Canadian Makin'

Canadian Makin'
The Pulse of Creativity

Murray Chu | 30 Jun 2009 12:44
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It's a common problem for companies in large industries: Even if they're across the street from one another, competing corporate cultures often mean that employees from one shop have little to no contact with the other. This issue is especially problematic for Vancouver's game industry, which boasts 140 videogame companies and thousands of developers but suffers from a general lack of communal identity. Combine this with the high turnover rates found across the videogame industry, and you end up with an environment where networking is extremely difficult.

Jason Lee Elliott and Su Skerl had this problem in mind when they founded the Artery in 2005. Their goal was to create a reason for people to gather regularly in a casual setting, to mix business cultures, to make long-lasting friendships and to be inspired. Like the chummy sub-cultures that exist within different companies, the Artery is a tight-knit group, but it has the benefit of being open to developers from all over Vancouver.

The founders may have the perfect backgrounds to facilitate creative exchanges across different corporate cultures. Elliott, formerly a lead artist for Konami, instructs at the local Art Institute, teaching art and design. Skerl, on the other hand, worked at a number of Vancouver studios, including EA Canada, Barking Dog (developers of Homeworld: Cataclysm) and Hothead Games (who created Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness) before she began teaching Project Management at the Art Institute, and has leveraged these connections to make the Artery what it is today. ( For example, Hothead Games Creative Director Ron Gilbert, creator of games like Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, has acted both as a consultant to the Artery and provided web server support to provide a stable place for the group's online community.)

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On paper, the Artery is a community mainly for artists and graphic designers. But between the backgrounds of its founders and Vancouver's videogame industry employing no small amount of the city's creative force, it's hard to avoid the influence of videogames and the professionals who create them.

Perhaps the best representation of the Artery is its weekly draw jams, held every Thursday evening at Vancouver bar St. Augustine's, in which several artists come together to collaborate on a single work or theme. These sessions may have participants pass around a sheet of paper, with each artist contributing details to the final product. Other sessions introduce an overarching theme, such as "clich├ęd evil super-villains," and allow everyone to create their own megalomaniacal arch villain to share with the group at the end of the evening.

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