The Eastside Culture Crawl: Don't miss it!

Jason Husmillo: Tree City, 2010

Masks. City lights inside trees, Airstream trailers, a whirling dervish. That’s what I step into when I enter Georgia Jackson Studios, my first stop on this year’s Culture Crawl.

And there they stand, the artists, waiting to be approached and yet looking as if they’d just as soon I didn’t. An awkward moment. Most painters are private people and find this kind of exposure tedious. Once I get over my own awkwardness, we talk more freely. I find out where Jason Husmillo’s idea for the masks came from and how drawing to set up a scene for photography might have led him to painting, how Taralee Guild came to do her paintings of Airstream trailers, and who the dervish in Niknaz Kahnamoui’s paintings really is. She even shows me a YouTube on her phone of Tanya Evanson whirling.

Continuing on Georgia Street, I come upon Shannon Harvey’s Monkey 100 Media where she makes her prints, and where tonight her mother joins her and shows her paintings. We talk about the space and how she wants to use it for community workshops and lectures after the first of the year.

I keep following the yellow signs and balloons into lanes and garages.

I follow arrows that lead me down a cement stairway to a door I find hard to open.

“You have to push,” a woman calls out on the other side, and when I do, I don’t know what to look at first. There are watercolours everywhere—hundreds of them—on shelves on the wall, in frames, in plastic bags. And scarves draped over a loom in the middle of the room—reds, oranges, purples, teal greens, heather greens, cobalt blues; alpaca, linen, wool.

Penny Coupland sits on a stool, knitting.

“I’m not an artist,” she says.

“You could’ve fooled me,” I say.

“I was a science teacher,” she continues. “This is how I spend my feckless retirement. I get bored easily.” 

Her husband emerges, wearing a vest I covet immediately.

“Where did you get it?” I ask.

“I made it from upholstery samples. Penny said I couldn’t possibly make it work with all those diamond shapes, and I had to prove her wrong.”

He grins. She continues to knit, smiling. 

“That’s a nice scarf you’re wearing,” she says.

“Thanks,” I say. “I got it at Spindleworks, a sheltered workshop for the developmentally delayed, when I lived in Maine.”

I unwind it from around my neck and show it to her. It’s got all kinds of colours, zigging this way and that, stopping and changing without any regular pattern.

“Shortly after I bought it, they got somebody new in to teach weaving, and the scarves became more uniform,” I explain.

“Pity,” she says.

The room is filling with people. It’s hard to move around to see everything.

“Aren’t you the fellow who gave that talk in West Vancouver this summer?” Penny asks.  “The one about how to get unstuck when all the little voices in your head tell you you can’t paint?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Sorry I walked out,” she says. “I liked what you had to say, but it didn’t really apply to me.”

“Not to worry,” I say. 

“I went out and sat on a bench and did three watercolours. I felt sorry for all those people who said they couldn’t paint.”

“You’re the one who should have been giving the talk,” I say.

“No time,” she says, holding the knitting out in front of her to check its length.

After buying two scarves, I head back to Main Street to catch the bus. I think of the young postman I encountered yesterday on my way to a consulting gig. He was complaining about Vancouver, its unfriendliness, materialism, and lack of culture. He’d decided to move to Thailand.

“Ever been to the Culture Crawl?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said.

“Well check it out before you book your flight. It might change your mind.”

The Eastside Culture Crawl runs through Sunday at 6 pm. To find out where to go, visit their website at: http://www.eastsideculturecrawl.com/

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