Skip to content

‘Outsider’ festival spotlights Surrey-area artists who face social exclusion, other barriers

Annual event returns to Vancouver’s Roundhouse centre Oct. 14-16
Rosa Cheng with Vancouver Cantonese Opera, featured during this year’s Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival, a three-day event Oct. 14-16. (Submitted photo)

Surrey’s Kristin Cheung is busy planning the sixth edition of Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival, an annual event that features the work of marginalized artists.

Cheung is the executive director of Community Arts Council of Vancouver, which has staged the Outsider fest since 2017. The 2022 dates are Oct. 14-16 at Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre.

This year there are 65 artists involved in the event, focused on visual and performing artists who might be facing social exclusion, among other barriers.

“Different people have different definitions of outsider arts,” Cheung explained. “We do a call in the spring, and people have to self-identify as an outsider artist. They might have a language barrier, perhaps a disability, they could be low-income, emerging artists out of school, folks who might not have the connections to be featured in a white-cube gallery — a fancy art gallery.

“We make it very low-barrier and accessible for artists to get involved in the festival, and we help them create platforms to sell their work,” Cheung added.


The festival launched six years with a focus on visual arts, she noted.

“Then with different staff and team members, it now includes more performing arts and literary arts, and we now have a touring component,” Cheung said. “We did that last year for the first time, and the touring will happen in December in the Metro Vancouver area.

“We’ve had conversations with the Arts Council of Surrey to host it at their space in Newton,” she added. “I live in Surrey and it would be great to support the arts community here.”


Surrey resident Kristin Cheung is the executive director of the Community Arts Council of Vancouver and planner of the Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival. (Submitted photo: Elise Miccolis)
Surrey resident Kristin Cheung is the executive director of the Community Arts Council of Vancouver and planner of the Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival. (Submitted photo: Elise Miccolis)

Born and raised in Alberta, Cheung has worked as a fundraiser and arts administrator. A bio notes that she’s previously worked at Pivot Legal Society, VIFF, Contemporary Art Gallery, Gateway Theatre, Ricepaper magazine and Geist magazine. She co-founded ‘The Future is you and me’, a free community mentorship program for young women of colour in the arts.

Fellow Surrey resident Rosa Cheng is the founder and artistic director of Vancouver Cantonese Opera, featured at the Outsider festival at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16.

Other Surrey-area artists at this year’s festival include visual artist Fateh, mixed-media artist Mishel Arrieta and also myclaraoceans, a self-taught artist who had a career in aviation come to a halt during the pandemic.

Photos posted to the festival website ( offer a closer look at the festival and Roundhouse venue.

This year Vancouver Outsider Arts Festival will offer free workshops for people to exercise their creativity and take home their unique creations. Registration for the three workshops is done on the festival website, for a session on Japanese flower arranging with Cecily Chang, ceramic tile molding and painting with Slice of Life Art Gallery & Studios and a “wet felting” workshop where Chantal Cardinal will teach people how to make a hand-felted flower.

Ultimately, the festival aims to increase awareness about “outsider artists” and to challenge stereotypes about who and what counts in the art world.

“Outsider Art is different,” the festival website states. “This art shakes up what you think you know about art and sometimes delves headfirst into challenging social and political issues. The festival provides a much-needed platform for visual and performing artists to gather, learn, and share their creative scope with the wider community.”

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
Read more

Pop-up banner image