Crawling for Culture on Vancouver’s East Side

Parker Street Studios attracted many
spectators during the 2012
Eastside Culture Crawl in Vancouver
(Photo: Paul Niemi)
Now that the Thanksgiving turkey, mash, casseroles and pie have all been digested, I can finally sit down to write about something that I think is really cool–The Eastside Culture Crawl that took place last Friday, Saturday and Sunday on Vancouver, British Columbia’s east side.  The Culture Crawl was established to provide “opportunities for member artists to engage with the public through the creation of events, programming and partnerships that foster awareness, encourage visibility and promote artists and their work.”

This event is really wonderful.  Why? One: It’s in Vancouver, which is practically my second home (I have a dear friend’s housekeys so I can come and go as I like!). Two: The Culture crawl offers a glimpse into the exciting variety of art that is being made north of the border. Three: I love to walk in Vancouver, and with a digital or printed map in hand, spectators can roam the East Vancouver grid to multiple locations where hundreds of artist studios are located.  You get to excercise your mind with colors, textures and lines while you get a good aerobic workout!

It’s also an opportunity to see and be seen with some of the prettiest people in Vancouver. I mean, seriously…are there any unattractive people in British Columbia?  The event attracted close to 15,000 people, so walking the narrow and long hallways of buildings like Parker Street Studios (1000 Parker Street) or the Mergatroid Building (975 Vernon Drive), required patience and stamina to handle the constant barrage of people nearly bumping into you either climbing the stairs or walking the corridors. Attendees seemed happy, enthusiastic, and excited to buy original art. I saw many things that I would loved to have added to my art collection.  Nonetheless, I allowed myself to remain merely a spectator, content to be wearing some sensible shoes, schlepping around an umbrella in the torrential downpour, and breathing in the marvelous scent of creativity in the air.

The Eastside Culture Crawl had its official start in 1997, though it was born out of previous smaller shows with different names.  That year, the Culture Crawl featured 45 artists in 3 different studios.  It attracted 1000 people.   Now, it has grown to feature over 300 artists in 75 buildings throughout East Vancouver.  Where else can you go and see practically every type of medium in every type of style in one walkable area?  It’s pretty incredible.

Because of my schedule, I only made it to 4 of the venues (Parker Street Studios, Octopus Studios, the Mergatroid Building and William Clark Studios), but there was a plethora of terrific art to see and cool people to meet.  Here are some of my favorites:

Piece by Sean Karemaker
(Photo: Courtesy the artist)

A portion of Sean Karemaker’s work
documenting the life cycle of Human beings
can be seen above his
booth at Octopus Studios
(Photo: Paul Niemi)
Illustrative artist Sean Karemaker’s work attracted my attention from far away at Octopus Studios.  His pieces have a dark, fantastical and epic quality to them.  He has a charming gentle manner, in a way that suggests that he should, perhaps, have been born before 1940. He talks quite comfortably about his work in a way a storyteller would.  I particularly enjoyed hearing him speak of how he created his 27 foot-long scroll piece on the lifespan of Human beings. Having arrived more recently to the Vancouver creative scene, his work is very affordable, including some whimsical 3D polymer figures against painted backdrops in shadowboxes.

Artist Krystian Guevara talks with
a collector as he works on a new piece
at Octopus Studios
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

While at Octopus Studios, I made my way to the back corner to check out cool new wallets by Mexican-born leather accessories designer Johanna Anaya de Guevara and paintings by her husband Krystian Guevara.  Krystian’s body of work includes pieces with a dia del los muertos flair, reminiscent of his native Mexico.  His detailing is impeccable and his understanding of light along with absolute control over his paintbrush results in exquisite photo realism as seen in his Pellegrino bottle painting.  When I stopped by, Krystian was hard at work on a series capturing the weirdness and mixed emotions of subjects he found in 1920s Australian mugshots.  He realized his abilities at an early age and followed his passion to become a fine artist as well as an illustrator and cartoonist. He currently works for The Georgia Straight in that capacity.

Beata Kacy in her booth at
Octopus Studios during
the Eastside Culture Crawl
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

I‘m a sucker for people who are true Bohemians–the kind of creatives who can sew, weave, silversmith, or do almost anything.  A gentle soul, Polish-born Beata Kacy of Soigne jewelry, accessories and spa is one of those individuals. She is not afraid to be different–from what she wears to the designs that she creates.  What I appreciated most about the variety of pieces that she offered in her studio was that she understands how to appeal to a myriad of customers.  Beata featured great holiday gift items in a variety of price points and everything was totally unique. From handmade metal and leather pendants to felted shawls, rings and more, it was obvious that her love for art and her mind for creating is limitless!  


