Vers l’impossible : 50 ans d’autogestion artistique à Sherbrooke

Vernissage 31 mai à 17 h

Table ronde 15 juin à 14 h

Artist-run centres were developed in the 1960s and 70s in Canada in response to a lack of opportunity to show what was, at the time, considered experimental forms of art (performance, installation, conceptual art and video). Primarily to develop a larger network, both nationally and internationally, these centres also sought to feature the work of emerging and marginalized artists. At their peak in the 1990s, there were over 100 ARCs, and today approximately 60 remain that receive continuous funding.

In 2023, Sporobole will celebrate 50 years of activity. Founded in 1973 as the Regroupement des artistes des Cantons de l’Est (RACE), the organization was the first grouping of artists in the region. It set up workshops and the Horace gallery, published both internally and externally, and maintained various collaborations with other arts and cultural organizations in the region, notably with the Galerie d’art de l’Université de Sherbrooke (now the Galerie d’art Antoine-Sirois) and the Musée des beaux-arts de Sherbrooke. RACE’s objective was “to create an active core of artists in Sherbrooke working in the various fields of the visual arts and drawing their support from within the region.*”

In 2009, following changes in management and the arrival of new members on the Board of Directors, the organization reworked its mission and became Sporobole, centre en art actuel. In the years that followed, the centre focused its activities on the digital arts. Following in the footsteps of the community-building begun by RACE in the early 1970s, Sporobole expanded its distribution and production activities provincially and internationally. In 2018, with the aim of responding to the crying need to support the cultural milieu in its digital shift, the centre created a division dedicated to providing technical support to various organizations in the Estrie region: 0/1 – Hub numérique Estrie.

The instant success of the initiative prompted Sporobole to review its mode of operation and management methods, in order to align its new branch of services with those already in place, production and broadcasting. As a result, in early 2023, Sporobole and 0/1 – Hub numérique (whose names had been shortened throughout the years) became two sister entities, offering not only support services to cultural organizations in their work with digital technologies, but also a creative space at the cutting edge of artistic research in a digital context.

This exhibition gathers almost exclusively the archival materials from the Fonds de la Galerie Horace, housed at the Musée d’histoire de Sherbrooke. Our interest is to extract the history as it was recorded by those who lived it, and to make apparent the many stories buried therein. Second, we are seeking to draw attention to the role of a regional artist-run centre, to the organizational changes, the self-management practices and the relationship between art and technology. Hence the tight lens on the archives and the documentary ethos behind the exhibition. The aim of the exhibition is, therefore, to sketch a panorama of the changes and continuity brought about by the artist-run centre that has become a production centre, and to reaffirm the importance of the centre and its adjustments to the evolving needs of the cultural community. Working with archival sources, and sometimes administrative documents provides a social history of how RACE/Sporobole were able to impact the region through the implementation of its mandate.

Vicky Chainey Gagnon

Sophie Drouin


*See the publication Regroupement des artistes des Cantons de l’Est, RACE, 10 ans, 1973-1983, exhibition catalog held November 23 to December 16, 1983 at the Centre culturel de l’Université de Sherbrooke, 1983, n. p.


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