Be Entertained By The Heart of the City Festival

The 16th annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival is now underway. Until November 10th, the neighbourhood is filled with music, stories, theatre, poetry, cultural celebrations, films, dance, readings, forums, workshops, discussions, gallery exhibits, mixed media, art talks, history talks and history walks.

Heart of the City Festival 2019 participants photo: David Cooper

This year’s theme Holding the Light has emerged from the compelling need of DTES-involved artists and residents to illuminate the vitality and relevance of the Downtown Eastside community and its diverse and rich traditions, knowledge systems, ancestral languages, cultural roots and stories. Events happen throughout the Eastside, some are ticketed events with admission by donation, and many are free giving everyone the opportunity to participate in the Festival.  

This week the Festival presents Opening Doors – Vancouver’s East End 2019, a Firehall Arts Centre and Vancouver Moving Theatre production..  Directed by Donna Spencer, Opening Doors features the dramatization of selected personal histories from Daphne Marlatt and Carole Itter’s extraordinary local legend-of-a-book Opening Doors first published in 1979.

2019 Heart of the City Festival Artist-in-Residence : Khari Wendell McClelland

Spotlight on the East End is a concert music series that profiles an exciting line-up of local POC, Indigenous and marginalized emerging and professional musicians. The 2019 Festival Artist-in-Residence Khari Wendell McClelland (The Sojourners/Freedom Singer) is the Curator. Featured musicians include Tonye Aganaba, Francis Arevalo and Shannon Bauman, among many more in concerts Thursday Nov 7, 8pm, at Russian Hall, or Saturday Nov 9, 8pm, at Tight Club

Arising From the Downtown Eastside features two documentaries:  

The Story Behind Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way (25’):
In 2018, Vancouver Moving Theatre, in a collaboration led by Indigenous artists, knowledge-keepers and partners across the land, toured Weaving Reconciliation: Our Way to cities and communities across Canada. This play and cultural encounter brought to life the story of Old One and his heartbreaking and hilarious journey to reconcile with himself, his family and community. Local filmmaker Jessica Hallenbeck (Lantern Films) has created a short film that traces the national tour, cultural practices across the land, and the reflections of participating actors, youth and elders. Showing for free, Saturday Nov 9, 7pm at Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main.

Survivors Totem Pole (24’): In 2016, the Survivors Totem Pole was carved by Downtown Eastside resident and activist Skundaal Bernie Williams, and then raised at Pigeon Park in a powerful pole raising and potlatch witnessing ceremony attended by over 1,000 residents, Elders and VIPs. Filmmaker Susanne Tabata, follows the extraordinary community-led journey to create and raise a monument to survivors: a tribute to the enduring strength, resistance, persistence and inclusion of the Downtown Eastside community.  Following the film’s screening, Saturday Nov 9, 8pm at Carnegie Theatre, stay for a talk-back with Susanne Tabata, Skundaal Bernie Williams, and guests from the Sacred Circle Society.

The mandate of the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival is to promote, present and facilitate the development of artists, art forms, cultural traditions, history, activism, people and great stories about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The festival involves a wide range of professional, community, emerging and student artists and lovers of the arts. Over 1,000 local artists and Downtown Eastside residents participated in last year’s Festival.

Heart of the City Festival continues until November 10th. For full line-up ticketing information visit

Prepare to Explore 23rd Eastside Culture Crawl

The 23nd Annual Eastside Culture Crawl brings art lovers from all around Metro Vancouver to East Vancouver, November 14 to 17, 2019. For four days, more than 500 artists will open their studios, garages, and display their artwork for the public during Vancouver’s favourite celebration of visual arts, design, and crafts.

