The Cheaper Show – Blood, Sweat, and Ten Years

The justalilhype! crew had a chance to interview Graeme Berglund during the tenth incarnation of The Cheaper Show, held on June 25th, 2011 in Vancouver. The show provides a platform for talented emerging and established artists to display their work and to expose the public to the offerings of the Vancouver art community. The concept of the show is to have all the pieces displayed sell for one affordable and uniform price, with the focus of the show being to foster interaction between the general public and the Vancouver art community, and to get the city excited about the talent that is hidden away in our local neighbourhoods. We were intrigued to see so many artists and amazing art being show cased at once. Our very own Kris Krug’s East Van Sun Rise submission was shown at the show as well.

As one of the founding members of the show and its current creative director, Graeme tells us about how the show got started, who is involved in putting the whole event together, and the impact that The Cheaper Show and other events of its kind have had on the social culture of Vancouver. Click below for the interview and more photos.

Can you introduce yourself to our readers and can you tell us how the Cheaper Show was started?

Hey, my name is Graeme Berglund. Back in November 2001, a few friends of mine were complaining about how we couldn’t get any recognition in this city through the gallery system. We devised a plan to start something that was completely different from all the other art shows that we had been to and to create an arena that we could invite our friends to and where they would actually have a good time. We wanted to create a format that was both accessible and affordable for people. Our friends, or anyone else for that matter, weren’t necessarily going to buy our work if we tried to sell it for fifteen hundred dollars apiece. However, we felt that if we tried to make a piece as affordable as possible, we could get some of our work onto people’s walls.

So we put on the first show, called Cheaper Than a One Night Stand, in November of 2001. It was a huge success. We expected to get a few friends and family out but we ended up getting 200 people. Halfway through that first show people were already asking when the next show was going to be, so we started planning for the next one. By the next three shows, people were lining up down the street and around the corner of the block to get in. In 2008, my previous partners and I decided to take the financial and logistical risk of doing a bigger show that appealed the public instead of just the Vancouver art scene. We hired a producer and we brought in a whole new crew of people to do the show. We hoped to bring out 3000 people but in fact, 5000 people showed up. At that time, I knew that this thing was getting so big that I would need additional help. I brought on my friend Steve Rio. Steve and I have been working together for the last year and a half. He took over my role as executive director and I am now the creative director. Steve is running the show as a non-profit business. It is currently run by the Emerging Arts Foundation, which is a Federal non profit organization. This is really exciting because this show is the first time that 100% of the proceeds from our sales go back to the artists. A standard gallery gives 50% of the proceeds back to the artists and in our previous shows, 75% of the proceeds have gone back to the artists.

Your logo color and design are so simple but yet it has become like a symbol almost. A lot of people look up to your design. Can you tell us where it came from?

I have the gift of having the foresight to hire the perfect person for a job. There is a local designer named Chris Allen. He did all the branding and design work for Inventory Magazine. Chris actually won an award in 2009 for his work and the story was published in an European design compendium. I hired Chris in 2008 to do all of the branding for the Cheaper Show. I wanted something that felt as real as the show was. We wanted a more utilitarian approach with the logo itself. It is a stack of papers dropped to the ground, and we chose one of the most common type faces out there, which is Trade Gothic, so you had an immediate with the font system. The colours themselves are simply black and yellow because I just wanted a clean and austere design. I believe that the design has developed into a local icon, and people know that the show is coming when they see those yellow posters pop up.

This year however, we wanted the show to move in a more mature direction. We have more Masters of Fine Arts students applying than I ever imagined we would, which is pretty incredible. As this show grows, I am approaching the direction of making this a service to artists, to really get their work out there, instead of just another art show. So to make that happen, I brought on Travis Collier and Ryan Romero, from CLOU. Check them out at their website: thisisclou.com. These guys have been incredible to work with. They are one of the most talented design crews in the city. They did everything for us this year. We just recently put out our first book as well, and you can get a copy down in our merchandise section. Anyways, thanks for mentioning the logo, we are really proud of what Chris did for us.

Throughout the past decade, this show has made an impact on the city. Can you specify on the kind of impact that you think the show has had on Vancouver?

I think that the biggest impact that the show has had on Vancouver is to help get people excited about what our city has to offer in terms of social culture and to help change Vancouver’s reputation as a “no fun city.” Myself and many of my friends realized that if you get organized, get some money involved, and find the right sponsors, you will do something that is impacting and sustainable in this city. People naturally want to have fun. At the civic level and the provincial level the government definitely tried to create some obstacles for us, but I think that if you are willing to work hard and stick your neck out to throw a show, put on an event, open a store, or put out a fashion line, people are going to start responding to those things and begin to appreciate culture in the city. I think that we played a role in that. We have something that people get really excited about and the beautiful thing about it is that people feel like they are a part of it, and they are in a sense. They might have friends who are in the show, they see our posters on the street, they know the organizers, and all of us are very social people. I think we left a little bit of a social impact on the city as far as social culture goes.