Eastside Culture Crawl broadens scope

The three-day-long Eastside Culture Crawl kicks off Friday (November 26), and there’s at least one thing about the annual studio tour that’s the same as ever: it keeps on getting bigger.

“As of today, there’s about 375 artists participating,” reports executive director Jeffrey Boone. “This is now the biggest Crawl that’s ever been—and there’s at least one new person signing up every day.”

Some other aspects of the studio walkabout, which now stretches from East 1st Avenue to the waterfront and Main Street to Victoria Drive, have changed, however—not the least being the presence of Boone in the executive director’s chair. The former commercial-gallery owner took over from founder Valerie Arntzen in April and says he’s enjoying the challenge.

“It’s actually refreshing, because I don’t have to sell art,” he says, laughing. “Do you know how difficult it is to sell art?

“I was particularly drawn to the Crawl because these artists are so entrepreneurial,” he continues. “They go into this event knowing that the market is coming to them, and they also know what that market is. So they’ll produce a wide range of work, knowing that there’s a wide range of abilities to purchase coming in.”

Another change this year is the presence of First Nations artists Haisla Collins, Sharifah Marsden, Eric Parnell, Richard Shorty, and Jerry Whitehead, all showing at Urban Aboriginal (458 East Hastings Street).

“The thing that amazes me is that I don’t think there’s ever been any high-profile First Nations artists in the Crawl, that I know of,” Boone says. “So I am really, really excited to see them participating in this thing—and they’re five very good artists.”

As for the future, Boone has ambitious plans, including the eventual creation of a Crawl-owned or -operated studio building.

“Affordable studio space is the biggest issue that concerns artists, because obviously most people are renting on a month-to-month basis,” he explains. “So we have embarked on a process to possibly—and it’s a dream at this stage—own a building of studio spaces or to develop a building of studio spaces. It’s a very big process: it’ll take five or seven years to come together, but we are starting to think about things like that.”