When Jamie Smith decided to make art full-time, she knew she needed to find a community. What she ended up doing was creating one.
Coffee dates and networking led to a summer 2015 meeting of six female Vancouver artists, among them Tara Galuska, with whom Smith quickly found a special kinship. Realizing a gap in their local art scene, the duo created Thrive Art Studio: a support network for Vancouver’s female, female-identifying, genderqueer, and non-binary artists. “We decided we wanted to keep meeting, and word spread,” Galuska recalls. “Because not only was this something that we needed, but other people needed it, too.”
Through various initiatives, Thrive aims to make the local art scene more inclusive and welcoming. Among the studio’s creative arms is the yearlong Thrive Mastermind program, during which members meet regularly to focus on what Thrive sees as the two crucial components of creative success: a developed practice, and good business sense.
“Art schools, historically, have not really taught people that if you’re going to make a living from being an artist, you’re starting a business—and that can be a really rude shock,” Galuska says. The successes of Mastermind members, who include Ola Volo, Danielle Krysa, and Sandeep Johal, are a clear testament to Thrive’s vision of what happens when artistic talent and business savvy combine. Smith and Galuska drew on their backgrounds in teaching and graphic design to create a highly structured program, with each meeting led by a trained facilitator who guides the group through a series of questions, keeping the conversation moving and ensuring everyone has a chance to be heard.
Despite the program’s organized nature, Mastermind meetings are warm and personal, with participants sharing both pride at their triumphs and solidarity with the challenges that come with seeking success as a woman. Galuska says that questions around equal pay have been coming up often in Mastermind classes, as well as “‘me, too’ types of issues.”
Also offered under the studio’s umbrella is the online community Thrive Network, the lecture series Thrive Talks, and the workshop series Thrive Art School. The popularity of these programs has even necessitated a new space; in early 2018, everything moved from Galuska and Smith’s Mount Pleasant studio, an old building with questionable heat and air conditioning, to The Profile, a Downtown Vancouver coworking space that Galuska describes as “an entrepreneurial kind of community.”
New for Thrive members at The Profile is a mural residency; so far, artists including Ola Volo and Tierney Milne have decorated walls of the space with large-scale paintings. It is a fitting concept—now when Thrive participants walk through the doors, they are greeted by the work of their peers.
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