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Valerie Arntzen, executive director of the Eastside Culture Crawl, says people turn to art in times of economic uncertainty. ((CBC))

While markets continue to sag and a recession looms, artists at an annual visual arts festival in Vancouver say the local art scene is flourishing despite economic uncertainty.

The Eastside Cultural Crawl is an annual three-day visual arts festival that features more than 350 artists showcasing their pieces in 50 studios throughout East Vancouver.

This year, artists are faring well despite the economic downturn because many people are turning to art as a refuge from the turbulent economy, said Valerie Arntzen, executive director of the Crawl.

"Historically, a downturn in the economy doesn't so much hurt an artist because instead of taking that trip to Europe or buying that new set of dishes, [people say] … maybe that painting … we need to get that," Arntzen said.

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Artist Richard Tetrault says buyers are selecting smaller pieces because of the economic downturn. ((CBC))

That sentiment was echoed by many of the artists showcasing at the Cultural Crawl, who say sales aren't down but buyers are spending more time selecting which pieces to buy.

"People are maybe more cautious, of course, in buying bigger pieces. They may be thinking about it a little bit more, but there's still a lot of really keen interest," said artist Richard Tetrault.

"It's nice because people seem to gravitate towards the arts quite a bit when things are a little rough in other areas of the economy because it uplifts things and changes things," said artist Jordan Bent.

One shopper at the Cultural Crawl, Kirby Huminuik, said the economy wasn't holding her back from buying a piece by her favourite artist.

"I like to support local artists … so, for me, this is a way of supporting the community and keeping us all economically happy," she said.

Tetrault, who has seen tough times before, says it will take patience to weather the economic uncertainty.

"I lived through the '80s as an artist. I can handle it," he said.