The East Side Culture Crawl is easily one of the greatest things about November in Vancouver. It’s now four days – Nov. 19-22 – instead of three. That’s great news given that 470 local painters, jewellers, sculptors, textile artists, furniture makers, musicians, weavers, potters, printmakers and photographers are expected to open their doors to the public.
We’ll need that extra day if we’re to really take it all in!
The Crawl covers the area between Columbia Street, 1st Avenue, Victoria Drive and the waterfront (handy map). It’s a sizeable chunk of real estate, to be sure, and with over 80 buildings to hit and some 20,000 art enthusiasts coming out to attend, it’s precisely the sort of thing that demands something of a game plan. Here’s ours…
Don’t forget the little guys! The massive building at 1000 Parker St. is the densest collection of artist’s studios on the map every year; including it in your crawl experience is essential, but keep in mind that the majority of the dots on the map represent stand-alone studios. With the forecast calling for mostly sunny skies, put on a scarf and hit the pavement to check out the creative spaces hidden in backyards, basements, alleyways and garages. Artists will mark their studios with yellow balloons, crows or Culture Crawl signs, making it easy to float from one studio to the next. Here are a handful of our faves:
MONKEY 100 (593 East Georgia St., Strathcona)
Head to the corner of Princess and Georgia to visit the studio of Shannon Harvey. An artist with a strong interest in environment, community and local histories, the art in her studio always has a message. This year, Harvey show us glimpses of a disappearing Chinatown. From the artist: ”Chinatown is transforming- like a chrysalis, it’s preparing for the next stage in its evolution. Long time businesses have closed while condos rise on every corner, and younger newcomers flock to trendy new restaurants and stores. Over the past year I’ve spent time walking in Chinatown with the sense that it is quickly becoming a different place from what it was. I felt a strong desire to record the Chinatown that still exists, even as it’s slipping away….” In addition to very reasonably priced original art that captures the unique character of Chinatown, you’ll also be able to purchase limited edition t-shirts and postcards at Monkey 100.
HOBO WOODWORKS (1616 Franklin St)
Make your way to to visit with Sam and Lenny of Hobo Woodworks. Not only will you see good design and skilled craftsmanship here, but these boys also like to have fun. They have a lovely, welcoming space complete with archery practice range, mini-ramp, and couches. Get a sense of what the duo is all about by reading a Scout profile with them here.
GAILAN NGAN (884 E Georgia St, Strathcona)
We love good ceramics! When good food is served on beautiful, handmade plates the entire experience is elevated. We’re lucky to have some very talented artists who deliver on this score in Vancouver, and many of them have studios open during the Crawl. Take some time out to visit as many as you can, especially that of Gailan Ngan. Gailan’s studio is located in Strathcona and her space is nice and calming. Expect everything from tumblers and mugs to platters, bowls and beads.
JADA-GABRIEL PAPE (Garden studio, 1160 Victoria Dr)
Our friend Jada has amazing talent. Hit her Victoria Drive studio to check out her most recent works. She likes to focus on animals (horses, birds, buffalo and dogs are reoccurring) and imparts a quiet wisdom through her paintings. In addition to original paintings, Jada-Gabrielle will also have gift cards and tote bags for sale. Make sure to stop by for a visit.
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., 16 studios), Octopus Studios (393 Powell St, 21 studios), ACME (112 E Hastings St, 20), Vancouver Community Laboratory (1907 Triumph St, 12 studios), Portside Studios (150 McLean Dr, 14 studios), Maker Labs (780 E Cordova, 9 artists) The William Clark Studios (1310 William Street, 25 Studios); The Mergatroid (975 Vernon) and Onlok (1636 Venables St, 4 artists).
MERGATROID (975 Vernon)
The Megatroid Building, just across the street from Parker St. Studios, boasts studio space for 57 artists. Scope out the work of painter Lisa Ochowycz and ceramics by Jacqueline Robins, Russell Hackney and Heather Braun-Dahl (dahlhaus ceramics). There are also some amazing glassblowers, leather workers and woodworkers on site. Details here.
MAKER LABS (780 E Cordova)
Not only are there 9 talented artists showing their work at Maker Lab on E Cordova, but the concept itself is inspiring. A 26,000sf space that provides members with tools, space, and training to get started on making pretty much anything they can think of. It’s hard to come out on the other side of the crawl without an itch to paint, mould or build. This is a great place to start. Also Becki Chan’s jewellery is so cool (want it all), carpenter and sign maker Jeremie Laguette’s signs are perfect and Julie Van Oyen’s woodburning is beautiful. Never been but can’t wait to scope this one out!
ONLOK (1636 Venables St)
You’ve probably seen M W Bowen’s work around town, possibly on gallery walls, but also wheat pasted in alleys, on dumpsters, on sketchy doorways and the sides of empty buildings. MW Bowen brightens the darker corners of the city with cultural icons like Spock, Batman, Bowie and the Millennium Falcon – all with a twist. As the artist explains: “I enjoy splitting my work between the tighter structure of the gallery system and the all-inclusive nature of street-art.” Hustle to Bowen’s studio to see the two sides of the artist in one place. Details here.
