The Parker Street Studios open their doors for the Eastside Culture Crawl

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The Eastside Culture Crawl presents an excellent opportunity to see firsthand the variety and vibrancy of Vancouver’s arts and crafts culture. The 18th year of the Crawl featured over 400 participating artists. Focusing on the neighbourhoods of Vancouver with the highest concentration of artist’s studios, the Crawl takes place in the area North of 1st Avenue, West of Victoria Drive, and East of Columbia Street.

The event was spread out over four days from November 19 to 22, and it was a great time to walk around, see work, and explore studios. With artists present during the entirety of the event, it was also an opportunity to ask questions and chat with artists, as well as purchase their work. With the large population of artistic talent in the city, there is a bit of everything for everyone.

I started the Eastside Culture Crawl at its core: the studios at 1000 Parker Street, which have formed a part of the festival since its beginnings. 1000 Parker Street is a four-story warehouse located near Venables and Clark that has been converted into studio space. This year it featured 148 participating artists under its roof — a substantial chunk of the festival.

The scale of the building’s offerings is hard to tell at first, particularly from the back of the building on the Northwest side. A handful of individuals and the full set of lights in the warehouse were the only hint of its scope. The side door fed into the main artery of the building, and the increasing number of patrons and visitors within.

The journey inside went from studio to studio, and one could explore what our city’s artists have to offer. Though the ability to show and sell work to visitors was an important component of the event, monetary transactions are thankfully not the preeminent component of the Crawl’s atmosphere.

The atmosphere is more along the lines of an overly-crowded arts and crafts fair than a corporate mass sellout or high-brow art auction. Despite this, it’s important to admit that a considerable portion of the work remains squarely outside the disposable income of your typical university student.

On a first visit, wandering through the warehouse is an experience in getting lost and confused. Without a roadmap, discovery is based more on chancing upon unexpected studios. One of the first entries was a jeweller with brass bracelets repurposed from discarded numbered plaques that came from the main Vancouver post office on Georgia Street, which is set to be redeveloped.

Down the hall, I encountered a shoemaker who custom makes her wares by hand to the tastes of her clients. Admittedly beautiful and with the unique smell of quality leather, a pair remains out of reach for me, at least for the foreseeable future. They would have set me back about as much as a new smartphone.

Upstairs and around several corners was a photographer who focused on large format macro photographs of paints. It was a confusing but hyperreal experience that made me hungry for ice cream, cake icing, and other edible things — unlike paint.

Another studio had a light installation occupying the entire space. It was filled with large amorphous white forms that stuck out from the floors and walls. Flashing in sequences of blues and reds, entering the installation was both intimidating and disorienting. So I entered, and so I went.

Out of time several hours later, I made my way downstairs around corners I hadn’t ventured and past studios I hadn’t seen. Walking out into the brisk November air, I was not where I entered. Food trucks and festival goers milling about were unaware of my confusion. I couldn’t see the mountains, and couldn’t find North.

With directions from a vendor I walked away from the Parker street studios and finally accepted a harsh reality of the Culture Crawl: I simply couldn’t see all of it.