced until the Friday-night gala.

The End is Here has a great deal of flexibility, thanks to its unique location, a 3,600-square-foot office building across the street from Victoria City Hall. Wolf/Sheep secured the vacant site (currently for lease) through management company Jawl Properties, which threw its support behind the collective during Wolf/Sheep's inaugural event last February.

Having the endorsement of a large local company is a sign that Wolf/Sheep is heading in the right direction, said Adam Foeller, event manager for Wolf/Sheep. "The fact that it seems to be working, and appears to be accepted, makes me feel like we're a success," Foeller said.

Van Kobra is eager to pay forward the generous support Wolf/Sheep has received. As a result, 20 per cent of the art sales from every Wolf/Sheep event is donated to a local charity. That level of commitment to the community is important, Van Kobra said, especially considering Wolf/Sheep is an independent entity free of government grants and sustained solely by the collective's artwork sales.

Van Kobra opened Wolf/Sheep's Government Street headquarters a little over a year ago with the goal of exposing scores of local artists to the public. Although the Victoria native, a longtime fixture of the local tattoo industry, runs the collective as a business, he found helping artists with the financial side of their careers was more meaningful than he imagined. "I was always in want of and in need of a place like this. I wanted to not make it a job but a viable way to make a living. One way to do that was to make it an outlet or hub for people who were doing the same things I wanted to see."