An art crawl can be a demonstration of an authentic, democratic, urban event. Unlike big sponsored art events such as Nuit Blanche art crawls are usually more local and far more family friendly. Dotted around urban downtown environments, studios, galleries and other pop up attractions allow participants to wander or crawl through their offerings with a non-formulaic freedom.

Photo Credit: Stacey Lalande

Participants are encouraged to ask questions and also allowed to quietly browse. I’ve always found that it is art crawls that allow me to have a greater understanding of how artists live and work in a day to day way – the atmosphere is always one of casual investigation without the formal trappings of an ‘opening’ or a singular event.

Sudbury joined the art crawl movement in March of 2014 and it was instantly successful. Sudbury has an unusual downtown landscape, still dominated by rail way lines and industry the arts community has worked a little harder than other places to feature culture as integral to the ongoing evolution of the city. This is changing, with the McEwan School of Architecture now open and the just announced Francophone Community Arts Centre: Place des Arts to be built, the art crawl will have a very healthy future possibly placing Sudbury as a major cultural hub in the coming years.

Photo Credit: Stacey Lalande

I attended the Downtown Sudbury Art Crawl (DSAC) in the summer of 2016. It was a warm, rainy day which made for smaller crowds for the outside Up Here music festival which happened on the same weekend but certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of the art crawl participants – people still came out in droves. Since the downtown is fairly small it was pretty easy to get to most of the galleries and studios. Many of the attractions take place on Elgin and in venerable Sudbury institutions like the Galerie du Nouvel Ontario, Fromagerie Elgin (delightful latte in the middle of a crawl is a must) and the studios in the Wilkinson Building. There we met our good friend artist Ron Langin who is a Sudbury stalwart of the arts, his work is everywhere and it deserves to be. Many other artists had their studios open that day; you get a glimpse of their work space so it becomes an intimate experience that is also public, very fitting for the viewing of art.

Photo Credit: Stacey Lalande

During our tour a good friend and one of the members of the art crawl committee was playing Pokemon Go with her daughter. Some of the vendors were heads up about this and had creatures at their sites. While I may not be the biggest fan of augmented reality the seven year old we had with us thought this aspect of the art crawl was amazing.

The Open Studio, part of Cambrian College was showing a very cutting edge video artist, the room dark and moody with flickering light, fitting for a day of rolling thunder storms. We visited this attraction twice, once with only a few other people and then a few hours later it was packed. A band was playing music and fans were wall to wall watching them and the video. Apparently they were an Up Here band who had been rained out and just wanted to hang out in a dry place. After a short talk with a crawl committee member who was running the space, they went out got their gear and came back for an impromptu performance using Twitter to call out to their fans. Within minutes the place filled up. It was a bonafide ‘happening’.  Sudbury may seem to tourists in the middle of ‘nothing’ northern Ontario but culturally its inhabitants know exactly what’s what. I’ve never felt that I was in a culturally moribund environment there. The committee members of the DSAC are exceedingly plugged into what happens elsewhere and know how to create an event that becomes a nexus for art exhibiting, engagement, urban exploration and fun.

This year the crawl will happen in conjunction with Makers North Festival titled “Here Comes the Sun” June 3rd, featuring 21 locations including the very new Salute Coffee Shop. For updates and news please LIKE their Facebook page:  

The Sudbury Art Crawl would not be possible without the help of the Sudbury Arts Council, City of Greater Sudbury, Downtown Sudbury, Makers Market Sudbury and Up Here Urban Art + Music Festival. 

By Victoria Ward


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