Taking in the Vancouver area bounded by Columbia Street, 1st Avenue, Victoria Drive, and the Waterfront, the Eastside Arts District is home to the highest concentration of visual artists, designers, and craft makers in Canada. The Crawl welcomes arts patrons and collectors, community builders, and inquisitive tourists to explore this community of artists through on-site visits, and interactive installations. This year, the Eastside Culture Crawl offers an expanded lineup of events with the addition of the Displacement Exhibition and a series of free artist talks hosted at various studios throughout Vancouver’s Eastside.

East Van by Iris Mes Low Size: 24” x 18” Medium: Oil on Canvas Year: 2019

“Each year, we welcome visitors to discover the creativity and richness of the Eastside Arts District. For our 23rd annual Crawl, we are also imparting an urgent message through our new Displacement Exhibition, that this vibrant community needs more support,” says Esther Rausenberg, Executive Director of the Eastside Culture Crawl. “As Vancouver’s artists continue to face immense hardships such as renovictions, rising rents, and dwindling studio availability, it’s imperative we come together to protect creative spaces and celebrate the integrity of this incredible, industrious community and recognize the positive impact artists have on our society.”

More people are responding to this dynamic visual arts community than ever before. While the Crawl has grown in size and attendance every year since its inception in 1994, last year the festival saw record-breaking attendance with more than 45,000 people (30% more than the previous year) meeting artists, exploring studios, and participating in workshops over the course of four days.

Nature of the Experiment by Mat Holmstrom Size: 6ft x 6ft (6 Panels) Medium: Acrylic & Mediums on Canvas Year: 2018

A highlight of Vancouver’s arts and cultural calendar, the Eastside Culture Crawl attracts returning visitors and first-timers from across the Pacific Northwest and beyond each year to explore the Eastside Arts District. The Crawl provides visitors with a behind-the-scenes peek into life as an artist, allowing them to engage with different forms of art, including painting, sculpture, pottery, photography, jewelry, glass art, furniture, and much more.

Before the Eastside Culture Crawl gets underway on November 14th, the public is invited experience some of the pre-festival feature presentations, workshops, demonstrations, and exhibitions, including:

A juried exhibition of works by Metro Vancouver visual artists who have faced the challenges of eviction or have found ways to survive displacement.
On at the following venues:
ARTS FACTORY (281 Industrial Avenue)
Until November 10, 2019 
FIREHALL ARTS CENTRE (280 E. Cordova Street)
Until November 24, 2019 | Opening Reception: November 6, 2019, 5-7pm
THE CULTCH (1895 Venables Street)
Until November 24, 2019 | Opening Reception: November 6, 2019, 6-8pm
Until November 17, 2019 | Opening Reception: November 6, 2019, 6-8pm

November 4–8, 2019 at 7pm | November 9, 2019 at 2pm
A curated series of intimate and entertaining talks by 2019 Culture Crawl artists, designers, and craftspeople, at various studios.

November 14–17, 2019 | Noon to 11pm daily | Strange Fellows Brewing (1345 Clark Dr)
A showing of evocative, art-based, contemporary silent films.

November 22, 2019 at 7pm | The Arts Factory (281 Industrial Ave)
ECCS and Cineworks present an evening of films with cross-disciplinary artist and UBC Associate Professor Marina Roy.

Eastside Culture Crawl runs November 14 – 17, 2019 in the Eastside Arts District. For full listings and details for all events, artists, talks, and locations visit

22nd Annual Eastside Culture Crawl is coming

From November 15 to 18, 2018 the 22nd Annual Eastside Culture Crawl brings art lovers from all around Metro Vancouver to East Vancouver.  For four days, studios will be opened, garages exposed, and artworks displayed for  Vancouver’s favourite celebration of visual arts, design, and crafts.

Credit: Grace Lee

An expected 35,000 art fans, cultural patrons, curious tourists and locals alike will marvel at more than 500 of Vancouver’s exceptionally talented art makers. The Eastside Culture Crawl invites visitors to immerse themselves in the neighbourhood from Columbia Street to Victoria Drive and from 1st Avenue to the Waterfront, with on-site visits, live demonstrations, probing presentations, and intriguing installations.

