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COVID-era challenges painted by nurse/artist from Surrey who’ll open studio for Culture Crawl

‘That was first time I was going to test someone in their residence, and there was fear,’ Jessica Craig says of one painting
Artist/nurse Jessica Craig in studio with some of her paintings on the wall. (Submitted photo)

Pandemic challenges faced by nurses are explored in a series of paintings that Jessica Craig will showcase during this month’s Eastside Culture Crawl in Vancouver.

Raised in the Fleetwood/Guildford area of Surrey, the mixed-media artist also works as an outreach nurse in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

To create one of her collections, Craig was given a Canada Council grant to reflect the COVID era through the eyes of a nurse and artist.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” she raved. “My proposal was to merge nursing with my art, after interviewing nurses across the country, to reflect their challenges during the pandemic, and my own personal experiences, of course.”

Featured as works-in-progress on Craig’s website (, paintings as large as nine feet wide depict nurses in the ICU, comforting patients, preparing for work, at home and other situations.


In this Jessica Craig painting, a nurse holds an iPad for a hospital patient during a video chat with family members.
In this Jessica Craig painting, a nurse holds an iPad for a hospital patient during a video chat with family members.

Jessica Craig’s “Comradery” painting.
Jessica Craig’s “Comradery” painting.

In “Comradery,” one nurse ties a PPE apron for another.

“That relates to my first personal experience during the early stages of the pandemic, working on the Downtown Eastside,” Craig explained. “We were going into poorly ventilated rooms in poor conditions. That was first time I was going to test someone (for COVID-19) in their residence, and there was fear. That was the first painting I worked on, and it led to others in the series.”

Craig’s studio, at Eastside Atelier (aka William Clark Art Studio), is among stops on the Eastside Culture Crawl, which returns Nov. 17-20. More than 425 artists will open their doors and welcome tens of thousands of visitors during the 26th annual festival of visual arts, design and craft.

A Pacific Academy grad, Craig pursued art as a hobby before getting serious about it five years ago.

“Six or eight years ago,” she recalled, “I didn’t know about the Crawl and came across it one night. I went into this one building and it was incredible to walk into art studios and see people working on their art. It’s like a hidden gem in Vancouver — or was, but I feel it still is, something people are still discovering. It’s a wonderful organization.”

With pandemic gathering restrictions eased, this year’s Crawl will see a return to the events’s traditional four-day experience, where visitors can explore and reconnect with artists in-person at more than 68 buildings and studios. Details are online at

The 2022 Crawl will be “a celebration of the vitalness of the arts,” according to Esther Rausenberg, artistic and executive director of Eastside Arts Society.

“What the past two years has reinforced is that the arts play an incredibly important role in people’s lives,” Rausenberg stated. “We’re thrilled to bring back our classic Culture Crawl experience. The challenges of the past few years have certainly proven that artists are resilient and adaptable. Many have taken the time to reflect on their art practice, taking it to the next level by exploring new avenues and fresh approaches. We can’t wait to share these new revelations in the 26th edition of the Culture Crawl.”

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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