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Artists ‘crawl’ to the Vancouver eastside

By Zoe Grams

Heather Talbot uses a combination of photography and embroidery to depict the lives of bees — including those in her back garden hive. 

Heather Talbot uses a combination of photography and embroidery to depict the lives of bees — including those in her back garden hive. PHOTO SUBMITTED

In garages, up narrow staircases, beyond apartment hallways and within tucked-away studios, there are hundreds of artists creating boundary-breaking work.


Every third weekend in November, a hidden city emerges in Vancouver. The Eastside Cultural Crawl, running from Nov. 19-22, opens more than 75 of these locations as over 400 artists showcase their work. City streets brim with 25,000 explorers within boundaries from Columbia Street to Victoria Drive, and East 1st Avenue to the waterfront.

In addition to open studios, the Crawl features flagship events including talks, interactive workshops and preview exhibitions, such as “Hanging By A Thread” at The Cutch until Nov. 29.

Heather Talbot is one of the artists featured in this juried exhibition. She uses a remarkable combination of photography and embroidery to depict the lives of bees — including those in her garden hive.

Delicate stitches on a screen-print photograph offer a glimpse of the vulnerability of such an essential species such as bees. The insects are responsible for two-thirds of our diet, but are quickly becoming extinct.

“There’s something about wanting to communicate that fragility, and the tenderness in life,” explained Talbot, when speaking about why she uses this medium to communicate her message about the importance of saving such creatures.

“There’s not really any difference between us and the rest of life. We are totally dependent on the bees. We really are. There’s a real joy that comes from us starting to understand ourselves belonging to this web of life.”

The idea that a gorgeous image could inspire people to take action against one of the greatest issues facing the planet could feel ambitious. But Talbot explains, “More and more I’m coming to the perspective that art is really essential. There’s something about the power of an image. It’s more direct.”

“We use our creativity to imagine the world in new ways,” she continued.

Photographer and artist Desiree Patterson would likely agree.

“I was vocally trying to advocate for the environment before I realized that, visually, I would have more power,” she explained.

“I began to notice that living in a North American society, everything is so consumer driven, so well marketed, so visual. People connect with images. I saw how well people connect with imagery, and how it can influence a large population of people, so I thought that’s something I can tie into.”

The result of Patterson’s awakening is a bold, striking series of artwork, Eveil, which debuts at the Crawl.

Each piece combines the silhouette of a human body with images of our environment – both in their natural form and when destroyed or changed by industry. A woman’s figure looks almost camouflaged within feminine cherry blossoms; a man’s torso contains a striking image of a wind farm against the mountains; a naked woman crouching with an image of an industrial dam within her. The works examine not only such environments, but our relationship with them.

“It’s the strongest voice I have to advocate for the environment,” Patterson explained.

For those who just can’t wait that long for a creative fix, Circle Craft can provide a rich sensory stopgap. Their 42nd Annual Christmas Market runs from Nov. 11-15 at Vancouver Convention Centre, with more than 300 artisans from across Canada selling their works.

With both events in such close proximity, there’s no excuse not to find the perfect gifts in plenty of time for Christmas and — more importantly — to connect with inspired artists from your community.

The Eastside Cultural Crawl runs from Nov. 19-22. For further information, including featured artists and locations, visit culturecrawl.ca.

Zoe Grams is principal at ZG Communications: a marketing agency working with publishers, not-for-profits and socially-conscious organizations. She has written about performing arts in both Canada and the UK.