What is your background in the graffiti scene here and how did it prepare you to curate at this year's VMF?
My name is Scott Sueme. I am an abstract painter from Vancouver, BC. My interest in art started through graffiti and skateboarding. In 2011, I travelled to Miami to participate in some of the outdoor murals happening in the Wynwood District during Art Basel Miami, where I met some of the US distributors for Montana Colours, one of the world's largest producers of Graffiti-specialized products and spray paint. I connected with them and decided to start bringing some of the product to Vancouver and start providing paint to artist just out of my studio. We’ve since then grown our retail space each year, and its a great way for me to stay in touch with artists and connect with the community. That's what led me to work with the festival in selecting artists, it was just a natural fit.
What have been the unique struggles of the graffiti scene here in Vancouver?
Wall space or free walls for artists to go and paint. When I was starting out in 2002, there were lots of walls that were “legal” to paint. I don’t think they were actually sanctioned walls for graffiti artists, but graffiti wasn’t in the mainstream media then, so it was more in the background of things and the city wasn’t clamping down on it as much. A lot of artists were taking their time and doing some very impressive highly skilled work. Since then, walls have disappeared and bylaws were introduced to reduce graffiti. What we got in return was more street level graffiti, done quickly and usually at night. So the overall quality took a different direction. I think VMF is heading in the right direction by re-introducing these sanctioned walls for artists to really go out there and do their thing. It's a good showcase of the art form and the community here that has a passion for it.
What would a long-term goal of VMF be for supporting the graffiti scene?
I don’t think i can speak to an end goal...graffiti or ’Tagging’ will exist, regardless. I don’t think we're setting out to stop illegal graffiti by doing murals either, that's not the goal. However, the fact that VMF injects the city with art each year and provides continuous opportunity for artists annually is a really good thing. If VMF existed in the 2000’s when I was getting into graffiti, I would have loved it [as] something to look up to. It's awesome to imagine that. The idea of showcasing talent gives our younger generation a representation of what it means to participate in culture and how it can shape our lives.
What is your personal connection to this work? What drives you as an artist and curator?
Personally, graffiti has been a huge part of my life, from meeting friends to developing my practice, work ethic, and networking. I think being a curator is just a fancy way to say I connect with people who have similar interests, and in doing so, we're all part of the same community. I feel like now that my work is primarily done in studio, it's important for me to stay connected with graffiti artists and pay homage to my roots.