Nanaimo Art Gallery executive director Julie Bevan is leaving the art gallery this spring for a position with the city. (Photo courtesy Sean Fenzl)

Nanaimo Art Gallery executive director reflects on past accomplishments

Julie Bevan is leaving the art gallery this spring for a position with the city

The Nanaimo Art Gallery is a lot different now than it was when Julie Bevan came to the helm in 2012.

As executive director, Bevan oversaw the gallery’s move from Vancouver Island University and consolidation at its downtown location, as well as the addition of the NAG’s Art Lab educational studio and its first permanent curator, Jesse Birch. Staffing and funding have doubled since her arrival and last year the gallery underwent its second renovation, adding public art to the building’s facade.

The NAG recently announced that Bevan will be ending her nearly eight-year tenure to take on the new role of manager of culture and events with the City of Nanaimo.

Bevan said the gallery’s been like a “second home” and it was an “extremely challenging decision” to leave, but she said she feels a lot of momentum and optimism about Nanaimo’s future and hopes this is a new opportunity to continue nurturing the city’s “entire ecosystem of arts and culture.”

“I have up-close, personal experience with the transformative power of the arts and I think that there’s so much potential in Nanaimo and so much to celebrate here and build on in terms of the arts and culture scene that already exists here,” she said. “And so I’m excited to experiment with what I’ve learned about creativity and organizational culture and building community and collaboration and see how I can translate that into this new role.”

Birch, who has been with the gallery since 2014, said the gallery has radically transformed under Bevan’s leadership and is now nationally recognized and a “pillar of the downtown Nanaimo community.”

“Julie’s really expanded our program in terms of what we do in education, the kind of outreach we do and the kind of connections we make in the community,” Birch said. “Her work has been so important and I think she’s going to do important work at the city as well. And so I’m really sad she’s going because it’s been such a great time working with her but she’s going to keep doing great things in this community so I’m happy about that.”

Aside from establishing the NAG’s downtown location, its programs and “substantially” increasing the gallery’s funding, Bevan said something she’s most proud of is assembling the gallery’s team and broadening its circle. That includes building relationships with funders to support the gallery’s vision and working to be more diverse and inclusive.

“This is something that I always say, but our people are our greatest asset,” Bevan said. “And the circle that we’ve been able to create in terms of our staff, our board, our volunteers, our members, the people who participate in our programs and bring their kids – there’s an energy and a dynamism and a curiosity and passion among this circle that I felt really delighted to be a part of and am really proud of.”

She said the gallery is in a good position going forward.

“Since I joined the team we’ve achieved more than I thought was possible at the time and I feel as though the gallery’s on an excellent trajectory,” Bevan said. “There’s a plan in place for the next four years in terms of our program and we’re really operating at a level that’s quite high. The gallery is looked to and admired nationally for its programs, and we’ve made Nanaimo a destination for contemporary art.”

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