You Always Remember Your First Culture Crawl

I stand in sculptor Bruce Voyce’s living room, barefoot as instructed by the sign at the front door. Coffee tables have been pushed to the side and in their place sit sensual and intricately carved torso sculptures with—naturally—horrific bird skull-heads.

From the ceiling hangs a chandelier of ocean spray bottles, transformed into a cascade of translucent, illuminated shells. At my feet sits a baby.

It turns out the “baby” isn’t part of the display. It’s just Bruce’s human, non-art child, who is not for sale. But these sort of misunderstandings are just part of the experience during the Eastside Cultural Crawl.

When artists—many of whom work out of their baby-filled homes—invite the public to explore their studios and galleries during the Crawl, the line between private and public is inevitably crossed at one point or another.

There are over 300 other artists to visit, though, and only three days to do it, so there’s simply no time to linger and argue about who tried to buy whose baby. Speed is of the essence! Around the corner I go.

Culture Crawl 2011

It appears to be a pretty crafty group of neighbours here on the Eastside’s Jackson avenue: at my next stop, I find some bowls at Matthew Freed’s pottery studio that look like they’re full of rainbows—coloured glass pools at the bottom of the dark clay. I vow to one day move out of my mother’s basement and have a kitchen of my own, filled with bowls too pretty to eat out of.

Matthew Freed's beautiful pottery looks like it's full-o-rainbows! (Image: Stacey McLachlan)

Explore a Variety of Art and Artists During the Crawl

Next—there's not enough time!—is a chilly watercolour studio in Penny Coupland’s backyard. She’s been retired for five years, and has been painting impressionistic landscapes of the city non-stop ever since. There are over 150 pictures here. “I have to sell them,” she tells me, knitting in the corner and looking wise. “There’s no more room on my walls.”

Penny’s soft, soothing scenes are a stark contrast from the work I find down the street: Louise Francis-Smith takes vibrant portraits of decrepit Downtown Eastside buildings and people. They’re blown into oversized, striking prints that line her tiny front room.

These rings from the Onion Studio's Ring a Day project are up for sale (although some pieces are more wearable than others). (Image: Stacey McLachlan)

I like to think I know a thing or two about art. My credentials include two art history classes at University and an interview with an artist who paints with his own beard. But the Culture Crawl is still an incredible learning experience. The sheer volume of work is amazing, and the variety is outright astounding.

Joan Tayler’s studio is filled with collections of polymer clay buttons, while Ross Denotter has created huge, resin-coated Volkswagon prints. The Onion Studio displays the work of an arts collective who designed a ring a day for one year (some rings are sweet and diamond-studded while others are a little... stabby).

Artist Ross Denotter uses plaster, resin and acrylic paint to create his simple, striking images. (Image: Stacey McLachlan)

Building Community for Artists and Art-Lovers Alike

Trekking down Venebles from studio to studio is part of the fun, too; it’s a pilgrimage, and a community-building one at that. I pass other crawlers and we recommend places to check out. Best friends forever! Art is fun!

The 15th annual Eastside Culture Crawl ran November 18 – 20. Catch another three days of open studios next fall.