“Eyebots” made from wood, flocking and tubing alongside
other wood carvings in Colin Johnson’s Vancouver, B.C. studio
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

To those who know me, it’s no secret that I love a little humor in my art, and a bit of kitsch goes a long way.  I especially appreciate it when I know that the artist is also a master at his craft.  Such is the case with woodworker Colin Johnson (a.k.a “The Woodbutcher”).  Johnson studied animation and he brings that into his work, whether he is making an awesome Star Wars-inspired liquor cabinet or his “Eyebots,” one of which I must get my hands on because they appeal to both my childlike side and my sense of humor.  What I like the most is that he has no ego, which adds to the dimension of his art.

An artist who has been in over 70 group and solo shows in the last 10 years is Mary Anne Tateishi.  What initially drew me to her studio was all of the wonderful color.  I also have a love and appreciation for artists who can successfully work with resin, a very difficult medium.  You have to be meticulous and know what you are doing.  Tateishi (please forgive the pun!) clearly does.  She paints 10 to 20 layers of paint on thin paper affixed to panel.  She creates “a visual history” and then excavates it to see what happened beneath. The final step is to coat the pieces in resin which augments the vibrancy of the layers and colors.   Tateishi was a master of welcoming collectors into her studio with open arms creating a warm environment where you wanted to linger and chat for a while.

Last, but not least, are the sculptural and textural paintings by Christina Norberg that I love, love , love!  Her work is artistically and ecologically thoughtful since she uses recycled post-consumer waste such as newspaper, cardboard, magazines, packaging, and clothing.

Eco-friendly artist Christina Norberg
poses with her work at the Eastside Culture Crawl
in Vancouver, B.C.
Focused primarily on how Humanity develops in the natural world that surrounds it, Norberg’s art is made by layering paint (acrylics that are made locally in Vancouver) and incorporating drawings, collages and fibre.  

“Manifesting” by Christina Norberg
(Photo: Courtesy the artist)
Norberg is influenced by design, craft, architecture, street art, and nature among others. I found her work completely unique and some of the most exciting that I had the opportunity to view during the Eastside Culture Crawl.
Overall, there was something for everyone at the Eastside Culture Crawl.  I was very impressed with all the different price points.  Now that I know what to expect, I’m heading north next year with cash in hand and ready to buy.  See you there!  

Affordable Art Fair Seattle Debuts with Carefully Curated Collection of International Work

The art world has changed.  The current state of the economy has altered the way people buy art.  Artists no longer need to show in a gallery to attract a collectorship, and many galleries now struggle to sell pieces that set people back thousands upon thousands of dollars.  Since the pomposity once associated with the art world has become passé (at least to those 40 and younger), to utter the word “affordable” is no longer taboo.  It’s actually become cool to be associated with the affordable art movement.  Sparked from the idea that all people should have access to art, industry leaders are hitting home the idea that innovative, insightful high-quality art doesn’t have to cost a fortune.   Luckily for Pacific Northwest art lovers on all budgets, Affordable Art Fair made it even easier to take home amazing art at great prices with its debut last weekend at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall.
Sculptures by Nicole Harper of
Michelle Y Williams Gallery
(Photo: Paul Niemi)
A Variety of Works Available
from Traver Gallery, Seattle
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Affordable Art Fair Seattle. In addition to a fantastic and comprehensive guide on how to buy art, the official site for the Fair gave a nice list of participating galleries, and I was able to research and see work by some of the featured artists in advance. But, having the opportunity to experience the art first-hand on Thursday night was something totally different. The set-up was vibrant, hip and alive with excitement.  The preview party overlapped with a press event. The evening’s festivities attracted a wide variety of people including the usual display of scruffy artistic hipsters, artist wannabes, executives and their wives, seasoned benefactors, flamboyant men draped in fur and every manner of mover and shaker in Seattle. Kisses were blown, chins were intellectually scratched, names were dropped, but in the end, everyone seemed to be ultimately connecting in an intimate way over art.  All in all, the night was devoid of attitude, which was a refreshing change of pace for large art shows of this genre.  

