BC-born artist and independent curator Kirsten Larsen has forged a powerful path for Vancouver’s emerging artists for over a decade. Somewhat of an enigma, she has helped shape the landscape of Vancouver’s Arts & Culture sector. 

Kirsten Larsen, art, creative, creator, Vancouver, Canada, Helen Siwak, portfolio, yvr

Having worked with over 250 artists and multiple spaces and organizations, Kirsten has a long-standing track record of transforming spaces and places into one-of-a-kind experiences. Her ability to simultaneously build communities and bridge the gaps between the artists and the public is unprecedented. 

Kirsten is deeply committed to projects that benefit the Arts and Culture community, and her out-of-the-box curatorial style has pushed the boundaries of the traditional gallery model. 

She hosted exhibitions in abandoned warehouses, luxury galleries, basements of motels, and old shops.

 Her method allows artists to explore the creative realm outside of white walls and bright lights and encourages them to go deeper, creating unique experiences for the viewer and the artist.

Her most recent accomplishment was the creation of Looks Great! Gallery at the Bentall Centre Tower II – Vancouver’s first pop-up hybrid art gallery and event space. 

Created in partnership with Bentall Centre, Well Strategies and Vancouver Art Attack, the goal was to highlight and showcase as many talented artists, makers, designers and creatives that makeup Vancouver’s diverse arts and culture scene while bringing life to the empty and vacant retail space. The project was a huge success and disrupted how traditional retail spaces can be utilized; its value to the ghostly downtown landscape is incalculable. 

Kirsten has been a past board member of both the Community Arts Council of Vancouver – North America’s oldest arts council (2019 -2022) and the Vancouver Biennale (2018 – 2021), is a former gallery director of B1 Gallery at the Beaumont Studios (2019 – 2022), has worked as a volunteer curator in the Coast Mental Health Art Therapy room (2017), and producer for Portland Housing Societies A Native Perspective (2017). 

Kirsten is well known for her highly sought-after underground, secret location art shows at undisclosed spaces all over the city. ​

Kirsten is also the founder and artistic director of Vancouver Art Attack, a creative consulting agency she founded in 2013 that specializes in curated art experiences and acquisitions, artist representation and the Vancouver Art Attack Award of Excellence in Visual Arts at Emily Carr University of Art & Design

In the past decade, she has worked and collaborated with Ola Volo (Art Rapture), an installation at Rumble Boxing Gym, Celestia with The Social Concierge (Westin Bayshore), pop-ups at Rosewood Hotel Georgia, and the Pinnacle Hotel, Diner en Blanc (Van Dusen Gardens, Devonian Harbour Park and Harbour Green Park), and many more. 

Kirsten Larsen, art, creative, creator, Vancouver, Canada, Helen Siwak, portfolio, yvr


“When I was young, I tried my hand at the lemonade stand business with my friend, but it is evident from the beginning that I have never really fit in. I have always had to find my way and have been hustling since high school.

“In 2014, after attending many events at the Waterfall Building in False Creek, I saw it sitting empty with a giant For Lease sign in the front window. 

“Sensing an opportunity, I researched why it was empty, who owned it, and anything else I could find. I began approaching the man who engineered the building, bypassing the leasing agent, with a proposal. 

“I sent him proposal after proposal, pitching myself as an Event Coordinator and listing all the reasons why he needed me. 

“Eventually, I got called in for a meeting. The first thing he says to me is, “You are RELENTLESS!” Truer words have never been spoken. I do not take “No” for an answer. He says, “I figured you wouldn’t leave me alone, so how about I make you the Gallery Director? Do we have 
a deal?” 

After that beginning, he became my mentor and friend and guided me to build my first 6 figure business in less than a year. 

“But I quickly learned that fast money can really change a person, especially if the business expands faster than one person can handle. I became greedy. I could feel it. I was irritable. I was overindulging in all the things. 

Kirsten Larsen, art, creative, creator, Vancouver, Canada, Helen Siwak, portfolio, yvr

“All of it came crashing down when the building was sold. I lost everything, my money, my drive, my identity. It was brutal. I was a ghost. I went into a crazy depression; I was suicidal and almost walked out in front of a bus. I was put on suicide watch and prescribed anti-depressants. I was lifeless; the world was grey, and I wanted to die

“Well, many entrepreneurs do not know that there is no government Employment Insurance (EI) – you don’t qualify as you are not paying into it. The best you can get is welfare assistance, so that’s what I took. I ended up taking a year-long ’employment’ program to find out I am ‘unemployable’ because – guess why – I am an employer! I am not kidding. I spent a year learning what I already knew. At least I have the certificate. 

