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Artist Douglas Coupland sports his Roots designed t-shirt at his studio in West Vancouver, BC, June 9, 2010. Lyle Stafford for the Globe and Mail

Lyle Stafford/The Globe and Mail

The Vancouver Art Gallery has created an artist advisory group to provide "high level input" and recommendations as the VAG works toward developing a new purpose-built building.

The move comes out of an online petition created this summer, sent by artist Roy Arden and signed by more than 200 artists, curators, gallerists, educators and others in the visual arts community who support the VAG's plans to "build and move to a new, stand-alone, iconic building," according to the petition. Among those who have added their names to the petition: artists Jeff Wall, Ken Lum, Brian Jungen, Douglas Coupland and Gordon Smith.

"It is critical to us that the voices of those who work in the visual arts are heard through this process," gallery director Kathleen Bartels said in a press release on Thursday, adding that "this new advisory group will ensure the needs of those who will most benefit from a new Gallery will be well represented."

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Ms. Bartels is in the very early stages of putting the committee together, but has confirmed Mr. Arden, Mr. Jungen and Stephen Waddell as members.

"It is high time we had a space for the visual arts in this city that can truly showcase the richness and diversity of our artists," Mr. Waddell said in the release.

"The needs and views of our artists should be at the centre of this discussion. We have some of the most exciting visual artists in the world, and the Vancouver Art Gallery needs a much larger, more prominent space to showcase their achievements."

The VAG is facing a looming deadline to make its case for a piece of city-owned land at Georgia and Cambie known as Larwill Park – currently a parking lot across from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The gallery says its current home, a former provincial courthouse renovated 30 years ago by Arthur Erickson Architects, is inadequate for exhibiting and storing its growing permanent collection, providing space for educational programs, and for a number of other reasons. It is hoping to build a new, estimated $300-million facility a few blocks away at Larwill Park. In February, 2011, city council agreed to reserve the land for the VAG for two years, but it said it would have to be shared with a development such as an office tower.

By Feb. 1, the city is expected to present a report to city council regarding the future of that land.

"The entire visual arts community in Vancouver and British Columbia stands to benefit from a new purpose-built space for the Vancouver Art Gallery," reads the news release, which promises the gallery will provide an overview and recommendations for a business plan over the next few weeks.

"We need new space to be able to properly exhibit and store our continually growing permanent collection that is a legacy for the people of Vancouver and British Columbia," Ms. Bartels said in the release. "All of this becomes possible if we get the go ahead at Larwill Park."

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