Visual Art Handbook

Welcome to the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory (AHVA). Navigating around a large institution like the University of British Columbia can be daunting, so AHVA has assembled this handy guide to assist you and make the process a little easier. As a student taking classes with AHVA, you will be accessing a number of unique studio facilities and working spaces, and interacting with our specialized faculty and staff. This handbook summarizes eligibility and access procedures to our studios, provides studio area contacts, and outlines general art practice guidelines. In the handbook, you will also find information on health and safety, emergency contacts, and other AHVA or UBC resources. Please connect with any of the AHVA resources listed in this handbook if you have any questions. AHVA faculty and staff are happy to assist you or to provide direction.

A PDF version of this guide is available for download:


Studio Access Policy

Only UBC students currently registered in Visual Art (VISA) studio courses may use AHVA facilities and equipment for their course work.

You must complete an area-specific orientation session with AHVA area staff, who will review policies, procedures, and usage guidelines for the facility you wish to use.

If you lose your key or card, notify the department and UBC Security as soon as possible so the safety of our studios is not compromised.

Do not under any circumstances contact UBC Security to unlock a studio facility for which you have not been officially granted access. We have provided UBC Security with a list of students who are registered for access, and security staff will not provide access to students who are not on this list.

AHVA Work Together Policy

After-hours and unsupervised access to AHVA facilities and studios are permitted only when you have a Work Partner physically present with you in the facility for the duration of a work period.

“After-hours” are defined as any times outside of Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm.

“Work Partners” are defined as students currently taking courses through AHVA, who are familiar with the facilities, studio conduct, and the health, safety, and emergency policies currently in place.

Failure to fully comply with the above Work Alone policy will result in the suspension of after hours access to AHVA facilities.

Extended-hours Access

Following the area orientation, complete an AHVA Access Request Form, have it signed by AHVA area staff, and submit the completed form in person to the AHVA main office. To maintain your after-hours access privileges, you must fully comply with the Work Together Policy at all times.

Along with the completed form, you must also pay a $100 security deposit. This deposit is refundable at the end of the term contingent upon respectful use of extended-hours privileges.

The office is located in room 400 (4th floor) of the Lasserre Building, 6333 Memorial Road.

Processing registrations takes a minimum of one week at the AHVA office. Please plan accordingly. Attempting to register for access on a Friday with the intent to have access for the weekend will not get you through the doors.

You must adhere to the Work Together Policy. Failure to do so will result in your extended-hours privileges being taken away.

Where necessary, key access will be mediated through the UBC Key Desk. They will email you directly when your key is ready for pick-up. The UBC Key Desk is located at the back of the UBC Bookstore at 6200 University Boulevard. They may require a small additional deposit. All outstanding keys must be returned before any new ones can be issued to you.


Dorothy Somerset Mezzanine Area (DSOM 207)

Normal operating hours: 8:30am until 5:30pm, Monday through Friday.

Extended hours: 5:00pm until 10:00pm, Monday through Friday, and 7:30am until 10:00pm, Saturday and Sunday.

Extended hours access: A key can be signed out using your UBC ID from the AHVA Workshop during regular workshop hours. The workshop is located in DSOM 106. This facility also requires a sign-in and sign-out procedure.

Who is eligible: Students registered in studio courses.


Printmedia Research Centre (AAC 2000)

Normal operating hours: 8:00am until 7:00pm, Monday through Friday.

Extended hours: 7:00pm until 10:00pm, Monday through Friday, and 8:00am until 10:00pm, Saturday and Sunday.

Extended hours access: Card access via $100 deposit. A limited amount of after-hours cards are available for sign-out for short periods from the PRC technician.

Who is eligible: Students registered in print courses or with the permission of the area technician.


BFA/BA Undergraduate Studios (AAC 3000 & 3007)

Normal operating hours: 24-hour access. Type of access | Card access via $100 deposit.

Who is eligible: Students who have been notified via email by the department of their eligibility.


MFA Facilities (AAC 4th Floor)

Normal operating hours: 24-hour access.

Type of access: Card and key access via $100 deposit.

Who is eligible: MFA students enrolled in their first two years in the program.


