My first experience upon entering The American is a stamp on my arm that says “Don’t Be A Dick.” The music is almost too loud to talk over, but after the first beer, it hardly matters. SNAG’s event, Synesthesia, was listed to start at 8 p.m., but the place was mostly empty until closer to 10 p.m. Then, things picked up as the artists were given two hours to complete their murals. If that wasn’t cool enough to watch, there was also a live model that anyone could draw — paper and pencils were handed out on request. The artsy vibe was curated by Drew Young and Nick Pound, coordinators of the event series.
Young started SNAG - Alternative Contemporary Arts five years ago in cooperation with The Cobalt. They had weekly art raffles for three years before expanding across the street to The American. Pound came into the picture near the beginning of the series.
“[Drew] was a host that did not like doing it. Eventually I expressed that I wanted to be on the stage talking about the event, and he was like ‘Oh! You do it for me then!’” Pound explained. “I’ve got to meet so many ... people that I would find intimidatingly talented ... and now they think I’m cool too because I’m willing to say their name on a stage.”
“Art can be a little intimidating sometimes, the idea of collecting art, like it’s for fancy people, but it can be for anyone,” Pound added. “I think ... one of the real values of SNAG is allowing people ... space to create a community.”
There were artists and attendees from a wide array of backgrounds and the art styles included 3D wood-block paintings, murals and 2D illustrations.
“Art gets really boring when you just focus on one thing ... I think the whole beauty of it is being able to share these things and open your mind to new possibilities,” said Pound.
“We really try not to keep ourselves in one style because we know there are people doing different things. We have a really ... loose environment, we like to be very open and welcoming to everyone. You can be into something super super weird and we want you to come find your place here.”
New artists are always welcome to contact them on their Facebook page or live at an event. They just ask for an Instagram or website as their portfolio. SNAG events are free and the art is raffled at the end of the night for as little as $5 for five raffle tickets. The American has the best cheeseburgers in all of Vancouver and a rotating tap, which adds to the appeal.
Their events went on a six-month hiatus due to “busy-ness and laziness,” but they have another on August 7 in conjunction with the Vancouver Mural Festival. They also intend to do a SNAG event every month.
“I think that’s the main thing we care about here at SNAG, is caring what we’re all doing and trying to make that available and inclusive to everyone,” Pound emphasized. “We want to put art in people’s homes, we want to put it in people’s brains and we want to make new friends and have everyone enjoy what each other are doing.”