Commercial Alley

A downtown alley has become a place for artistic and creative expression for artists.

In June 2014, a new outdoor art gallery was established in Commercial Alley to add vitality to the area while retaining the alley’s use by local businesses. Located between the 500 Block of Yates and Bastion Square, the outdoor gallery allows for four, 1.2-metre x 2.4-metre panels, showcasing a temporary art installation annually.

Commercial Alley is a City of Victoria public art initiative that provides a place for artistic and creative expression by local artists. Previous installations have featured original artwork by Other (a.k.a. Troy Lovegates), Roy Green, Liz P. Dempsey, Daniel Ellingsen, Kai Choufour, Austin Clay Willis and Fern Long.

Call to Artists:

The Call to Artists. Thank you to all who applied! Stay tuned for the announcement in August of the successful candidate of the 9th installation. 

Eighth Installation - Emily Thiessen

The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley's eighth installation. Located on the west wall of the Youth Empowerment Society building on the 500 Block of Yates Street, the outdoor gallery showcases temporary installations by local artists to add colour and vitality to the area.

Thiessen’s submission What If was selected through a juried Call to Artists for emerging artists and artist teams earlier this year. Her mural-sized comic treats each of the four 1.2-metre by 2.4-metre plywood pieces as a story panel.

Thiessen has been following the art in Commercial Alley since the beginning in 2014.

“That year I was a second year UVic student and I became totally obsessed with Artist Other’s (Troy Lovegates) street art after seeing it in Commercial Alley. Since then I’ve kept thinking about applying,” said Thiessen. Her work was inspired by the City of Victoria’s seedling distribution program, her works ask - What if this dark year is a chance to make things better? The artwork will be on display from August 2020 to August 2021.


Video provided by Emily Thiessen


Seventh Installation - Artist Fern Long

Fern Long is a Victoria-based contemporary artist. Using everyday materials like wood and cardboard, Long builds structures that are both sculptural and painterly to ask questions about home and how we create spaces that reflect both our collective experiences and personal narratives.

The works of art in the Commercial Alley Gallery are an expansion of Long's ongoing series called "Return Address." Each panel is cut in the shape of a house to explore the idea of 'home,' and cut slightly differently to evoke a sense of imperfection and individuality.  The shape is simple and universally recognized, yet a phenomenon that we each experience uniquely.  Long asks, 'what does it mean to have a home? It can be a prison or a refuge, a place of belonging and love or no more than a suitcase.  It can exist only in our minds or be shared with many.  It is simultaneously a physical space as well as an emotional landscape inextricably bound with memory. It means something different to each of us.'



 Long includes elements of collage, text, domestic objects, floor plans and dense surfaces to reference the complicated and multifaceted relationships associated with the idea of 'home.' Layers of paint and imagery become like the residue of lives lived inside these architectural spaces.  Each panel is unique in design, but shares a similar colour palette and form to lend a sense of connection, creating a neighbourhood in the alley.

Long is a member of the BOXCARSIX artist collective and a graduate from the Vancouver Island School of Art.

Headshot credit: Rosie Long.

Sixth Installation - Artist Austin Clay Willis

Austin Clay Willis' original artwork utilizes bright colours, bold lines, and shapes to create fun, yet intense energy. The four panels work together as one installation, taking into account the red brick wall by pairing it with bright yellows, pinks, and other colours, as well as incorporating similar reds within the works themselves.The paintings juxtapose intense, convoluted patches of line and pattern with solid blocks of colour, allowing for the image to play with space and composition in interesting and dynamic ways.

Originally from Piedmont, California, Willis moved here to attend the University of Victoria’s Visual Arts Program in 2015. He tends to focus on bright colors and bold lines in pursuit of energetic positivity, love, and happiness. Currently Willis is working in a more abstract fashion, using shape, space, colour and line in order to play with spatial illusions and the pictorial shifts between foreground and background.

Visit Austin's website,, for progress pictures and more information about his artwork.

Fifth Installation - Artist Kai Choufour

"Newtopia" was comprised of four, 1.2 metre by 2.4 metre artwork panels featuring colourful shapes expressed with childish grandeur to convey fiction, play, kindness and positivity. Inspired by utopian ideals and 1970s eco- architecture, the artwork depicted four characters: “Spring Fairy”, “Green Future”, “Pink Turtle”, and “Magic Cat”.

A conceptual artist, Vancouver-born Choufour currently resides in Victoria, BC. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University (2015), has co-directed multiple short-term gallery spaces such as TAG Contemporary (the Emily Carr student gallery) and has exhibited at various galleries in Vancouver. Recently, Choufour oversaw the installation of his first permanent public artwork titled Hide and Seek, a large-scale, steel-plated sculpture in Delta, BC.

Fourth Installation - Artist Daniel Ellingsen

The gallery's fourth installation was created by Daniel Ellingsen. Coastal Reports stylistically reflected west coast culture through image and text. His thought-provoking artwork featured cut-outs, gold leaf, and texture to highlight his observations of west coast socio-cultural issues and topics, combining references from film and pop culture media. The artwork was exhibited from August 2016 to August 2017.

Born in the United Kingdom and raised in Tasmania and coastal British Columbia, Ellingsen’s work treads the line between playful and irreverent, profound and topical, making his commentaries relevant and full of wit – inviting interpretation. His work has been exhibited in Canada, the United States and abroad.

Third Installation -- Artist Liz P. Dempsey

Liz P. Dempsey’s four-panel artwork featured hybrid, human-animal creatures that were both mystical and regal. The dynamic artwork captured the charged and raw energy of Vancouver Island, offering a rich array of symbols and visual imagery for the viewer to ponder.

Dempsey was drawn to Victoria by the magic of the Pacific North West Coast, and has been gaining artistic recognition around the city. Her work has been featured in many group and individual exhibits, she has been nominated for a Monday Magazine award, created custom pieces for businesses, including the "anime wall" in Metropol Industries Chinatown studio, and is the cover artist in Vancouver’s Mania Magazine summer issue.

Second Installation -- Artist Roy Green

The second installation showcased Roy Green's commissioned artwork, featuring four birds both iconic and indigenous to Vancouver Island; the Great blue heron, the Red-winged blackbird, the Pileated woodpecker, and the Rufous hummingbird. The artwork was unveiled August 2014, timed with the Integrate Arts Festival. Roy Green is a Victoria-based painter, poet and performance artist. He was born in Lethbridge, Alberta and graduated from the Emily Carr College of Art in 1984.

Inaugural Installation -- Artist Other (a.k.a Troy Lovegates)

The inaugural artwork installation by Other (Troy Lovegates) depicted four patterned, black-and-white figures punctuated by bold red shapes. The art was created during the Reclaim the Streets: A Symposium on Art and Public Space, which was hosted in 2014 by Open Space. Other is a nomadic folk artist whose bright paintings cross the globe on the sides of rail cars and appear on walls around the world. He has called many places home, including Montreal, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Toronto, and most recently, San Francisco.


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