By Asia Fairbanks
VANCOUVER — Propelled by a unique philosophy and a strong set of moral values, Art Signified is quietly moving to the forefront of Vancouver’s underground music scene. Celebrating two years in business this January, the event promotion and artist management company places a large emphasis on the creation of a sustainable and successful artistic community. Founder Mitch Ray explains, “We make a concerted effort to take care of the bands, artists and people who make the community what it is, because without them we have nothing.” Since their inception, Art Signified has taken an artist-centric approach, acting, in Ray’s words, as facilitators for artists whose abilities far exceed their own.
“You play an Art Signified show, you get paid right, you end up with a rad live video for your band, and they work hard and bring crowds out naturally,” says local musician Eric Campbell of Eric Campbell & The Dirt.
Ray calls his approach altruistic entrepreneurship. “It’s the belief that by acting with the best interests of others in mind, we can cultivate a community that truly believes and buys into that same notion.”
This philosophy has seen Art Signified grow and develop over the past two years, moving quickly from putting on small local shows to becoming a key player in larger events like Vancouver’s annual Burger Fest and, this year, creating their very own annual Psych Fest. Continuing to push the envelope of the standard Vancouver local gig, Art Signified’s upcoming Two Year Anniversary Party on January 9th and 10th at Studio East expresses their unique approach perfectly – a two day extravaganza with a “locals only” lineup containing 26 bands and over 30 visual artists.
These large shows are a high point for Ray’s partner in crime, Taya Fraser. “I feel like they unite the scene a lot too, bands meeting bands, diggin’ their tunes, setting up future show ideas with each other,” she says. “To me, the ten-banders are all about exposure, unity and a really fucking cool party.”
With two years’ experience and several large, unique bills under their collective belt, Art Signified’s anniversary party will be a night to remember. As Ray explains, “We have 13 bands on each night and we would like the entire weekend to be indicative of what Art Signified is all about, so we handpicked the bands to fit that vibe.” The night will also feature the works of around 30 local artists and photographers as well as projected visuals, guests DJs, a photo booth and more.
The Anniversary Party will be kicking off an exciting new year for Art Signified, who will be expanding their horizons into other areas like artist management, and delving deeper into more complex videography projects. This process is already in motion, with the recent addition of Eric Campbell & The Dirt as the first band on Art Signified’s artist management roster.
“[Management] was something we always planned on doing, but we never felt we were ready. Then Eric approached us about managing The Dirt and we felt the opportunity to work with that level of talent was one we could not afford to pass up,” explains Ray.
While taking on the world might remain in the distant future for Art Signified, contributing to the evolution of Vancouver’s underground art and music community is their immediate focus, and the response they’ve gotten thus far has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The amount of response we’re getting is unreal, but we knew we wanted to grow, and we still do,” says Fraser.
“Seeing a lot of people dig what we do and how we do it is a very humbling and reassuring feeling,” adds Ray, “We would be doing this if no one cared, but the fact that people truly do care gives us a huge confidence boost.”
The confidence and support Art Signified has received from locals allows them to reciprocate in kind, pouring their time and energy into creating a supportive, self-perpetuating artistic community.
“I truly believe there is something timeless happening in Vancouver these days,” says Ray.
“The amount of unrecognized talent here is crazy,” adds Fraser. “The people in the underground music scene are so passionate about what they’re doing, and they’re really fucking good at what they do.”
The Vancouver underground art and music scene may ebb and flow throughout history, but right now we think it is safe to say it is on the rise, and Art Signified along with it. Mitch Ray sums it up best:
“This city has a unique character to it. We are not trying to recreate another scene from… some bygone era. This is Vancouver right now, and people need to start taking notice.”
Art Signified celebrates two years in business on January 9th and 10th at Studio East. Tickets are $5/night, or $8 for a weekend pass, and will be available in advance from Neptoon Records, Horses Records or Bully’s Studios, with all proceeds split evenly between the bands. Visit Art Signified’s Facebook page to view a full list of bands for each day.Art Signified, BC, British Columbia, Studio East