Artist Trading Cards (Calgary)


Artist Trading Cards (Calgary) is an outreach group associated with The New Gallery and the organizing committee which keeps ATCs going in Calgary and aids in growth of the ATC movement world wide. The offical members of the committee are Paul Brown, Theo Nelson, Georgie Stone and June Hills. Honourary members are Chuck Stake (aka Don Mabie) and Melody Nayler Keller.

Artist Trading Cards are 3.5 in x 2.5 in artworks made to be traded in person or by correspondence. ATCs were first traded in North America at The New Gallery in Calgary, Alberta on September 27, 1997.




The Formal Artist Trading Card Statement

Artist Trading Cards are 2.5 by 3.5 inch miniature works of art. They are works of art specifically made to be freely traded --- thus the name, Artist Trading Card (ATC). The concept of ATCs was developed by m. vänçi stirnemann an artist from Zürich, Switzerland.

vänçi initiated the idea of ATCs while he was visiting Calgary in 1988 to participate in the Olympic Arts Festival as part of The New Gallery's Olympic presentation. While in Calgary, vänçi was surprised by the number of adults who were collecting and trading hockey cards. Being a hockey fan himself... vänçi began to collect and trade; "as a hockey fan i had a lot of fun sitting around a table with fellow artists talking about art, life, and hockey while trading hockey cards," he said. When vänçi visited Calgary in 1990 as The New Gallery's artist-in-residence, he wanted to produce a catalogue to document his activities with other artists in Calgary as part of that project. Because the costs of printing the catalogue in hockey card format were prohibitive, the project was shelved until 1996. After having been frustrated for years by the high costs of manufacturing cards, vänçi decided to produce them himself by hand. This led to the first exhibition of 1200 of his own cards in April 1997 at, a bookstore/gallery in Zürich. On May 31, 1997, the first ATC Trading Day took place there as well. vänçi discussed that initial Artist Trading Card Show and Trading Session via email: "the reaction from the audience at the opening of the first atc show (1200 cards i did over a period of 5 months) at was so good that we (artist cat schick [a transplanted Calgarian now living in Zürich] and i) decided to hold a trading session for the closing. most people were very inspired by the show and felt like producing cards themselves to trade with me and others, and, since i told them that i would only trade and not sell cards at the first trading session, a lot of people showed up with their own cards to trade. there was so much fun and creativity around that cat and i decided to hold a trading session every month."
[NOTE: The above is taken from an article in the August 3, 2000 issue of The Calgary Straight weekly newspaper. The article, entitled: Art That Makes the Trade was written by Melody Jacobson, m. vänçi stirnemann and Chuck Stake and is, given the input from vänçi, the most authoritative source regarding the initiation of ATCs.]

The social aspect of the ATCs was very clear to vänçi from the beginning and has remained a crucial aspect of ATC activity.

ATCs came to Canada in 1997. After I visited vänçi's exhibition of ATCs at I was also able to participate in a Trading Session while in Zürich and I became very enthused with ATCs and brought the idea back to Calgary. The first ATC Trading Session (TS) in Canada was held in Calgary at The New Gallery on September 27, 1997. About 20 Traders attended the initial TS but the idea caught on quickly and attendance at the regular monthly sessions grew as word spread in the art community, as well as in the community at large. A very important aspect of ATCs is that BOTH artists and non-artists of all ages and abilities participate in the activity.

It is important to point out that artists have used the concept and format of collectible cards, that is the 2.5 by 3.5 inch size, a number of times in the past thirty or forty years for a number of purposes. They have been used by artists to promote their work, for commercial purposes, as catalogues, etc. Particularly in North America, collectible cards are ubiquitous and were part of almost everyone's childhood, be they Hockey Cards, Barbie Cards or whatever variation --- this is not so true in Europe, but, in the NA context, pretty much everyone is familiar with the format and the concept. To my mind vänçi's unique contribution was the idea that the cards be made to be traded, and, of equal importance, that the cards could be handmade, they did not have to be manufactured in any way. It was these two simple, but brilliant, ideas that led to the concept of Artist Trading.

Monique Westra, in a review of the ATC Biennial in Calgary's FastForward weekly newspaper (September 07 - 13, 2000) wrote: "By showcasing the cards of artists from different countries in this remarkable Biennial exhibition, the general public and the wider art community are introduced to the tremendous range of techniques, materials, subjects. The exhibition demonstrates their creativity, diversity, beauty and wit. Surfaces can be any number of things --- board, fabric, watercolour paper, wax, metal, and wood to create card faces that can be decorated by a dazzling variety of methods --- painting, drawing, gluing, spraying, rubber stamping, sewing, computer-generating and folding --- to affix any number of materials ranging from found objects like buttons, nails, and beads to organic matter like fur, hair, twigs, and leaves."

