Where an artist ought to be: a community festival for creative togetherness

Each November, for the past 25 years the Eastside Arts Society has produced the Eastside Culture Crawl Festival where artists from different backgrounds and practices open their studios to public appreciation. The society, a registered charity, aims to inspire, educate, and engage Vancouver’s community in contemporary visual arts.

From Nov.12–21 this year, artists will be opening their studios for two weekends, in-person and/or online, to offer workshops, demonstrations, exhibits, artist talks, 360 studio tours, live streaming, and live chats to the community.

“I felt I was a step away from society when I first immigrated to Canada,” says painter Sung ah Cho, showcasing at this year’s edition. “Through participating in the Eastside Culture Crawl, I was able to start a dialogue and receive social response from a diverse audience, which made me feel deeply accepted,” she says. “The event connects art with individuals and communities and supports dimensional communication.”

Visual artist and writer Kyla Bourgh, currently showing paintings and drawings at the festival, agrees that the Crawl builds community, making the art market more accessible to locals.

“Many people think that Art is either above them or don’t know how to engage and prefer to buy wall art from furniture stores. The Crawl makes Art accessible, and allows our community to meet the artists, artisans and the makers who produce art here,” she says.

To painter Sung ah Cho, the Eastside Culture Crawl connects art with individuals and communities, and supports dimensional communication | Photo courtesy of Sung ah Cho

Belonging in a new land

Cho has a background in graphic design and worked as a product designer and freelance illustrator in Korea, starting to paint when she immigrated to Canada in 2007.

“Broadly speaking, my work’s main theme is ‘consolation’, the comfort and courage, emptiness and unknown anxiety that derive from a repetitive life that borders alienation,” she explains. “Through my practice, I ponder ways to communicate in a way that’s not heavy but lighthearted, leaving a soft lingering impression.”

To Cho, art ultimately invites the audience to discover the true meaning and depth of life. She describes herself as someone inspired to continue developing pieces that recognize the diverse cultural identity and social issues that immigrants encounter.

“By immersing myself further into the community,” she says, “I’m hoping to bring this matter to the surface.”

Art suffuses everyday life

A deeper dialogue with her own community is also what artist Bourgh sought when showcasing her work at the Eastside Crawl. “I have been participating in the Culture Crawl since 2010 because it is an excellent way to sell artwork and have conversations around your process,” she says. “I think it helps to educate the public on art appreciation.”

To Bourgh, art exists everywhere in regular life, despite people being aware of it or not. It is something that holds the power to comfort and please – as well as challenge and influence. Thinking about her work, she thinks it mainly engages with both aesthetic value and provocation.

Bell Jars – Poems about Solitude. | Photo courtesy of Kyla Bourgh

“My themes surround identity, especially based on being of an unidentified mixed background,” she explains. “My current series is investigating intimacy. I often enjoy challenging the viewer – and the work that came from my master’s degree was around how we use language to subjugate each other. I explored the hierarchy of language.”

This year, Brough will showcase two new series of paintings and drawings: one addressing intimacy, other about ambiguous identity – as well as a chapbook of poems that touch on shredding old perspectives and releasing trauma.

Both of the artists’ Eastside Culture Crawl profiles, and works can be seen at the event’s official website: www.culturecrawl.ca.

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