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Dollars for Doers: Eastside Culture Crawl

February 27, 2019

Volunteering in East Vancouver’s arts community

When you think of Canada’s art scene, chances are you will think of Vancouver, and more specifically, East Vancouver. Community Planner, John Steil out of the Vancouver office, has been part of this artistic movement for over 10+ years.

“My involvement came about because I’m an artist myself, live in East Vancouver, and it was an opportunity for me to show my work,” John said. “Then over time, I joined the board and became chair of the space committee. They asked me to get involved because I understand planning and issues around land use and development.” The housing market in Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in the country, and artist studios are faced with the same affordability issues. John, having 40+ years of experience in community planning, was a perfect fit for the role.

“Back in the day, artists gravitated to East Vancouver because it was affordable, which led to one of the highest densities of artists in Canada.” John said. Every year, a major event happens in East Vancouver called the Eastside Culture Crawl where a broad range of artists open their studios to the public to come in and learn about the artists passions. “Typically, when I open my studio for the Crawl, I have about 1200 people com through over the course of the weekend,” John said. “It’s a really great opportunity for the community to connect with the artists, and vice versa.”

The Crawl runs every November from Thursday to Sunday and showcases visual art, moving art (movies and films), photography, painting, woodwork, and everything in between. In the area where the Crawl takes place, there are roughly 500 artists that open their studios, which makes it impossible to go to each one. “We’re in a total of 80 buildings, and not all the same studios open every year,” John said. “Some artists, like myself, open every second year, as I also like to go out and explore.” The studios are spread out into residential, commercial, and industrial areas, which makes it a huge community project. 

The ESCC also has a program dedicated to Vancouver’s inner-city youth, with whom John also volunteers. “For the past 10 years, we’ve been doing Studio 101,” John said. “Kids from the local elementary schools come to the studios to experience a hands-on approach to art, which will hopefully get them excited about art. Every year, we go to different studios, so the kids experience new and different types of art.”

When John isn’t volunteering within the arts scene in East Vancouver, he often volunteers with other Stantec colleagues every third Tuesday of the month at a local church. “Being involved in the community through volunteering is rewarding; you feel like you’ve accomplished something,” John said. “You go with a good group of people, meet new people, and connect with other Stantec employees from different Vancouver offices. It’s really nice knowing Stantec walks the talk when it comes to supporting its employees in their volunteer efforts.”

Learn more about the Eastside Culture Crawl
Learn more about John Steil’s art

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