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The Eastender: Eastside Culture Crawl cultivates students’ inner artist

Studio 101 gives inner city students first look at the arts world
studio 101
Photo Dan Toulgoet

It’s the reaction she sees from young students that has the executive director of the Eastside Culture Crawl so enthusiastic about a component of the event dubbed Studio 101.

“I was there last year and just the joy they exuded, it was great,” said Esther Rausenberg. “These students are so foreign to it, even the freight elevators in the studios are new to them and they get so excited.”

Studio 101 was launched as part of the Eastside Culture Crawl eight years ago by longtime participants Mira Malatestinic and Richard Tetrault. Since then the Culture Crawl has worked with hundreds of school children to foster a relationship between students and artists — many of the schools are designated inner city and offer little exposure to the visual arts. The program brings students into studios for free workshops with professional artists.

For many of the students Studio 101 is their first time looking at art and meeting artists. The program is designed to help the students to not only gain an understanding of how professional artists work but also an appreciation of the visual arts.

The goal of the Culture Crawl, which this year runs Nov. 20 through 23, is to educate and increase the public’s appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, presentations and displays. This year it’s expected more than 20,000 art enthusiasts will visit artists in their personal studios, garages and homes located in the area bounded by Main and Victoria streets to the east and west and East First Avenue north to the waterfront.

The Crawl includes painters, jewellers, sculptors, furniture makers, weavers, potters, printmakers, photographers, glassblowers — from emerging artists to the internationally renowned. The Culture Crawl launched in 1997 with 45 visual artists in three Strathcona area studio buildings and was attended by a few hundred people. Since then the event has grown to include more than 400 artists, craftspeople and designers and evolved to represent the heart of the East Van creative community.

Rausenberg said while there are many programs and support in place to help East Side kids survive, there’s not a lot available to encourage their inner artist.

“There’s so much focus on just getting food on a plate when it comes down to providing for their everyday challenges,” said Rausenberg. “Not many of them have done a lot of art classes. Everyone one of them who participates loves it. Their faces just light up.”

The students don’t just meet and work with a number of artists, but also get to choose amongst themselves one piece of art to purchase for their school thanks to a small budget supplied by the Eastside Culture Crawl. The artwork chosen then hangs at the students’ school and becomes part of its permanent collection. This year students from four classes at Strathcona elementary school will work with artists to create textiles, make prints, hand-tint photos and make leather and jewellery items to take home.

“Christmas is coming and this gives the students a chance to make some gifts to tuck away,” said Rausenberg.

She added cuts to education have not been lost on the many artists who work and live near inner city schools.

“Studio 101 came out of that,” said Rausenberg. “That’s why it’s so important to us.”

For a full Eastside Culture Crawl schedule, lists of artists and locations and an interactive map visit Studio 101 is not open to the public.