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Brandon Gabriel

Professional Contemporary Visual Artist

Portrait of Brandon
This experience led to other opportunities within my community such as utilizing my research skills for a student grant at the local museum.

When I graduated from Emily Carr University I did not follow my first choice of a career path right away. Graduating university was my goal, and when I accomplished that, I had no idea where to go from there. I took up a house painting job as I needed to decompress from years of having been inundated with written assignments, late night writing sessions and truck loads of theory.

While I was house painting I still thought it was important to get my feet wet in my chosen field in arts and culture. Opportunities for recent university graduates can be a daunting task, particularly in a field with so many other competitors. I learned right out of the gate that the reasons that there are starving artists, is because there are so many of us, and only a finite amount of marketplace share to go around. So I approached my local arts council to seek opportunities through their services. I applied for grants and answered artist calls and had a hard time securing grants because of my lack of practical experience as an artist and academic.

The local arts council recognized my desire to be a part of the community and make contributions through my art and sheer determination, and asked if I would run in the next election for it's Board of Directors. So I did, and I was elected. This was not a paid position but this allowed me to paint houses by day and make a living and tend to matters of civic importance in the arts in my community. Not only was gaining experience in issues pertaining to organizational structure, politics, and governance, but I was making connections to people in my field who were always looking for innovative ideas, ways to create more business, and opportunities to network beyond our respective communities. I did this for two years, and left the organization on good terms, as I was nominated President of that arts council before my departure. The contacts and friends I made there continue be valuable resources in my professional and personal life. 

This experience led to other opportunities within my community such as utilizing my research skills for a student grant at the local museum. I then found my way to a teaching gig at a University. I left that job, and this led to a permanent position as a researcher for my First Nation community. I started at the bottom, working in the basement in the archives, and never seen the light of day. I felt like a student again. However there was an opportunity to initiate a major research project and I took on larger responsibilities like dispatching employees to research sites, coordinating symposia, etc. I then found time and the financial resources to purchase my own materials for art projects. Before I know it I was working in the world I was trained for. 

Today I am the Special Projects Coordinator for the Seyem' Qwantlen Group of Companies Limited Partnership. I am now a senior manager within the company and my role has expanded into a leadership position working front of office representing my company to many community cultural groups and within the business community. This is just one of many hats I wear, as I now run a successful art business and have my own studio. I travel the world showing my work in exhibitions. 

I graduated from university and 2006 and never thought I would be where I am today. I would caution that it wasn't just volunteerism that got me where I am. It requires dedication and the expectation that there wont be great pay days right out of the gate. However, today is much different. Life is good.

About the Author

Brandon Gabriel

Professional Contemporary Visual Artist

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