Vancouver’s Eastside Culture Crawl
This scribbler celebrates a decade of living in Vancouver this Autumn. And with each year that passes I often find myself rummaging through the ebb and flow of events that have transpired over the last twelve months. To say the least November in Vancouver has always been a strange time to do just that, for not only are the days becoming shorter and darker there also arrives the ineluctable fact of West Coast rain pushing the extra gloominess factor. If it were possible November would be a month that many would otherwise just toss aside. Yes, one’s perspective at this time of year in the city can become, shall we say, blighted somewhat.
But a sense of warmth and cultural prosperity throws light onto the city each and every mid-November. The annual Eastside Culture Crawl takes place over a three-day weekend, beginning on Friday evening and ending Sunday afternoon. This year’s version was the 15th installment and took place from November 18 to 20. Entrance is free – already one begins to feel warmed up.
The Eastside Culture Crawl takes place in a series of studios big and small that are straddled mostly between Main Street and Commercial Drive in the city’s eastside. The genesis began in 1994 with four artists and one studio and by 1997 was officially named the Eastside Culture Crawl for the first time and witnessed 45 artists in three studios with about 1,000 attendees. By 2011 the event has grown into celebration of local art that expected well over 10,000 visitors lured by the invitation to view the work of artists and meet them in the very studios they work. The expectation this year was over 300 artists (338 to be exact, at last count). The purpose is to provide opportunities for artists of many different persuasions to meet with and engage the public that help foster awareness of local art and craftsmanship and to promote its visibility in Vancouver itself.
While the totality of the Eastside Culture Crawl is spread over 75 buildings within a walk or short drive its buzzing epicentre is located at 1000 Parker Street, a behemoth of a warehouse featuring several stories of loft-style studios that are both shared and for individual artists. It is a wondrous maze of wide hallways leading to cavernous studio spaces. Although one who attends feels a little diminutive upon arriving outside its walls the incredibly raw, creative energy within and the telltale faces of the innumerable participants that walk through is invigorating. And warming. There is an immediate sense of exhilaration to be amongst so many excited, curious revelers who are deeply appreciative to be so close to the art, and so close to the artists themselves. 1000 Parker Street and the all the affiliated addresses feature artist’s studios both large and small, featuring one talent or shared. In fact, some of the most intimate moments of art discovery end up taking place in the scattering of heritage houses cum studios in the neighbourhood of Strathcona. Besides the authenticity of being amongst the artists in the space where they live and work there was something so charming about being invited into the heart of the very lifestyle of art and peering through that rare lens.
This scale of works for viewing this weekend included so many mediums that everyone surely found something they are drawn to and inspired by: painting, jewelry, glass (and glassblowers in action), custom woodworking, furniture, weavers, printmaking, sculpture, musicians, drawings, textiles, pins (yes, pins!), potters, and photographers. Of course the countless offerings of mixed media are so intriguing in their various forms that I even question the usefulness of the moniker itself. Regardless, to say this list is not complete but the spirit of artistic excellence is captured in such a vast selection.
Today “the crawl” represents the soulful connection of the participants with the artists without the intermediary of art dealers, galleries, and other performance venues. While many works of art can be purchased and commissions green-lighted the event is not necessarily about the selling and acquisition of art but about the doors of the studios so graciously being thrown open to an intrigued and appreciative public. There they can meet the artists to share feedback to contribute to a dialogue practically unmatched by any other major cultural event in Vancouver.
Prepare to spend a lot of time on your feet and be armed with a coffee or tea. Distances between the studios are reasonable and much of the adventure is in following the programme map and locating the studio (and artists!) you want to explore. Discover new talent, be inspired by the art and creations, and perhaps even find holiday gifts at what is a most opportune time. This instalment had so much to see and experience; a personal favourite of mine was David Robinson whose sculptural suspension installations inform the viewer with spatial relation concepts such gravity, balance and the physical awareness of the individual.
The Eastside Culture Crawl is a stalwart of the East Van neighbourhood’s creative hamlet. Its annual celebration frames the eastside as the undeniable heart of Vancouver’s cultural community and has become a tradition not to be missed. And, yes, its participants are warmed, from their toes to their perspectives on West Coast Novembers.