Saving PAVED’s video history from the disintegration of time

By: Shaunna Grandish March, 2013

PAVED Arts has preserved an often overlooked part of Saskatchewan’s cultural history.

Last summer, Saskatoon’s PAVED Arts centre and gallery embarked on a preservation project in an effort to save 30 years of video and audio work, many of which represent experimental art activity in Saskatchewan. The collection includes tapes of experimental video and performance art from emerging Saskatchewan artists, many who are now well established in their fields. Most of the collection was made up of analog tapes (Beta and VHs) that equaled to 250 hours of material in need of archiving up to today’s digital and viewing standards.

“A lot of the collection was in danger of disintegrating because tapes only have a lifespan of 20-25 years. It was very important project in order to save this material,” explains Biliana Velkova, executive director, PAVED Arts , adding she has wanted to tackle this preservation project since she came to the arts centre a year and a half ago. With help from a successful application to SaskCulture’s Capacity Building Grant,

PAVED Arts was able to obtain sufficient funding to hire an archivist last summer to sort, catalogue, index, and digitally archive the analog collection, which was completed in October 2012.

According to Velkova, preservation of video and audio art is as important as saving paintings and other tactile art forms from the disintegration of time.

“Video art is part of our heritage and part of our identity,” explains Velkova. “It’s important to have that voice and identity from 25 or 30 years ago with us now because we learn from this history and from each other. This collection tells a story of how rich the art history was and still is in Saskatchewan. It’s piece of a puzzle in a larger cultural picture.”

The digital collection is now available for viewing at PAVED Arts and can be accessed by PAVED Arts staff and members, and by the outside public for research purposes. The original analog tapes are now stored safely away in archive boxes at the centre.

PAVED Arts is also curating selected video and audio from the collection in July 2013 as part of their annual sounds like…Video Art Festival, which will be held at the Roxy Theatre in Saskatoon.

Velkova says that while attending an arts conference last year, she listened to people who run other media centres from across Canada expressing concern over the disintegration and eventual disappearance of their analogue video collections in part due to lack of financial resources available for preservation projects.

“A lot of people at the conference were surprised and impressed with what PAVED Arts was doing with the help of SaskCulture funding. There’s a lot of interest from other centres in what we did with our collection,” adds Velkova. Visit PAVED Arts at