ATCs are easily accessible by the general public, but, at the same time they challenge a number of artistic and cultural paradigms. Westra further states: "Mixing traditions and practices of both the art of high culture and popular fads, the enterprise defies hierarchal categorization and erases the distinctions between high and low art. Through transgression and blurring of boundaries, it is a perfect example of postmodernism at its best. The creative freedom and spontaneity of artist trading cards also recalls the era of Dada."

The key to appreciating/understanding ATCs is to attend and participate in a Trading Session --- it is definitely a rush! Part of the rush is the anticipation of what kinds of cards will be traded at the next Trading Session due to the endless creativity of the participating Traders; there are always new and unique cards and approaches to making cards at each Session. I am always amazed at the range of the creative efforts while looking through someone's binder and deciding which cards I would like to trade with them on that day. The one-to-one interaction while trading is a key aspect of ATCs. And, as a definite bonus, you acquire an extensive collection of superb miniature works of art. I must have in excess of 8000 cards now. To reiterate: The most important aspect of the ATC project is the person-to-person interaction and personal meetings which happen during the TS --- it's about the social situation which is created in the space during a Trading Session.

ATCs are created on 2.5 x 3.5 inch (64 x 89 mm) card stock, the same size as traditional hockey cards. Cards may be 2-D or 3-D; the only stipulation is the size of 2.5 x 3.5 inches. ATCs are miniature, signed, dated works of art which are exchanged by artists and non-artists at regularly held Trading Sessions.

An important aspect of ATC activity for me is that ATCs do not involve the exchange of money --- from the first TS cards were freely exchanged.

Seek out and enjoy an Artist Trading Card Session, or, start one in your location and ENJOY!!!!!

Chuck Stake
Revised slightly, September, 2005
Calgary, Alberta,




ATC (Calgary) Email List

If you would like to be informed by email of ATC events in Calgary or calls for involvement available to ATC traders in Calgary please sign up for the monthly newsletter. It's supported by MailChimp and the signup can be done...

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ATCs on Social Media


If you're haven't already joined our Facebook group, Artist Trading Cards Calgary, it's a great way to keep up with current ATC events in Calgary, share your ATCs and communicate and meet other ATC fans.


If you're on Instagram, follow us @atccalgary. View ATCs or photos of ATC events or add your own to #atcyyc and #artisttradingcard.



ATC Promo Cards and ATC Artist Pages


A few years ago we had ATC-sized promo cards printed for ATC traders to hand out at information sessions and workshops or to use as contact cards when someone has expressed interest in the project. We are going to do this again.

Several versions of the cards will be created. The front of each card will vary, but will typically feature the work of a single ATC creator. Somewhere on the card, where it will not interfere with the card's design the lettering 'ATC by artist-name' will appear. Artist-name will be a signature or the artist's name in text. The reverse side is the informational side and will additionally have a space for the person handing out the card to write in their name and contact information. Here is an example of what the two sides of the cards could look like.

We are currently soliciting card images from ATC traders to use on these cards. We are giving some precedence to regular Calgary traders; but all submissions will be considered. Card images should be well-photographed or well-scanned at high resolution and be in the range 200 DPI [roughly 500 x 700 pixels] to 400 DPI [roughly 1000 x 1400 pixels]. At high resolution the file size of the images should be in the range one to two megabytes. You should tell us exactly what version of your name you would like us to use. If we are to use your signature then a separate image of that should be sent. Our advice is that you don't use your document-signing signature; a more readable and less offical version would be better. If you have a suggestion as to where on the card the 'ATC by' information should appear please let us know. To save this extra bother you could incorporate the 'ATC by' information into the original card design yourself.

Send submissions to Paul Brown: By making this submission you give the ATC committee the right to use your images for making these cards. Please, additionally express this permission in the email you send us. The card image you send may be adjusted to fit the exact size of the the printing card and to meet various printing requirements. Here's the checklist:

  • the card image
  • artist name or signature image (+ suggested name position)
  • permission for use



The ATC Committee is starting up another project which will showcase the work of ATC creators. The intent is to build individual pages to display the work of individual ATC creators and some information about them. All submissions will be juried and those chosen will be placed on this website. To participate send us [Paul Brown:] the following:

  • artist details: name, city you are based in
  • contact details: email, website, Facebook etc. (only what you would want to see published online)
  • artist statement (several paragraphs describing the reason you make cards, the media, methods etc.)
  • 6-12 card images well-photographed or scanned, high resolution in the range 200 DPI [roughly 500 x 700 pixels] to 400 DPI [roughly 1000 x 1400 pixels]. Make sure these are properly aligned and have neat borders.