Darkroom Facilities & Photo Studio (BCB 104 & 107)

Normal operating hours: 7:30am until 7:00pm, Monday through Friday.

Extended hours: 7:00pm until 10:00pm, Monday through Friday, and 7:30am until 10:00pm, Saturday and Sunday.

Extended hours access: A key can be signed out using your UBC ID from the AV Cage during regular cage hours. The cage is located in BCB 106.

Who is eligible: Students registered in photo courses.


BC Binning Studios & Photo Processing Area (BCB 108)

Normal operating hours: 7:30am until 7:00pm, Monday through Friday.

Extended hours: 7:00pm until 10:00pm, Monday through Friday, and 7:30am until 10:00pm, Saturday and Sunday.

Extended hours access: Card access for building perimeter and photo processing area via $100 deposit.

Who is eligible: Students registered in photo courses.

General Regulations

AHVA facilities are provided to students as working studio spaces only, not as living spaces. Sleeping on the premises is prohibited, as is bringing in any personal equipment used for food preparation.

Eating is not recommended in the general studios due to health and safety concerns about contamination. Please use other, more appropriate venues on campus to eat. Take a break.

Smoking, “vaping,” and consuming alcohol and illicit substances are strictly prohibited.

Animals and pets are not permitted in studio areas for health and safety reasons.

University staff are required to regularly inspect facilities in the interest of maintenance and safety, as well as to ensure these guidelines are followed. They may enter studios without notice at any time.

It is your responsibility to help maintain the cleanliness of facilities, including sinks and waste areas. Doing your part helps to build a happy studio community that enriches everyone’s experience.


Before commencing any course work, all students must participate in area-specific facility and equipment orientations as required.

AHVA personnel will distribute shorter written guidelines where appropriate and/or provide direct orientation on art practice safety, proper use of equipment and facilities, access details, and general UBC policies. These shorter guidelines supplement the general guidelines outlined in this handbook.

If you are unsure how to use a piece of equipment or are unfamiliar with a facility procedure and have not received training with AHVA, please contact either the appropriate AHVA technician for that area or your course instructor to arrange training.

Health & Safety

Everyone who uses department facilities must conduct themselves appropriately to avoid endangering themselves and others, and should report any recognized hazards or concerns to AHVA staff or the AHVA Safety Committee. If you have any inquiries regarding health and safety, please contact the Safety Chair, Nick Smolinski, at 604 822 2150 or

Area-specific health and safety boards are located in each facility and outline general safety guidelines, additional usage instructions, and UBC policies and contacts.

Note the location of the following in every area where you work (AHVA staff will call your attention to these during your orientation):

  • Emergency eye-wash stations and showers
  • First aid stations
  • Fire alarms and fire extinguishers
  • Emergency exits and muster points

In an emergency, call 911 (Fire/Ambulance/Police). Always notify AHVA staff in the area, but only when it is safe to do so. Refer to fluorescent green AHVA Emergency Procedure posters in your area for additional instructions.

If you have a non-emergency security concern, call UBC Campus Security at 604 822 2222. They are available 24 hours a day. AMS Safewalk is always happy to provide safe escort if you need to travel across campus at night, and can be reached at 604 822 5355.

Familiarize yourself with all other pertinent UBC emergency contacts and procedures. A short list of contacts is included at the bottom of this page.


Our buildings are shared-use facilities. As such, it is our collective responsibility to keep our areas secure.

Do not allow strangers into secured spaces. Faculty, staff, and students who are permitted access have their own card or key to do so. Other UBC personnel also have their own means of access and will never ask you to open a space for them.

Do not prop open doors at any time. Always meet visitors at the door.

At the conclusion of a work period, turn off any equipment and lighting, close windows and doors, and leave the area safe and secure upon departure.

The studio facilities are intended for use with common, classroom-safe media. Other materials can be accommodated; however, they require prior approval from AHVA staff.

Handle all materials with care and consider all health and safety precautions. Many materials contain a variety of chemical ingredients that can be adverse to your health and the health of those around you. See below for more detail about guidelines for working with specific materials.

