Jan Wade was born to a Black Canadian father with familial origins in the American South and a Canadian mother of European descent. Raised in a relatively segregated but close-knit Black community within the city, her formative years were heavily influenced by her local African Methodist Episcopal Church. She was also greatly influenced by Southern US Black culture and aesthetics from the perspectives of her paternal grandmother and great-grandmother.
Wade studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design (1972–76). She moved to Vancouver in 1983 and became part of the underground art and music scene in the city, with its innovative performances, do-it-yourself art shows, anti-establishment ethos, and spontaneous happenings. During this period Wade began her research into African diasporic spiritual practices, commencing her unique artistic journey marked by self-sufficiency, empowerment, hope, and radical joy. The artist produces a wide range of mixed media works made entirely from found or readymade objects and recycled materials.
Jan Wade: Soul Power — the landmark first solo exhibition by a Black woman in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s 90-year history — presents the artist’s mixed media assemblages, paintings, textiles, and sculptural objects from the 1990s to the present day.