“Along my journey, there have been many highlights of incredible projects that were pulled off by sheer will and determination. 

  • Kiki’s Brawlys (2008 – 2009) // Prototype stage project in Hong Kong – the manufacturer ‘lost it,’ suddenly no longer spoke English, stopped communicating, and a recession hit. 
  • Vancouver Art Attack (2013 – present) // What started as a one-off fundraiser for the HIVE – VAA, has survived many incarnations over the years.
  • Waterfall Events & Weddings (2014-2016) // Full-scale event and wedding planning, art exhibitions and fashion shows. 
  • The Hygge Brand (2000 – 2021) // I started a kombucha company in my kitchen with a friend. We grew it to the Coho Commissary, garnered media coverage, and some other cool things. Still, my partner and I parted ways after differing opinions on how to scale the business. 
  • The Well Studios – At City Centre Artist Lodge (2022 – present) // Created an affordable community event space in the City Centre Artist Centre basement. 
  • Looks Great! Gallery (2023) // A pop-up-style, hybrid art gallery at Bentall Centre. 

“With Looks Great! Gallery, even though it was temporary, I never told anyone it was, so we all went into it fully invested. 

“I employed this strategy so that I could honour the integrity of the creative process and not have its ending foreshadow its existence. 

“Even in 2024, Looks Great! Gallery is easily one of the most talked about and celebrated creative spaces to be launched in the city. 

“My journey has had many ups and downs, twists and turns. It is a genuinely never-ending story, not for the faint of heart. Being labelled (and self-labelled) a lone wolf and a disruptor, I must rely heavily on my intuition and trust my guidance system. 

“I have a process that I follow, and to the outsider, I most likely look insane. I have been super strategic with most things – everything from the places and events I go to to the organizations I’ve worked for or with, as well as the places I’ve volunteered for – they all go to PURPOSEEven though I am hyper-independent and focused by nature, some have pushed and supported me. 

Kirsten Larsen, art, creative, creator, Vancouver, Canada, Helen Siwak, portfolio, yvr

“My mom has always been my biggest cheerleader. The legendary Brian Jessel mentored me with Kiki’s Brawlys – from the design phase, marketing, and strategies, connecting me to all the right people – some of the best business schooling 
in real life. 

“Many friends and mentors: Mirjana Galovich helped me shape the vision of Vancouver Art Attack; Bahman Sanii of the Waterfall Building who saw my potential before I was ready to receive it. 

Barrie Mowatt of the Vancouver Biennale has been an integral part of my journey in the Arts his belief and encouragement has meant the world to me. I served as a board member for two terms and travelled to Brazil on behalf of the organization, and David Duprey for challenging me in all the right ways, even when it hurt. 

“In 2024 and beyond, a few things are on the table. I will offer one-of-a-kind creative experiences for artists and clients, seeking to acquire a large commercial space for a minimum of five years to house what I created at Bentall—but on a grander scale, and an investment of $250,000 to start up and move forward. 

“Before we wrap this story, two points I want to share: 

  • Follow the breadcrumbs – as your network truly is your net worth. 
  • The creative pursuit owns me – I am in service to CREATIVITY.

“The next level is about to reveal itself.”

Author Profile

Helen Siwak, Luxury Lifestyle Observer
Helen Siwak, Luxury Lifestyle Observer
Helen Siwak is the founder of EcoLuxLuv Marketing & Communications Inc and publisher of Folio.YVR Luxury Lifestyle Magazine, PORTFOLIOY.YVR Business & Entrepreneurs Magazine, and digital women's lifestyle magazine EcoLuxLifestyle.co. She is a prolific content creator, consultant, and marketing and media strategist within the ecoluxury lifestyle niche. Post-pandemic, she has worked with many small to mid-sized plant-based/vegan brands to build their digital foundations and strategize content creation and business development. Helen is the west coast correspondent to Canada’s top-read industry magazine Retail-Insider, holds a vast freelance portfolio, and consults with many of the world’s luxury heritage brands. Always seeking new opportunities and challenges, you can email her at helen@ecoluxluv.com.
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