Eastside Culture Crawl is forced to switch gears
// Natahsha Prakash

I n a real estate capital like Vancouver, studio space is a luxury. In spite of this, the cultural community soldiers on.

Since 1997, the Eastside Culture Crawl has developed from 45 to over 300 participating artists every year, and now one of the biggest art events in Vancouver, attracting more than 10,000 people annually. Spanning three days beginning on Nov. 18, the Culture Crawl allows members of the general public to visit East Vancouver artists in their workspaces. Painters, jewelers, sculptors, furniture makers, musicians, weavers, potters, writers, printmakers, and even photographers are all included in the mix. However, the event has a very specific format: artists may not sublet or rent out their studios for the event; the participants must be in their own studios in order to participate.

“The Eastside Culture Crawl is focused exclusively on artists in their studios,” said Jeffrey Boone, executive director of the Eastside Culture Crawl. “The only criteria is that artists have their studio space within boundaries, and that their work is handmade.”

These studios, however, are very difficult to come by. In the past, artists, including Eri Ishii, have fought for their studios, taking it to City Hall to save the coveted creative spaces.

“If we lose this and any more buildings like this, we’re going to be like just another North American suburb,” said Ishii in an interview with the Georgia Straight. “If this happens, the whole city will be dead.”

Boone did note that the increasing pressure space in the East Side neighborhood have caused artists to drop out of the event. “A number of buildings and houses have been sold in the past couple of years,” he notes. These buildings were previously rented by artists for studios, and are now rented out for commercial and residential use.

One such space is 901 Main St. near the Georgia Viaduct, a building that, in the past, provided studio space to 30 artists, including Sarah Mousseau. “Soon, events like the Culture Crawl, they won’t even be around because there won’t be spaces anymore,” she said during an interview with the Vancouver Courier in 2007. Real estate advisor, Dwanye Launt had been working on preserving the studio spaces in East Side Vancouver for over a decade, hosting a petition called “Save Artists of 910 Main Street”.

Unfortunately, in 2009, Amacon Developments pushed out the artists of 901 Main Street, wanting to develop the industrial space into high-end apartments. After a 70 per cent increase on rent, artists were left with no choice but to leave the space.

In a recent interview by the Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson explained that the Vision Vancouver council was seeking to amend current zoning in order for artists to gain work space; in other words, they’re “looking at space in the city and enabling artists to use that existing space more effectively than its current use.”

In the past, the artist occupation of 910 Main Street was illegal, but now there is dialogue about changing the policies that made that so. Jane Wolsak, one of the artists evicted, told the Vancouver Sun, “It’s a start. Vancouver is a very expensive city and artists find it hard to work here.”

There are many artists that work from home, but the Crawl is meant to bring artists and the public together in spaces that are dedicated to their art. Due to limited studio space, Boone noted that a separate event may need to be created for showcasing work in a gallery setting. Furthermore, being the largest art event in Vancouver, and with the emphasis on studio space, the Eastside Culture Crawl directors have been asked to facilitate connections for artists to find studio space. “Over the past number of years, there has been more interest in the having the organization help in a larger sense,” says Boone. “So we’re initiating a process toward developing a building of non-profit owned and operated studios.”

Currently, the project is in its early term, with a phased process. The Culture Crawl team has established a scope of possibilities and is now working in making those ideas a reality. The first step was leasing an office, a first for the Vancouver event. Boone is happy with the new direction. “We are subleasing space so we learn how to manage property. It’s an amazing opportunity and growth process for everyone involved. It’s a very exciting time.”

// Natahsha Prakash, Writer
// Illustration by Camille Segur

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: