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Sunshine Coast Art Crawl the picture of vitality

'It brings you to tears when you see what these people are saying,' says Linda Williams
Among a group of artists at the Gibsons Visitor Centre, Joan Bech of Colibri Creations displays her collection of felted paintings and creatures.

The 14th annual Sunshine Coast Art Crawl opened the door to thousands of engagements with more than 260 artists along Highway 101 from October 20 to 22.

The three-day event is coordinated by the Coast Cultural Alliance, a non-profit alliance of arts groups and individuals. A record-breaking 188 venues — including 57 new participants — this year opened studios and galleries to visitors.

“It brings you to tears when you see what these people are saying,” said Linda Williams, executive director of the Coast Cultural Alliance and the Crawl’s logistical champion. Williams managed to visit each one of the first-time venues while also attending 10 opening-night receptions. 

The raucous event at The Kube in Gibsons was so popular that the gallery’s owners locked the doors because the building reached its legal limit of partygoers.

Williams identified highlights from 385 participant surveys. “People were astounded by creativity in their own neighbourhoods,” she said. “Others said they look for it every year.”

Studio visits during the Crawl have been rebounding since the COVID-19 years. Last year’s drop-in total of 38,800 visitors was only 10,000 short of 2019’s all-time high. Official numbers for the 2023 event will be tallied in time for a post-Crawl gathering of artists next week.

“[I attended with] my 11 month-old baby,” reported one participant, “him being in all of the colours of pottery studio and also feeling welcomed by the artist even though a baby could be seen as a risk. I bought some beautiful pieces I hope to use for the rest of my life.”

Participants singled out specific studios and described personal highlights. “[Clare Wilkening]’s dedication, passion and knowledge surrounding her body of work in documenting the orca population is completely unmatched,” recalled a visitor to Wilkening’s ceramics studio in Roberts Creek. “To witness her love and commitment to a very serious cause of something to be celebrated and acknowledged.”

Venues dotted the full geographic extent of the southern Sunshine Coast, from four studios in Langdale to two in Egmont, including photographer troch’s Laughing Hummingbird Arts. “You know it’s the beginning of the Art Crawl,” reported the Coast Cultural Alliance in a social media post, “when you arrive at [venue] #188 and see troch at the door at 9:58 a.m. ready to greet you.”

Many venues featured multiple artists who combined efforts to promote and display their creations. The Gibsons Public Market united nine artists in disciplines from macrame to photography. Moongate Farms in Roberts Creek hosted five artists featuring wood, wool, paintings and cards. The Sechelt Hospital Foundation commissioned 36 works by local artists on the subject of healing, which were auctioned at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden.

“I think the Crawl for a lot of artists is that anticipation and the preparation,” said Williams. “What [painter] Marlene Vermeulen always says about the Art Crawl is how it mobilizes people. When I was up at Moongate Farms, there was a couple that were on e-bikes. They’ve lived in Roberts Creek all their lives and they were retired people. They said, ‘We didn’t even know this was here!’”

Photographs of participating studios are available at the Coast Cultural Alliance’s Facebook page at The organization’s Purple Banner Tour, which features many of the same artists, continues year-round.