Students are required to make themselves familiar with the hazards and safe working procedures of their materials and processes before commencing any work. If you have any questions or concerns about materials or the safety of a particular process, consult with AHVA staff before beginning your work so that appropriate safety precautions can be determined.

You may require some personal protective equipment (PPE) as a precaution such as gloves, respirators, goggles, etc. Many PPE items can be purchased through the PRC store in the Audain Art Centre. In addition, AHVA facilities may have engineering controls with standard operating procedures in place to support the safe use of specific materials, products, or processes. Please consult with AHVA staff before commencing any work:

BC Binning Studios: Rob Bos | 604 822 8088 |

Dorothy Somerset Studios and MFA Studios: Frances Hart D’Emilio | 604 822 4647 |

Audain Art Centre: Ian Craig | 604 822 3462 |

UBC requires us to have a Materials Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS) for every material and substance we use in the studio. It is your responsibility to provide AHVA with up-to-date MSDS information when you use any materials or substances for which an MSDS is not already on file. Always check with area staff when planning to bring new materials into a studio space.

It is mandatory that you make your instructor and AHVA area staff aware of the details and scope of your intended research, work, and projects (this includes performance work, public actions, and interventions). Please avoid surprises in this regard. UBC requires compliance with specific guidelines relating to facilities, materials, processes, waste disposal, and use of public space.

Be respectful and responsible in your research, artistic practice, and related activities.

Restricted & Prohibited Materials

Any potentially hazardous or unconventional studio materials, processes, or practices that you intend to work with in the facilities or on the UBC campus, whether listed in this handbook or not, must be reviewed by AHVA faculty and staff before you commence work. This is for your health and safety and that of your colleagues. For lists of specific materials restricted and prohibited check the two lists below.

The following materials and processes are strictly prohibited:

  • Fire of any kind — no open flames, burning or combustion
  • Heat-generating equipment (personal hot plates, wood-burning pens, etc.)
    • Ignitable materials and particulates
    • Fuels (kerosene, gasoline, etc.)
    • Explosives
  • Products containing toluene
  • Pure turpentine

The following materials and processes are restricted and require advance consultation:

  • Spray paint – Can be used only in the spray booths inside the Audain Art Centre with approval and proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Do not, under any circumstances, use spray paint in stairwells, outdoor courtyards or grounds, on sidewalks, etc.
  • Resins – PRC fume hoods can support these, but please coordinate with staff.
  • Solvents (including odourless paint solvents)
  • Acids and bases, chemicals, chemical agents, and compressed gases
  • Products that contain chemical agents
  • Asphaltum and tar products
  • Plaster and cement or cement-like products
  • Dry pigments
  • Products that are made of or contain fine dust or particulates (saw/wood dust, flocking, powders, glass beads, dry pigments, etc.) – These can be accommodated in specialized facilities or with specialized equipment in combination with PPE.
  • Wax (melting) – Can be accommodated with specialized equipment and instruction from AHVA staff.
  • Electronics (modification, electronic component disassembly/assembly, soldering, etc.)
  • Construction of any 3-dimensional structures, platforms, enclosures, or support furniture
  • Suspending objects – You are required to review appropriate anchor points with staff in advance.
  • Bio-hazardous or potentially bio-hazardous material, including any human or animal fluids, matter, flesh, or blood
  • Surveillance or recording equipment
  • Organisms (living or dead) – Due to ethical issues pertaining to living organisms used in art practice, any such use of animals, living organisms, tissues (including animal flesh), fluids, blood, or related matter must be reviewed and sanctioned by staff before you proceed.

If you need to use any spray paint or do any industrial type finishing for a project that will involve the use of materials which contain volatile organic compounds (VOC's) or that may generate fumes or dust, you are required to do this work safely in an appropriate facility. Examples of this kind of finishing include spray painting a project, sanding projects, and using materials in the form of a particulate like flocking. Please check in with Area Staff for consultation so that we can determine the best solution on how to accommodate you.