Here are the current pages... ATC Artists



Upcoming ATC Events in Calgary

Sunday, June 9 2024 2-4 pm Alcove Centre for the Arts (244 - 7 Ave SW) Drop-in ATC Trading This is a free, drop-in anytime trading session. Trade, learn more about ATCs and perhaps make a few cards. Card-making supplies are provided.
Sunday, July 28 2024 2-4 pm Alcove Centre for the Arts (244 - 7 Ave SW) Drop-in ATC Trading This is a free, drop-in anytime trading session. Come even if you don't know about ATCs or haven't made any cards yet. Learn about Artist Trading Cards and the ATC Movement... and perhaps even make a few cards.
Sunday, August 25 2024 2-4 pm Alcove Centre for the Arts (244 - 7 Ave SW) Drop-in ATC Trading This is a free, drop-in anytime trading session. Come even if you don't know about ATCs or haven't made any cards yet. Learn about Artist Trading Cards and the ATC Movement... and perhaps even make a few cards.
Venue Information:

Alcove Centre for the Arts is in downtown Calgary on 7th Ave. It's on the north-east corner of 7th Avenue and 2nd Street SW just across the street from the 3rd Street LRT station.

Let's All Stay Healthy:

Our public health professionals want us to remember:
  • Stay Home if You're Sick! - It's crucial to stay home if you are feeling any symptoms of illness. Avoid close contact with others to protect them and take the time you need to completely heal. This is especially important for respiratory viruses like the flu, RSV and COVID-19, which can lead to more severe illness.

  • If you're vulnerable, wearing a mask in indoor public places is a good way to limit the spread of germs.




ATCs on Display

Artist Trading Cards - Group Trading Show V showing January 23rd to March 31st, 2009 at Mount Royal College just inside the East Gate Entrance [off Ricard Road SW]. Three ATC trading groups were represented: the ATC group from Courtenay, B.C., the ATC group from Winnipeg, Manitoba and the Calgary ATC group. More details and images are available here.


ATC Exhibition at Mount Royal College



Artist Trading Cards - Photography Edition was on display until from February 5th, 2008 until April 7th in the Plus-15 window of the Untitled Art Society in the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts. This is a large display of photographic-souce ATCs curated by Paul Brown from his collection.


Photography-based ATC Exhibition



Artist Trading Cards - Group Trading Show IV showed during June and July 2008 at Arts on Atlantic Gallery at 1312A - 9th Ave SE. Five ATC trading groups were represented: a group from Zürich, Switzerland; the ATC Exchange Club of Northern California; a group from Victoria, British Columbia; The Clayville California Clay Artists' Guild and the Calgary ATC group.

This show included a talk on Thursday July 17th by Paul Brown about the origins and phenomenon of Artist Trading Cards and on Saturday July 26th there was an ATC workshop and trading session.


ATC Exhibition at Arts on Atlantic



Artist Trading Cards - Group Trading Show III opened on March 6th, 2008 and ran until April 29th in the One Blue Wall gallery at Art Central. The show features cards from three trading groups - the Shawville Artist Trading Card Group, the New England Artist Trading Cards + Meetup Group and the Calgary ATC group.


ATCs at Art Central ATC Group Show III



Artist Trading Cards - Group Trading Show II has just completed a long run at the Wildflower Arts Centre in Spruce Cliff/Wildwood. Cards from the Winnipeg group and a Jack James school group in Calgary have again been matched by Calgary traders. This show started display in late December 2007 and remained up until mid-April 2008. It was extremely well received and was a useful educational tool for many of the art classes held at the centre.


ATCs at Wildflower Arts Centre



Artist Trading Cards - Group Trading Show I (The first group-trade ATC show) was held during September and October 2007 at Eau Claire Market, where The New Gallery now exists. The groups represented were the Dunvegan, Ontario trading group, the Bow Valley Calligraphy Guild and the Calgary trading group. The exhibit has now been struck and the traded cards have sent back to the participants.


ATCs at Eau Claire





All designs, images and text are copyright to the named artists or The Artist Trading Card Committee