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Kelowna’s Alternator Centre Has an Unusual Demographic

The Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art has an impressive proportion of young adults in its audience.

The Alternator Centre, located in the Rotary Centre for the Arts, is an artist-run centre, different than a public gallery. Gallery Manager Peter Green gave the annual presentation to Kelowna Council on Monday, revealing that 48 per cent of the gallery’s visitors are aged 19-34, an impressive figure considering Kelowna’s aging population. For the other visitors, 20 per cent are aged 35-49 while 29 percent are 50 years old and up.

A past exhibition at the Alternator. (Photo Credit: Alternator)

Green pointed out that the Alternator is helping to fulfill the City of Kelowna’s 2012-2017 Cultural Plan with their young audience, since the plan identified the risk of young adults’ interests and needs being swept aside by an aging demographic.

“Part of supporting emerging and alternative artists in the Okanagan is specifically focusing on young artists, and by no coincidence it’s our main demographic,” said Green.

Photo Credit: Alternator

This artist-run centre is the largest of its kind between Vancouver and Calgary, and over the past three years, the gallery has seen a steady growth in the number of visitors. The members are also mostly young artists aged 19-35, and just last year, over 200 members had their work displayed in the Member’s Gallery. Green called this particular gallery “an educational space that members and community arts groups use to test out new ideas, build a portfolio, and get real gallery experience.”

The Alternator Centre helps amateur artists to become professional. For example, in 2012 Jordan Bennett had his first paid professional exhibition at the Alternator. He was selected for the Venice Biennial in 2015, a very prestigious and influential contemporary art program. The gallery also helps to integrate young artists in the community and creates an incentive for them to stay in the Okanagan.

The Alternator also is the location for the AlterKnowledge discussion series with UBCO. (Photo Credit: Alternator)

Finally, the gallery provides a place for more alternative art that might not be displayed in a public gallery. “[The Alternator] encourages local artists to create and exhibit by providing them with peer inspiration and a safe environment in which to display work that may not be a ‘fit’ for traditional galleries,” says Patrick LeBlanc, General Manager of the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

The Alternator has a strong artist influence in their audience (62 per cent), which Green said is also an anomaly in the Okanagan.

Photo Credit: City of Kelowna Agenda Package

The report to council is done annually, as 19 per cent of the Alternator’s funding comes from the City of Kelowna. Mayor Colin Basran thanked Green and the Alternator Gallery for their work, saying that the Council was particularly focused on attracting and retaining young people in the city.

“The Alternator plays a big part in that,” said Basran. “We’ve heard loud and clear that arts and culture is an important part of that attraction and retention, so keep up the good work. You are an important part of our city’s future success.”










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