History of Sculpture in British Columbia

Vancouver citizens interested in art formed four art societies by the turn of the century. Two members, J. Murray and D. Campbell were woodworkers and F.W. Caulfield listed himself as a wood carver.

In 1890, the provincial government commissioned a courthouse and British Columbia’s first free standing sculpture. Legislative buildings in Victoria put the call out for sculpture and Frank Cizek, a tinsmith executed the Captain Vancouver monument. The buildings in Victoria began to be embellished with sculpture and other forms of artwork. In the Vancouver boom around the turn of the century, itinerant stonemasons working from catalogues and architectural drawings decorated many of the new granite office buildings.

The Studio Club formed in 1904 and it was with this society that Vancouver and British Columbia’s first resident professional sculptor exhibited. Charles Marega arrived in 1909 on his way to California, read an ad for a commission for sculpture and stayed on in Vancouver. When the Studio Club eroded, Marega helped start up the Palette and Chisel Club in 1926.

At that time, Marega was listed as the only sculptor exhibiting. In the 1930s other sculptors joined him on the exhibitions listings. The Vancouver Art Gallery opened in 1931 and from its inception and through to the 1960s the sculptors of BC were showcased and had a number of outstanding exhibitions, some of which toured internationally. In 1941, the Canadian Federation of Artists (FCA) was organized in Ontario. Later in the 1940s, a BC Region of the Federation was a functioning society, which included sculptors. However, by the 1970s the Federation was primarily made up of painters. In 1956 a group of sculptors formed the North West Institute of Sculptors (NWIS) in Vancouver.

This organization eventually merged with the Sculptors’ Society of Canada (SSC). In 1974, the members in British Columbia formed their own society independent of the SSC and the Sculptors’ Society of British Columbia was born.

Over the past decades, SSBC members have contributed monumental sculpture both provincially and throughout the world. Large exhibitions have been held in BC, which have travelled throughout Canada, the USA and Europe. In the early development of Granville Island in Vancouver, the government acknowledged the SSBC’s cultural contributions by leasing office and studio space to the Society.

Throughout the Sculptors Society of British Columbia’s history, there has been a high standard of excellence, integrity and professionalism amongst the membership. Public education about sculpture and sculptors continues to be an important focus for the group. Sculptors in our province have always been a diverse group utilizing techniques from realism or impressionism to abstraction and beyond. As well, our sculptors continue to experiment with new materials as well as more traditional media.

View the list of honorary members here.

To purchase or commission a sculpture, please contact the artist directly or email us at inquiries@ssbc.ca.