Culture Days reached out to Community Reporters across Canada to submit articles to culture365 about their experience during the Culture Days weekend that took place from September 27 to 29. The reporters were asked to describe their experience and observations of Culture Days activities they attended in their communities and the impact they had on the artists and public participating. Below is a report by Kristen Theodore from Montreal, Quebec. To read other reports, follow the tag #community reports.
Montreal being the second largest city in Canada, you wouldn't expect to stumble upon an area of town that’s so communal, with a traditionally small-town vibe. It’s this very quality, though - a strong sense of community - that sets the Mile-End apart. Each borough in Montreal has something different to offer, and for the Mile-End, it’s seemingly all about supporting local artistic endeavours. The borough played host to a number of Journées de la culture events, and three days almost didn’t seem like enough time to cover them all.
Seriously. As I was a first-time Culture Days / Journées de la culture participant this year, the most exciting part of the event for me was its variety and accessibility. Certain events were literally stone’s throws or elevator rides away. And, in just the smattering of events I sampled, I came across quite a variety and still felt as though I hadn’t seen enough by the end of the weekend. And that’s the Mile-End. Always creating, and always so much more to discover.
First up was a printmaking appreciation session with artist Alain Piroir at the Atelier-Galerie A. Piroir. Located on the eighth floor of a building at 5333 Casgrain, this space was decorated with the artist’s work and some impressive, somewhat intimidating, printmaking machinery. Piroir shared with attendees the virtues of the discipline, discussing its origins and showcasing his most recent works that lined the white walls. The passion with which Piroir discussed his work was informative and inspiring. He took the time to greet each visitor and spoke to them individually about his art. It really made for an educational experience and taught me a thing or two about a world I don’t know a great deal about.
In the very same building and only just a few floors down, another activity was held, belonging to jewelry designer and jack-of-all-trades Anne-Marie Chagnon’s studio and shop. On display were some of her magical and ethereal designs. We learned about what piques Chagnon’s imagination when she plays with form and material to create wearable masterpieces. It wasn’t surprising to learn that Chagnon had been commissioned to craft jewelry for the Cirque du Soleil. She had also set up a table where budding jewelers could create their own inspiring works.
But, what kind of community would it be without a place to connect and engage with other creators? Perhaps the most interactive event of my weekend was held at La Bibliothèque Mile-End, where the Bibliothèque Vivante (Living Library) invited the public to engage in discourse about all things local. Naturally, this was a pretty popular stop for culture lovers, as it offered a chance to speak with a filmmaker, comic-book artist, poets, actors, and local figures. My 20-minute session was a one-on-one with Jay Lucifero, barista at St-Viateur’s local café Club Social. I asked him about Club Social and its role as a staple in the community, renowned as a meet-up spot for people to network, share ideas and create. He told me about how he, over the years, developed a relationship with customers and, in many ways, considers himself part-barista and part-psychologist. “You can come to Club Social, sit, chat, network,” he said. “The coffee is just the conversation-starter. The rest, we leave up to you.”
Almost right across the street, the Galerie Ame-Art, with a mandate to bring about art in everyday life, held another kind of print lab, inviting participants to get very hands-on. With about eight to ten visitors crowding the table, it certainly was a packed house. Located on Avenue du Parc, one of Montreal’s main arteries, Ame-Art is an integral part of the neighbourhood life, itself a participant in the Mile-End community through its artistic presence.
On a nearby street, those lucky enough to stumble upon the balloons and signs laid out on the sidewalk were invited to attend the Cinema Maison screening in – yep – their apartment’s living room. Anastasia Bourlakova and Jéricho Jeudy, both filmmakers, screened some of their personal works produced over the years, from their time as film students to the present day. There were three different screening stations. At the main station, after the final screening on each day, attendees could ask Bourlakova and Jeudy questions. Here is another example of the Mile-End community reaching out to its neighbours, inviting them to stay a while, eat some popcorn and watch some of their personal projects, free of charge. And this, the final activity of my weekend, was really what the organization and the Mile-End are all about: a chance for artists to showcase their works and let others see what inspires them, what prompts their creativity, what ignites their passions.
Although the cultural activities were widespread (and really, I’ve only scratched the surface of the numerous opportunities to engage with artists that were offered), the overall message is that every weekend, every day, this community, like so many across the country, comes together to celebrate Canadian and Québécois culture, whether it’s through a local vendor’s collections of crafts or an already-established musician performing in a bay window over a busy street. During Culture Days / Journées de la culture and all year round, the Mile-End is a unique community with something for everyone to enjoy and take part in.
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