  • DO NOT do this kind of work in general studio areas, in the common areas of a building, or anywhere outside as this poses safety hazards to you, the public, and the environment. Spray painting, power sanding, and equivalent activities are forbidden in general studios and in common areas on the UBC campus (i.e. common areas indoors/outdoors including sidewalks, courtyard, etc.).
  • AHVA can accommodate the above processes safely. We have a large Spray Booth located on the 3rd floor of the Audain Art Centre in room 3008. It can accommodate large scale, 3 dimensional objects through large double doors. The spray booth pushes large volumes of air through the space, that in combination with the personal protective equipment (a respirator), allows users to safely complete finishing work. You will need to plan ahead to access this facility.
  • Access to the spray booth can be attained through the BCB Equipment Cage provided you have the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes a personal respirator with cartridges, goggles, etc. You are also required to complete a Respirator Fit Test in advance of accessing the spray booth. This is required by UBC for health and safety reasons.
  • AHVA will administer regular Respirator Fit Test sessions during the year that you can attend. They take about 20 minutes per person. The times for these will be announced in you studio areas or alternately you can contact area staff or the Safety Chair, Nick Smolinski, for further information at 604 822 2150 or
  • Upon completing and passing the Respirator Fit Test you will be registered on the AHVA access list for the year and will be eligible to sign out keys for limited periods to the spray booth.

Excess materials, Rubbish and Disposal

You are expected to maintain work areas and are responsible for the disposal of any excess materials, rubbish, or objects in accordance with best practices and UBC guidelines.

This does not mean to simply through everything you do not need into the closest garbage without consideration. Do not abandon the rubbish/item near a garbage receptacle when it does not fit inside it of affix said item with the old "free" sign, hoping someone else will deal with the burden. The responsibility of dealing with your art waste lies with you.

All non-hazardous material waste needs to be sorted and can be disposed of in local receptacles for paper, plastic recyclables and safe organic waste. Oversized items need to be broken down to manageable size (ideally to fit the regular waste stream rubbish bins). All wood, metal, and glass material needs to be safely broken down and delivered to the AHVA Workshop in the Dorothy Somerset Studios to be separated into individual disposal bins where it will be picked up for appropriate disposal by UBC waste management services. This material cannot be disposed of in regular garbage bins. Potentially hazardous material, sharps, or other dangerous items or objects (batteries, etc.) require consultation with AHVA staff for further instructions on safe disposal.
Disposing of unsafe, hazardous material or objects into a regular garbage can result in injury to other students, employees of UBC, and the environment. Be responsible with your art waste. Let's do it right.

Common Spaces & Shared Areas

Due to fire regulations, all hallways and common areas must be kept clear of any personal materials at all times. Do not use common areas as working areas or extensions of functional studio space.

Please keep all of your artwork and materials contained in studios or allocated storage areas. Students are responsible for removing all materials, projects, and personal belongings at the conclusion of their classes. AHVA does not offer any storage or disposal services.

Furniture, Equipment & Maintenance

Please treat studios and equipment with respect.

Physical modifications to studio facilities, furniture, and equipment are not permitted.

All furniture and equipment are tagged and inventoried for each facility. Do not remove anything from the area you’re working in.

Students are expected to ensure furniture and equipment are not damaged from neglect or misuse. If you encounter anything that requires maintenance, connect with area staff as soon as possible so that we can ensure it is repaired and looked after.

Before you bring your own furniture or support structures (tables, storage, etc.) into a facility, consult with AHVA staff, who will review your request in terms of health and safety considerations. This includes any structures or supports you plan to build in your space. Any approved items that you bring into the space are your responsibility and must be promptly removed at the conclusion of the project or class.

Installation, Display & Public Space

Artwork may only be displayed on or attached to designated display surfaces and locations. Tacks and finishing nails are the recommended fasteners – tape is not recommended. Do not affix work to any surface in the public/common space of a building without prior approval from area staff.

Do not suspend anything from mechanical systems (including lighting or power, water, steam, and fire lines on the ceiling). Area staff can help you find appropriate anchor points to suspend work.

Any activity or work intended for public spaces requires official approval from UBC before moving forward – do not just drop the work off and see what happens. If you are planning any work, performance, action, or display in public areas (whether in a building or on the grounds of the UBC campus), you must consult with an area technician or the Safety Chair, Nick Smolinski, at least three weeks in advance to communicate the details of your work. Projects cannot be enacted in public spaces without this permission. Plan accordingly. Plan ahead.

