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Working For the Weekend: With Tracy Stefanucci of the Vancouver Art Book Fair

By Glenn Alderson

wftw-tracyVANCOUVER — The Vancouver Art Book Fair (VABF) is back again, returning this year to celebrate the written word in all its glory. Although the event itself is just an annual affair, the VABF operates year round as an organization that curates music and art happenings at various venues throughout the city. Originally starting as an art and literary magazine by the name of one cool word, the publication embedded itself in the Vancouver music scene by releasing a full length compilation CD featuring local bands with each issue. The project eventually steered more toward visual arts, relaunching as the artists’ publication OCW Magazine in 2010, the team behind it eventually went on to open a bookshop/gallery in 2011. “Our experience with the shop was demonstrating the need for an art book fair in Vancouver, so in 2012 we started VABF,” says artistic director and project manager Tracy Stefanucci. “From its inception, the idea was well received, and every year their audience and programs have doubled. In 2013 we closed our storefront, as VABF was demanding so much attention, year round. Now our focus is the fair, as well as Monthly Open Studio events and ancillary publishing and curatorial projects and collaborations.”

We sat down with Stefanucci to find out what her and her hardworking team of art and literary aficionados have in store for this year’s big event.

BeatRoute: How did you get involved?

Tracy Stefanucci: I was an original co-founder of one cool word magazine back in 2006 and am the founder of VABF. A decade ago, I was a creative writing student at UBC that was obsessed with the local music scene—so the obvious outlet was to create a publication that could showcase and disseminate the creative work that I was so fired up about. I had absolutely no idea that I—or the project—would end up where it is today.

BR: Can you tell me a bit about your job and responsibilities with the organization?

TS: As the director of the organization and the artistic director/project manager of the fair itself, it’s my job to maintain a “big-picture” view of the many moving parts that make up such a multifaceted event. This means everything from visioning and strategizing to grant writing and accounting, as well as the more fun things like programming, logistics and managing the staff and volunteer teams that are necessary for undertaking such a project. Mostly I type at a computer, but I’m also schlepping things around and running up and down the stairs of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Annex when it’s go-time for our events.

BR: What kind of music do you listen to at work?

TS: I’ve been in Sweden so I’ve joined the cult of Spotify… which for me means leeching off of other peoples’ playlists (namely my boyfriend’s mix of sixties R&B, soul, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll). I’ve also gotten really into Frazey Ford after obsessing over her video for “Done,” which was filmed in my neighbourhood, and then seeing her perform live at a little theatre in Stockholm. Oh, and Swedish rap has gotten to me, particularly Yung Lean and Silvana Imam, who also puts on a badass live show.

BR: What can people expect from the 2016 Vancouver Art and Book Fair?

TS: This year is the most ambitious version of the free public event yet. From the moment you enter the lobby of the Vancouver Art Gallery you will be greeted with Artists’ Projects (an exhibition of 1960s print media and ephemera created in Vancouver by Portland-based Monograph Bookwerks, as well as the VAG’s Library Book Sale), and you will continue to encounter additional Artists’ Projects as you tour through the Gallery Annex, browsing in the three exhibitor rooms and stopping by for hourly talks in the library.

The hourly talks in the library are by publishers from across Canada, the United States, Japan, the U.K. and Australia, and feature discussions, readings, musical performances and film screenings, all of which correspond to art publishing practices.

The VAG’s Art Rental & Sales has also partnered with SAD Mag to present an Art & Literary Lounge, offering literary readings, discussions and workshops throughout the weekend, while also serving up complimentary organic and fair trade coffee from our official coffee sponsor Ethical Bean.

BR: Why does print media matter?

TS: Why does anything matter? I would say that the thousands of people that come to the Vancouver Art Gallery each year for VABF indicates that to these people, print matters. Print is a technology like all others before and after it, and it is still a useful, nuanced and interesting method for creating certain experiences. Whether one is interested in the conceptual ideas behind “publication” (which may not even necessitate print) or the more form-related aspects (such as inks, papers, printing methods), the tangible and ephemeral medium of print still resonates.

The Vancouver Art And Book Fair takes place Oct. 14 to 16 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. For more information, visit 2016.vancouverartbookfair.com.

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