PARKER STREET STUDIOS
It would be fair to say that Parker Street is the epicentre of the Crawl. This moody, creaky warehouse space is loaded with 147 artist studios and the distance between spaces is measurable in footsteps. With the massive number of visitors during the Crawl, it’s better to just let the crowd steer your journey rather than attempt any organized system. Besides, part of the charm of the Parker experience are the discoveries you make on ‘wrong’ turns.
It would be silly to try to list everything we think you should check out here, but a few of our favourite stops include visting photographer Klee Larsen’s studio – she’s always got something awesome happening. Likewise printmaker Kari Kristensen’s studio; from simple captures of swimmers and her ‘rope’ linocuts to her ‘Imagined Landscapes’ series, this woman has her craft dialled! Westerly Shoes (right next to Kristensen, in suite #204) is also worth fighting through the crowds for. Shoemaker Renée MacDonald constructs stylish footwear with a quality of craftsmanship you can really feel. Finally, make sure to visit Kate Duncan, who designs amazing furniture that blends traditional Japanese and mid-century modern aesthetics (we’re kind of super in love with everything she does).
WHERE TO EAT + DRINK
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. This year more than ever before there are plenty of worthwhile joints to check out between Columbia Street, 1st Avenue, Victoria Drive, and the waterfront
COFFEE & TEA
This is East Van, so getting your hands on a good cup of coffee won’t be an issue. Without veering too far off Crawl course, you can hit Propaganda or Matchstick coffee in Chinatown, Platform 7 or Pallet Coffee Roasters in the Hastings/Sunrise area, JJBean in Railtown or Moja on lower Commercial. Also try Finch’s (it’s smack-dab in the middle of Crawlville at Jackson and Georgia and has the added bonus of those killer chocolate chip cookies) and The Pie Shop (on Gore between Union and Georgia on the edge of Chinatown).
The Crawl is the perfect opportunity to nip into Strange Fellows (1345 Clark Dr.) for a pint or a tidy little tasting flight. Located just two blocks from Parker Street Studios, Strange Fellows also has a gallery AND pepperoni and pretzels. Parallel 49 (1950 Triumph St.) is a stones throw from gazillions of Crawl-participating studios and a nice cold glass of Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale makes good company while you sit back to contemplate all the thought-provoking art you’ve just taken in. The tasting lounge at Odd Society Spirits (1725 Powell St) is conveniently open afternoons and early evenings to serve you a tasty cocktail, and at the end of the night we suggest heading to either The Keefer in Chinatown, Boxcar on Main Street (squished perfectly between The Cobalt and Pizzaria Farina at 917 Main St), or Campagnolo Upstairs where you can grab a stool at the laid-back bar and reflect.
First of all, there’s a Perogy Lunch at the Strathcona Ukrainian Hall (805 E. Pender) Saturday and Sunday – so that’s good news. Dig into generous helpings of homemade perogies, sliced sausage, cabbage rolls and bowls of borscht. Don’t be put off by the line-up at the door. It moves fast and you might make friends (perogy eaters are generally a jolly bunch). DETAILS
Mr. Red Cafe (2234 East Hastings) serves up a wham-bam punchy flavour show of North Vietnamese street food staples. Aim for the $7 Xoi Xeo (sticky rice with chicken); the restorative, $8 flat noodle chicken Pho Ga soup. The bone broth is one of the best elixirs in town.
Weather is expected to be clear but chilly this weekend, so wrap your cold hands around a warm bowl of noodles to take the edge off. We suggest the ‘Classic’ Ramen at The Ramen Butcher; whatever is on special at Harvest Community Foods; Changmai Curry Noodles at Fat Mao; a bowl of Phnom Penh noodles in broth; or the basic Spag Pomo at Campagnolo.
Hit Kin Kao Kitchen On Commercial Drive for dinner (also open for lunch). Located within Crawl grounds, you can walk out the door after lunch and resume crawling in any direction. We suggest the Thai Coconut Galangal Mushroom and Chicken Soup, or the Grilled Beef and Red Grape salad.
The MacKenzie Room is a pretty little room with a casual atmosphere and well executed comfort food. And with Arthur Wynne behind the bar, it’s also a fine place for a properly made cocktail.
Ask For Luigi. Open for brunch and dinner. Nothing on the menu disappoints and the wine on tap is always well chosen. Railtown has oodles of cool little artists studios to explore, so hit this place up.
Bistro Wagon Rouge. What a nice way to finish a day of exploring artist studios. We recommend a seat at the bar for a bowl of moules frites and a cold beer.
Ed’s Daily. Awesome place in Strathcona (north of Hastings) with fantastic breakfast sandwiches and lots of “walking around” fare. Their take-out operation is quick, easy, and affordable.
Last piece of advice: pace yourself. You won’t see every studio, so don’t rush around like you might. And if a restaurant is full or there’s no room at the bar, move on. The last thing that the Eastside Culture Crawl is about is waiting, stress, or disappointment. Crawl with an open heart and mind, and enjoy the hell out of yourself!