Will Ramsay, the brain behind Affordable Art Fairs, which has its main office in the United Kingdom, has mounted similar events in the London, New York and Mexico City. Seattle rounds out the 2012 show calendar followed by Singapore and Germany. Jennifer Jacobs is the Director of Affordable Art Seattle.
Visitors to Affordable Art Fair Seattle
Leave Preview Party at the Seattle
Center Exhibition Hall on November 8
(Photo: Paul Niemi) 
Affordable Art Fair Seattle did a great job of offering something for everyone.   “Affordable” is a term that means different things to different people, but prices for work ranged from as little as $100 all the way up to $10,000. From paintings, to print, sculpture, clay and metalwork and pieces made from paper and wood, there was a carefully (dare I use that ubiquitous word) ‘curated’ collection of art in various sizes, shapes and textures.
When it comes to art, the first rule should be to buy what you like. That rule has served me well in building a high quality unique and diverse collection. Affordable Art Fair Seattle provided the spectator the opportunity to discover many intriguing treasures that almost anyone would find appealing. I might also add that while the idea of an art fair might be intimidating to some unfamiliar with the protocol, this fair was very ‘user-friendly’ and, for the most part, gallery owners, staff and artists were generous with their time. They were eager to explain the work on view, and I gained an appreciation for items that might not have spoken to me initially. 
Sheila Coppola Apprentice Wynne Pei
Demonstrates the Intaglio Printing Process
of a Piece by Dale Chihuly
(Photo: Paul Niemi) 
The gem of the fair, in my opinion, was the printmaking studio.  Intaglio and relief printing is an exciting art form, and master printer Sheila Coppola of Sidereal Fine Art Press, along with her apprentice Wynne Pei showed just how cool it is.  On Thursday evening, they demonstrated the printing process of a six-color, sugar lift and aquatint intaglio and relief print by Dale Chihuly. Additionally, Coppola called upon artists, including Claire Cowie, with whom she had previously worked, to create images that Coppola printed and displayed in the printmaking studio.  I was told that a limited number of prints were made and each artist would then decide if they wanted to offer them up for sale at the Fair.
Some of the artists on my personal wish list are Claire Cowie, Sarah Bienvenu, Jenny Honnert Abell, Daniel Ochoa, Nicole Harper, Rick Araluce, Tom DeGroot, and Jamie Walker.  The Traver Gallery of Seattle is home to the work of many artists whom I found incredibly inspiring.  It was also fun to connect with the folks from Santa Fe’s Winterowd Fine Art, especially since I just returned to the Northwest after spending the last three years in New Mexico. 
Affordable Art Fair Seattle, which ran November 9-11, inspired my senses and got my blood pumping.   WATCH A BRIEF VIDEO highlighting some of my picks from the fair HERE:


Guatemala-Born Artist Captures Essence of Small Pacific Northwest Community in ‘This Town’ Exhibition

Anita Aparicio captures the essence of Bellingham in
her ‘Bellingham Gothic’ series in This Town
at Allied Arts of Whatcom County

Bellingham, Washingtonhas some interesting history and crazy stories. Many know the legend of the man who had too many black cats who made clothing out them because they were overtaking the town.  My personal favorite is the tale of the “Bellingham Curse,” which explains why people always leave the sleepy Pacific Northwest town near the Canadian border and then come back. I have done it three times, so it must be true! 

Regardless of the stories, the people of Bellinghamhave a spirit all their own and a deep passion for keeping the traditional traditional. It is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else and generation after generation remain here to fulfill their legacies.
Artist Anita Aparicio with her original
work at Allied Arts of Whatcom County
Photo: Paul Niemi
What fascinates me about the new exhibit 2012 Juried Artist Series: This Town, which  just opened at Allied Arts of Whatcom County, is that one of its artists isn’t from Bellinghamat all, but Guatemala.  

A transplant to Bellingham, artist Anita Aparicio “became immediately enthralled by the old residences adorning Sehome and South Hill in Fairhaven as well as the old farmhouses and barns on the roads to Ferndale, Lynden and beyond.”   For this show, the challenge for the charming artist, whom I spoke with in Spanish at length, was creating on a smaller scale.  Aparicio’s mixed media series called “Bellingham Gothic” successfully fuses subjects found in Victorian-era photographs with her own take on local architecture.   Her work allows you to escape momentarily into the “subdued excitement” of the past.  You can almost smell vintage lace and hear the sounds of laughter and gossip as you walk past! 
Mixed media ‘Bellingham Gothic’ piece by
 Anita Aparicio at Allied Arts of Whatcom County

2012 Juried Artist Series: This Town opened on November 2 and runs through December 1.  Don’t miss the work of painter David Ridgway and photographer Donald Simpson, who also give their unique perceptions of life in Bellinghamas participating artists. The show will travel to the Hotel Bellwether for a month-long installation in their lobby, hallways, and Lighthouse Bar and Grill starting in early December. 

For more information on the exhibition visit