The place where you live can be an anywhere or it can be somewhere very specific, especially in Canada and the United States. It’s very easy, even in cities, to replicate the experiences you can find across the continent; there are the same chain stores and restaurants in every city and town. Or, you can populate your mental map with places that are unique to your location. It’s the second map that makes someone a real resident, I think. Knowing where to find gluten-free ice cream sandwiches, a stationery store with its own letterpress, or a shop where you can learn how to tune up your bike yourself. Such places add up to home.
Every place also has its rites of passage. I know someone who started to identify as a Vancouverite long before she moved here, because she flew across the country each year to attend the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. She has the same stories as I do, of attending in years of torrential rain, heat waves or unseasonably cold weather at the Festival, along with stories of the amazing performances that happen there.
What’s interesting about all of this, for me, is that the same place is really many places. There are certainly several Vancouvers. Your Vancouver depends on who you are. It can include the Folk Festival or Under the Volcano, both, or neither. Whole neighbourhoods may not exist in Vancouver as you experience it. I used to work in a corporate office, where many of my co-workers drove in from places farther up the Fraser Valley. For them, it was as if the east side of the city didn’t exist. Which is a shame, because some of the best things about Vancouver occur east of Kitsilano and downtown.
The Eastside Culture Crawl is definitely part of my Vancouver. Thousands of people tour hundreds of artists’ studios that are thrown open to the public one weekend a year. This past weekend was Crawl weekend and the weather was milder and drier than it has been since I can remember. There’s been snow, sleet and rain in the past and it doesn’t stop people from climbing up makeshift warehouse stairways or into backyards and basements in search of art.
I didn’t get very far off the beaten track this year, concentrating my one free afternoon along Venables, Clark and Parker. I saw some beautiful pottery at posAbilities on Venables, great jewellery at the Onion studios and then I wandered over to the Mergatroid Building and Parker Street studios.
Some of my favourites this year included:
Melk’s burned bamboo and etched steel pieces;
Arleigh Wood’s new series;
Su Foster’s delicate filigree work in her twistedandhammered line;
Flight Path’s leather accessories;
Russell Hackney’s amazing teapots;
Sonia Iwasiuk’s paintings;
and Silvia Dotto’s crows.
There’s much more, of course. Browse the website and you’ll get a virtual taste of the Crawl. What you’ll miss by doing that, and why you should make sure you attend next year, is the ambience of the Crawl, along with the opportunities to talk to artists and other Crawlers. It was worth going just to see the beautiful branches hanging from Melk’s ceiling and to have a conversation about photography with a jewellery-maker. Also, seeing so many works, in so many mediums, really helps to pin down what you’re looking for when you buy art.
The best part of attending the Crawl, for me, is the knowledge that I carry through the rest of the year – everywhere I walk in my neighbourhood, there is something being created.