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With so many studios in East Van, where to start?

Artist: Andrea Armstrong. Title: she also takes commissions 11" x 14" oil on board

andrea armstrong

You know you've got a good arts event going when even non-artists want in.

Beginning 16 years ago with a small group of artists in three East Van buildings, the Eastside Culture Crawl has snowballed into one of the city's largest arts events, this year with over 400 artists in more than 75 buildings opening their studios.

Organizers expect more than 15,000 art lovers to stroll through the Chinatown, Gastown, Strathcona, Main Street and Commercial Drive spaces, getting glimpses of the artistic process and perusing paintings, pottery, jewellery, sculpture, furniture and more.

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The event has become so popular that manufacturers and importers want to piggyback on its success.

"I have to say, 'No, you can't just rent a space for this weekend and you can't sell imported products,'" executive director Jeffrey Boone says with a laugh. "We are welcoming the public into the workspaces where people make things by hand in this neighbourhood. They can see the tools. ... They can see what work is unfinished. They can get a sense of the artists and what it is that they're doing. That's what it's about."

It's also about the exposure for the artists, many of whom come up short in the pricey and space-starved city. "I know people who make half of their annual salary during that one weekend," says Mr. Boone, whose favourites this year include the new Terminal City Glass Co-op, foodie artist Tannis Hopkins and DMR Ceramics. "So for them, it's huge."

So with so many studios, where to start? If you're in for a schmooze, and the most artists per square foot, then big buildings like 1000 Parker St. are the places to be; but if you don't care for crowds and you want to hobnob with the art makers, dress for the weather and head for more far-flung stops.

The Eastside Culture Crawl runs November 16-18 (eastsideculturecrawl.com).

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