by Andrew Morrison & Michelle Sproule | With the Eastside Culture Crawl (November 16, 17, 18) now upon us, so too is the bundling up and traipsing about the eastside from one artist’s studio to the next admiring their work, asking questions and generally absorbing something of their creative processes. The Crawl covers the area between Terminal Avenue to Burrard Inlet between Main Street and Victoria Drive (handy map). This year there will be over 400 artists participating and over 15,000 crawlers, so precisely the kind of event that calls for a game plan. Here’s ours…
This is the opening of the Crawl and the only “evening” during the weekend (Saturday and Sunday seeing only day-time studio visits). With the multi-level Parker Street studios as the core of our agenda, we like to think of Friday night as one big art feast interspersed with (or followed by) lots of quality food and drink…
1000 Parker Street | 139 artists
The massive building at 1000 Parker is the densest collection of artist studios on the map every year and starting your crawl experience here is advisable. Not only is there is something magical about this building on the opening night of the crawl (crowds are thick and fast with energy, studios are full and artists are ready to chat) but you want to cover as much ground as you can this weekend and Parker Street will give you that solid start.
Eating & Drinking Before, During, and Afterwards
The intensity of Parker Street makes it difficult to just head out untreated or head home afterwards to slip into bed. Chances are you’ll be pumped before, in the midst, and after, and since this is an evening deserving of a cocktail or three and not a few bites for energy’s sake, we’ve provided a list of places near or within the Crawl’s perimeter in the photo gallery above. Union Street is a pretty suitable strip to start. If there is room at The Parker, sip on a New Strathcona (bourbon, olive syrup, orange and lemon zest). Union Bar has some pretty awesome cocktails, too. Try a Boracay Hangin (vodka, cucumber juice, pandan syrup, calamansi juice, atomised kaffir lime rum, toasted coconut), and maybe snack on some naan. Campagnolo is just around the corner, and so are Farina, Electric Owl, Phnom Penh, and Bao Bei. Just don’t go overboard, because you’ve got a lot of ground to cover tomorrow.
SATURDAY MORNING AND AFTERNOON
If you thought Parker Street on Friday night was a mad and exhausting labyrinth, it’s good to remember that the Eastside Culture Crawl is an endurance game, and that it’s only just begun…
Hit the pavement with your trusty Crawl map and explore mid-sized buildings that house several studios at once. Your main targets are The Arc (1701 Powell St., 23 studios), 339 Railway Street (9 studios), Portside Studios (150 McLean Dr, 19 studios), The William Clark Studios (1310 William Street, 31 Studios) and The Mergatroid (975 Vernon, 55 Studios). As you move between buildings and neighbourhoods, look for yellow balloons marking smaller studios in homes, converted garages and basements (or save that action for Sunday).
It’s important to resist the urge to go non-stop from one studio to the next. You need to eat and drink and you need to do it without going too far off the Crawl track. As you saw in the photo set higher up in this guide, there are dozens of worthwhile joints to check out. Trouble is, most of them are only open at night. Fret not, however, as there are a few ‘in-crawl-catchment’ choices during daytime. For example, The Wilder Snail in Strathcona will set you up with your morning coffee (and muffin too) and it’s smack-dab in the middle of Crawlville. There’s also Harvest Community Foods on Union, where you can slurp up some kickass pork ramen. Walking from Chinatown/Strathcona down to Railtown or vice versa will get you close to Fat Dragon, where you can pick up a marinated and smoked crispy tofu bao bun with bean sprout kimchi for just $2.75.
Bonus: by pure serendipity, there’s a Books & Borshch sale taking place at the Ukrainian Cultural Centre on the corner of East Pender and Hawks. Scoot in to load up of homemade Ukranian food and secondhand (art?) books and then get the hell back out there.
SUNDAY MORNING AND AFTERNOON
This is what we call panic day. It’s the day when you realize that you are running out of Crawl time and that you will need to act swiftly if you’re going to score. It’s also the day that you will visit the places you missed but heard about on Friday and Saturday via Twitter and word of mouth. So yeah, it’s the day that you will pick up the pace.
Small Studios & Follow Ups
This is also the day that you will revisit your favourite studios with your fingers crossed hoping that the painting/photograph/sculpture that you didn’t buy on Friday is still there. So don’t waste a minute. Map out a sensible route that includes targets that you haven’t hit yet and get rolling.
Feed The Beast
Because this is a day of action, it’s crucial to be well fed for it. Start out with a solid brunch. We recommend Railtown’s Two Chefs and a Table as they throw down with a pretty nice morning/afternoon spread. Another good bet is Tacofino Cantina (they just started doing brunch and word has reached our ears that it’s awesome). There’s also Dunlevy Snackbar at Dunlevy and Hastings (awesome place). For something on-the-go, try Woodland Smokehouse on Commercial. Note that both the Union Cafe and The Wilder Snail are open on Sunday, but Benny’s is not.
You won’t see every studio, so don’t rush around like you might. Likewise, if a restaurant is full or there’s not room at the bar, move on. The last thing that the Eastside Culture Crawl is about is stress, disappointment, or the threat of either. Crawl with an open heart and mind, and enjoy the hell out of yourself!