Downtown Eastside street artist uses work to heal addiction, residential school past – BC


Downtown Eastside street artist Edgar-Alan Rossetti has a very public studio: the East Hastings sidewalk near Carrall Street in Vancouver.

The self-taught Aboriginal artist has lived in a tent outside 7 East Hastings for a year and says he has been homeless for a decade.

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Rossetti’s work is done freehand and he adds his own flare to the traditional Ksaan style of northwest British Columbia.

“Art is just life in general, it’s healing, it helps people,” Rossetti said.

Artistic creation is part of the recovery of residential school survivors.

Rossetti is originally from Prince George and a member of the Bear Clan.

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More than a quarter century ago, he and several other artists volunteered their time to help design a mural to deter vandalism in the northern BC town.

“It’s the biggest piece I’ve ever worked on, especially on the scaffolding up there,” Rossetti told Global News in 1996 when the project was unveiled to the public.

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Over the years, Rossetti said he got divorced and started using drugs.

“I smoked crack, I quit crack,” he told Global News.

Now, after 13 years of sobriety, Rossetti relies on the recycling economy to purchase recycled canvases, paints and brushes, which he says sometimes get lost in daily sweepings of city streets.

Still, Rossetti perseveres.

“I do it because it’s a passion, it keeps me clean,” he said.

“The longer I make art, the straighter I stay. If I’m not here doing my art, I use.

After so many years of living on the streets, Rossetti said he had no idea his work was recently on display just two blocks from the tent that holds his artwork and supplies.

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“It surprises me,” Rossetti said.

Three of his pieces: Standing up Bear, Raven Dancer and The Watchman were part of a June 18 public exhibition of Downtown Eastside art at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

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The event was a partnership with High Hopes, which supports underrepresented street artists in the Downtown Eastside, including the four whose work was featured.

While the art exhibit was temporary, Rossetti creates new works on the street seven days a week, but he doesn’t necessarily want others to join in.

“Don’t do drugs, stay in school,” Rossetti warned.

“[This] is no place for you.

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