“More than just the home to Vancouver’s popular, four-day celebration of visual arts, the Eastside community contains the largest ratio of artists per capita in the country and serves as the nucleus for hundreds of visual artists and their studios,” says Esther Rausenberg, Executive Director of the Eastside Culture Crawl. “Unsurprisingly, the current economic climate in Vancouver is making it difficult for people to survive the rapid pace of development in this city, and many artists are struggling to retain their studio spaces.”

Credit: Desireé Patterson

Rausenberg continues, “Our mission is not only to celebrate our visual artists during the Crawl, but also support their growth and vibrancy all year long. We are committed to working together with the artistic community towards the goal of retaining a zero loss of studio space by coming up with sustainable creative solutions and assisting artists to find suitable studio replacements so they can continue to thrive.”

This year the Crawl is helping to increase artists’ profiles and enhance visitors’ experience with the launch of a brand new festival app. Available for free download on November 15, the Eastside Culture Crawl app will help festival goers better navigate the neighbourhood, favourite preferred artists, and locate nearby refreshments, bike parking, and car-sharing vehicles.
This year’s event will include a series of workshops and demonstrations for those passionate followers looking to learn about the inner workings of their favourite art form such as pottery, live chainsaw carving, natural textile dyeing, and glassblowing.

Credit: Judson Beaumont

The Eastside Culture Crawl gets underway November 15 – 18, 2018 but before the main event, check out

Spaces, Places, and Traces: Eastside Culture Crawl Preview Exhibit
A juried exhibition of works, featuring 70 artists from the 2018 Culture Crawl, on from October 27 – November 18, 2018, taking place at Arts Factory,  Firehall Arts Centre, The Cultch, Alternative Creations Gallery.

To learn more about the workshops and events offered throughout Eastside Culture Crawl, visit

EAT.DRINK.PLAY at Firehall Arts Centre June 22, 2017

On June 22, 2017, the Downtown Eastside’s Firehall Arts Centre celebrates its neighbourhood with EAT.DRINK.PLAY.  Toasting the incredible food and drink happening in the Firehall’s backyard, the annual event brings together the area’s finest restaurateurs, craft brewers, small-batch distillers, and performers for an eclectic summer evening of sampling and sharing.

“For 35 years, the Firehall has been producing performing arts in this wonderful heritage building at the corner of Cordova and Gore. Our neighbourhood is so full of great places to eat and we wanted to let our audiences know about them,” explains Donna Spencer, Firehall Artistic Producer, “so we decided three years ago to create an event that would celebrate their contributions to the neighbourhood and invite these businesses to introduce themselves to our audiences by sharing their culinary expressions. The event has quickly become an annual favourite with everyone who attends providing a perfect capstone to the end of our programming season and a refreshing way to start the summer.”

Circle Game photo: Tyler Branston

Attendees will discover the diversity of delectable treats and libations while enjoying performances from the cast of the Firehall’s recent hit Circle Game: Reimagining of the Music of Joni Mitchell, as they roam through the heritage building bidding on some amazing silent auction items. 

Some of the local restaurants contributing tastes of signature dishes include neighbourhood hot spots The Diamond, Deacon’s Corner, Clough Club, Tuc Craft Kitchen, Kofta Meatball Kitchen, Save On Meats, The Pint, and Cadeaux Bakery, among others.  

Local brewers Powell Brewery, Big Rock Brewery, Andina Brewing Company, Strange Fellows Brewing, Strathcona Beer Company, and Steamworks will be here while Odd Society Spirits returns to serve up samples of their signature vodka and gin.  

EAT.DRINK.PLAY takes place June 22, 2017 at 7pm at Firehall Arts Centre tickets are available online now.