Research activity must not damage or deface University property in any way. This includes UBC grounds, buildings, and equipment. Students are prohibited from working directly on walls, floors, and windows or altering them in any way. These surfaces are not appropriate for art projects. All students must adhere to UBC regulations regarding research activity and work being done on campus. These regulations include provisions for environmental protection and other safety and habitat concerns. All work must comply with UBC safety codes, including those related to fire safety, public safety, and the safety of people with disabilities.

It is expected that all UBC students taking VISA courses will be respectful and responsible when researching, creating artistic work, and presenting work publicly.

VISA students are members of the UBC community and must ensure that their research and the content of their work do not violate any international, national, provincial, municipal, or University laws and policies.

AHVA reserves the right to review and give final approval for what research is conducted and how work is publicly presented.

AHVA faculty and staff are here to assist students in safely achieving their academic and artistic goals. Faculty and staff respect student confidentiality.

Full list of UBC policies.

UBC Statement on Respectful Environment

UBC Statement on Respectful Environment

The University of British Columbia envisions a climate in which students, faculty, and staff are provided with the best possible conditions for learning, researching, and working, including an environment that is dedicated to excellence, equity, and mutual respect. The University of British Columbia strives to realize this vision by establishing employment and educational practices that respect the dignity of individuals and make it possible for everyone to live, work, and study in a positive and supportive environment, free from harmful behaviours such as bullying and harassment. The best possible environment for working, learning, and living is one in which respect, civility, diversity, opportunity, and inclusion are valued. Everyone at the University of British Columbia is expected to conduct themselves in a manner that upholds these principles in all communications and interactions with fellow UBC community members and the public in all University-related settings.

Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom

The members of the University enjoy certain rights and privileges essential to the fulfillment of its primary functions: instruction and the pursuit of knowledge. Central among these rights is the freedom, within the law, to pursue what seems to them as fruitful avenues of inquiry, to teach and to learn unhindered by external or non-academic constraints, and to engage in full and unrestricted consideration of any opinion. This freedom extends not only to the regular members of the University, but to all who are invited to participate in its forum. Suppression of this freedom, whether by institutions of the state, the officers of the University, or the actions of private individuals, would prevent the University from carrying out its primary functions. All members of the University must recognize this fundamental principle and must share responsibility for supporting, safeguarding, and preserving this central freedom. Behaviour that obstructs free and full discussion, not only of ideas that are safe and accepted, but of those which may be unpopular or even abhorrent, vitally threatens the integrity of the University’s forum. Such behaviour cannot be tolerated.

Freedom from Harassment & Discrimination

Freedom from Harassment & Discrimination

The University of British Columbia is committed to ensuring that all members of the University community – students, faculty, staff, and visitors – are able to study and work in an environment of tolerance and mutual respect that is free from harassment and discrimination.

Student Accident Insurance (SAI) is an optional insurance plan that provides accident (not illness) coverage for UBC registered students when engaged in course work. It is designed to cover UBC students and post-doctoral fellows performing course-work-related activities in environments where the risk of injury is greater than in a classroom, e.g., laboratories, clinical practice, or field work.

SAI provides a $50,000 maximum benefit for death or dismemberment and a $5,000 limit for other medical-related expenses, e.g., ambulance, prescription drugs. Students must have a BC Medical Plan or its equivalent from another province in place (basic medical care) in order to be eligible.

SAI is $7 per year per student, and AHVA must collect the premium from students. For more information, please visit the AHVA main office in room 400 (4th floor), Lasserre Building, 6333 Memorial Road.

Photography and Digital Media Technician
Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture Technician
phone: 604-822-4647
Printmaking Technician
Undergraduate Advisor
phone: 604-822-1282
Receptionist and Financial Processing Specialist
phone: 604-822-2757
Studio, Safety, and Facilities Advisor
Sessional Instructor
phone: 604-822-2150
Graduate Program Coordinator
phone: 604-822-3281


Department office:

Lasserre Building – Room 400

6333 Memorial Road

Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z2