The East Side Culture Crawl

November 24, 2008.

I ran into an old friend at the East Side Culture Crawl this weekend who confided that he had returned to the crawl this year after a five year hiatus. “It started to be all the same” he said, “and I needed a bit of a break”. He’s an artist who lives in Strathcona and my guess is that he was so immersed in the scene the other 361 days of the year that this small window when the artists studios were thrown open to the public held nothing new for him.

As a comparative neophyte, I couldn’t imagine any way in which I could possibly see everything there is to see in a full week of touring the Crawl, let alone three days. I put in a solid effort this weekend, and only made it to a handful of studios.

On Thursday night I went to 1000 Parker Street. It seemed to me that the high concentration of artist’s work spaces here must make a visit to this location the most efficient way to take in the Crawl. I wasn’t the only one thinking this. It was busy and hard to find space to linger anywhere, but that was fine. Neither my friend nor I could figure out a source for the wine and beer we saw floating past us in the hallways and the flow of the crowd kept us moving – a fate we happily accepted with the hope that we might stumble upon the magical wine room in our travels.

I was as captivated by the crowd and the building as I was by the art. We never did find the wine, so we just browsed and browsed. Studios that stood out included Arleigh Wood’s: an uncluttered space with a ‘gallery’ feel showcasing both old and new canvasses that gave a soft and dreamy voice to a wintry tree meets bird thing that the artist had going on. At the vast and obviously productive Wild Rose studio, Susan Setz and her charming husband (Joe?) were offering a wide range of clothing made of sheer nylon and printed with tattoo graphics. These, when worn, give the wearer elaborate multi-tats that look pretty hardcore.

On my way out I noticed the Utility Furniture design and production shop. Like all of the furniture that I saw at 1000 Parker, designer Derek Morton’s was beautifully crafted, but his pieces in particular had something more. Despite simple form and clean lines they emanated a wonderful warmth. If I were rolling in cash and looking to decorate, this would definately be one of my first stops.

On Sunday I took a different approach, visiting small work/live artist studios scattered throughout the Strathcona neighbourhood. More sidewalk between locations meant I could see fewer studios. Still, I enjoyed the wandering as much as the studios and the East Side Culture Crawl organizers made it ridiculously easy for me by marking each participating studio with a cluster of yellow balloons. On my mother’s urging I stopped in at Shannon Harvey’s Monkey100 studio – and I am so glad I did. Their motto: “Through t-shirt design, cards and community action Monkey100 seeks to inspire and be part of the movement for a better world”. Take a look.

I also popped in to Ouno (an online store worth a visit). They are known internationally for their use of vintage fur in, among other things, serene looking throws, pillows and scarves (made by hand in BC). During my too short visit, I adored the pillows with strong prints and the courier bags in their range of natural fabrics. On my way out, I eyed some Christmas stockings made from reclaimed material and trimmed with old fur remnants. If you’ve never heard of Ouno design before, visit their web site.

I am so proud of Vancouver when I see this kind of ability and vision supported by community.

We ended the day with a final cruise through 1000 Parker street. It had been impossible to take advantage of everything that the East Side Culture Crawl offered in the space of three short days, especially when one still has to stop to eat, drink, sleep, and finish the laundry. I took photographs that I hope will give an impression of my experience with more detail than this post covers with words. Have a look, I tried to title images with artist details wherever I could. If something you see interests you, leave a comment and I will try to provide you with information.

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