20th Anniversary Eastside Culture Crawl

EastsideCultureCrawl16From November 17 to 20, 2016, the Eastside Culture Crawl invites art lovers to celebrate its 20th anniversary.  East Vancouver comes alive for four-days of visual arts, design, and crafts, filling 78+ open studios, homes, galleries and garages from Columbia Street, to 1st Avenue, to Victoria Drive, and the waterfront. Expected to draw more than 25,000 visitors from across Metro Vancouver and beyond, the Crawl introduces visitors to more than 475 participating visual artists in this year’s monumental event.

Tangible Interaction – Marshmallow Clouds

“This year’s festival represents a remarkable accomplishment; not just for the hundreds of vibrant and creative visual artists who have participated in the Crawl over the past two decades, but for our city as a whole,” says Esther Rausenberg, Executive Director. “For the past 20 years, the Crawl has served as a vital and meaningful intersection between artistic creation and discovery, sparking impactful dialogue and sustaining a passionate engagement in the arts within Vancouver.”

Richard Retrault – Wall Woodcut

Created in 1997 as a place for artists to gather together, bond, and showcase their work, the Crawl has grown each year, becoming an iconic staple of Vancouver’s arts and culture scene.

“This is an opportunity for people to glimpse behind the scenes,” Rausenberg adds. “To witness the creation of new works, understand the inspiration and process behind a piece, and to experience firsthand the methods used to bring works of art to life. Now in its 20th year, the Crawl is a tremendous melding of the resilient and determined artists who have been with us since the beginning, and the youthful and vibrant new artists who shed an exhilarating light on our city’s great future.”

For art fans from across the Pacific Northwest, the Eastside Culture Crawl showcases an ever-expanding selection of determined and inspired painters, sculptors, potters, photographers, glassblowers, furniture designers, and much more. Featuring the biggest line-up of artists, venues, and events in its decades-long history, the 20th anniversary edition of the Crawl will offer guests an expanded list of insightful juried exhibitions, evocative contemporary films, and engaging artist presentations.

For a full listing of the open venues plus the event listings of featured presentations, installations, and talks visit

The Rio Theatre’s Corinne Lea recieves Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal

Rio Theatre-Corinne LeaWith all the outcry over the closure of The Waldorf Hotel, it’s easy to miss a well-deserved accolade bestowed on another valued Eastside venue.

The Rio Theatre has announced that owner and operator Corinne Lea (pictured) has been selected to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, a national award presented to persons of merit in recognition of “significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.” The award ceremony takes place, tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23.

Corinne was nominated for the award by Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jennie Kwan, herself a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal a decade ago. In early 2012, Corinne and the Rio Theatre were involved in a highly publicized battle over changes in provincial liquor policy that directly threatened the Rio’s existence – a battle that Corinne, the Rio Theatre, and an extended community of dedicated supporters eventually won. In a letter addressed to Corinne, Ms. Kwan noted that she nominated Lea on the basis of her “hard work, dedication and ideas” that “helped to bring about changes to improve our community.”

“The fight to save the Rio Theatre and get BC’s outdated liquor laws changed was not only a personal desire to save my business, but a fight to save our community’s theatre and arts and culture in BC,” says Lea. “To my surprise it also became something bigger.”

She adds, “The Rio Theatre’s success in changing the province’s outdated liquor laws could not have happened without the tremendous community support it received. My being recognized with the prestigious Diamond Jubilee medal proves to me that the time-honoured Canadian virtues of democracy and free speech are still very much intact, and it is our duty to exercise them!

There are more improvements that need to be made, and I am excited to be part of a growing public that not only values, but is willing to fight for arts and culture in our communities.

I am honored and grateful for this award. I thank Jenny Kwan for nominating me and everyone who gave their voice, time, and energy in support of me and the entire staff of the Rio Theatre in 2012.”

I’m sure everyone on the Eastside and all across Vancouver applaud the continuing efforts of Corrine and The Rio Theatre to ensure the city has a home for arts and culture.

The Rio Theatre is located at 1660 East Broadway (at Commercial)
Phone: 604.689.3456 Online at