As of Friday May 29th 2020, grunt gallery’s founder Glenn Alteen, who served as the gallery’s Program Director for 37 years, has retired. The staff and board of grunt are incredibly grateful for the energy, ingenuity and spirit Alteen has given grunt since the very beginning; he has fostered an extraordinary community of artists, curators, and cultural workers that extends from Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood across Canada and internationally.
Since grunt’s inception in 1984, Alteen has recognized the value in platforming diverse voices and supporting artists through their creative processes, and has been committed to providing resources for artists to exhibit work that might otherwise go unrecognized. His boundless generosity and bold approach has been instrumental in building the vitality of the gallery and relationships with many exceptional artists and curators, including Rebecca Belmore, Dana Claxton, Margaret Dragu, Aiyyana Maracle, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Carole Itter, Adrian Stimson, Tania Willard, and Tarah Hogue. Throughout his career, Alteen has pushed boundaries with projects such as Queer City (1993), An Indian Act: Shooting the Indian Act (1997) by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, and the co-founding of LIVE Biennial of Performance Art in 1999. Showing no signs of slowing down, in 2019 Alteen and grunt launched three of their most ambitious projects to date: Wordless: The Performance Art of Rebecca Belmore, the Blue Cabin Floating Artist Residency, and the Mount Pleasant Community Art Screen.
His connections to artists is truly unique, and his commitment to long-term creative relationships has built a community around grunt that spans generations, cultural communities and disciplinary boundaries. Dana Claxton recalls:
“I think I first met Glenn at the Pitt Gallery on Water Street in the late 1980s. Early on in the realm of programming NDN’ art work, he was committed, supportive, made enormous space and provided guidance in a way, he may not even be aware of the guidance he gave. Our early morning talks for many years, as he would dream up projects…he makes ideas become concrete. And it was never about him, but always what can happen for other people.”
Alteen has championed intuitive, organic and artist-driven creation, while simultaneously ensuring the continued growth and stability of grunt itself. By developing grunt’s programming archive, securing a permanent space for the gallery and the creation of an endowment fund, Alteen has cemented the longevity of grunt and contributed to the sustainability of artist-driven culture in Vancouver. He was awarded the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2018 for his decades of exceptional contributions to the arts in Canada. Glenn Alteen has been a visionary for grunt gallery and Vancouver’s visual arts communities, and has left an enduring mark on the ways we work through, with and around art.
His unique perspective will carry forward into grunt’s future, and will continue to shape the organization. Incoming Program Director Vanessa Kwan, who has shared the role with him since last June, says:
“In so many ways, Glenn embodies what we hope for in a more compassionate art community. His leadership has taught so many of us about the importance of both resistance and care. His work proposes something no less than a revolution in how we understand a successful (dare I say legendary?) career in the arts: that ambition can be expressed as generosity, and that capital–cultural, financial and otherwise–is best shared widely rather than being kept to oneself.”
As grunt honours Alteen’s remarkable career and contributions to the art community, we are also proud to announce the re-naming of our endowment to the Glenn Alteen Legacy Fund, and we invite you to contribute to the future of the organization, and the furthering of its unique vision. More information can be found here.
Thank you so much, Glenn, for your audacity, persistence, disgruntlement and care.
Photo: Portrait of Glenn Alteen by Henri Robideau, Jaunary 1987.