Highlights of ArtBridges’ Site Visits in Montreal 2/3

Last June, ArtBridges/ToiledesArts’s Project Director, Seanna Connell and Francophone Community Arts Coordinator, Catherine Lamaison, spent a week in Montréal to visit and meet 19 community partners and learn about the work that they do on the ground. While most of the ArtBridges/ToiledesArts’ team’s work is done online or over the phone from our Toronto office, getting a chance to travel, see community arts program in action and finally meet partners in person is always highly inspiring and gives all the meaning to our work.

We’ve decided to dedicate a series of three blog posts to the amazing community arts and arts for social change initiatives we’ve discovered in Montréal. Check out yesterday’s post to read about the beginning of our site visits trip!

Wednesday, June 22nd
On our third day we separated in order to visit more community partners. While Seanna explored more art hives (La Ruche St Henri and Le Milieu) and met with Marilyn Lajeunesse, Educational program officer at the Musee des Beaux Arts, Catherine met with Emily Laliberté from Funambules Media and later on with Joel Naggar, intervention coordinator, who gave her a tour of the famous Day Centre for homeless youth Dans La Rue. We met for lunch in the middle–with Esther Filion from Rouage and Seanna ended the day with a meeting with Chad Lubelsky at the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation.

Since 2008 the Funambules Medias Team has worked towards social change by providing marginalized and at-risk populations, mostly youth, with media training and material for them to create, to express themselves and to reflect on systemic causes leading to the criminalization of youth. Funambules Medias also offers production and broadcast services.  Every summer, they organize the Festival de Films Sous les Etoiles, a big outdoor and free film festival in Montréal parks. This event is very popular and features screenings of documentaries related to social change. Finally, they produce various kinds of documentaries and institutional films for organizations driven by social change endeavours.

Collectif Porte-Voix's stunning prevention book "Parcours, Chacun son Temps".

Collectif Porte-Voix’s stunning prevention book “Parcours, Chacun son Temps”.

Musee des Beaux Arts
Seanna met with Marilyn Lajeunesse, Educational program officer at the Musee des Beaux Arts. She had learned about the museum’s progressive community engagement program “Sharing the Museum” at a recent Power of the Arts Forum. Started 15 years ago, this program, supported by the museum’s foundation, collaborates with diverse community partners both outside the museum’s walls with communities and inside the museum’s art studios. Community partnerships include homeless drop-ins, eating-disorder clinics, and refugee centres. Dans la Rue was founded by Father Emmet Johns “Pops” in 1988. This charity organization helps homeless and at-risk-youth, providing care and services related to their immediate needs and to help them acquire skills needed “to lead more autonomous and rewarding lives.” The Day Center offers two artistic spaces running programs on a weekly basis (a visual arts room and a music recording/production room), along with additional drop-in programs led by other community arts organizations such as Cirque Hors Piste.

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La Ruche St Henri’s main room

La Ruche St Henri Art Hive in St. Henri is based in a storefront with a spacious backyard and stellar cellar (a depot for found materials once bound for the landfill and now repurposed for art-making.) Seanna visited with facilitators, Sarah Tevyaw and Nicole Macoretta, during the open studio workshop for seniors. Piano, loom, spinning wheel, books, ink, indigo dye, gardening and pencils…one can get involved with any of the supplies and projects, enjoy a cup of tea and chat with other participants in a relaxed, quiet and warm community studio that inspires creativity, camaraderie and belonging. La Ruche collaborates with neighbouring organizations including a hospital for cancer patients. Outpatient peer-support circles meet here to make art in a setting alternative to hospital. What a great community partnership! (Read more here.) Catherine and Seanna both met with Esther Filion from Engrenage Noir / ROUAGE. “Engrenage Noir, founded in Montréal in 2002, is an non-profit organization. Its program ROUAGE supports activist art practice financially and through training and networking. It aims at partnering with community organizations defending peoples’ rights and their members who share a similar form of oppression or social exclusion in order to see how an activist art project can support their work.”

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Kay (on the right) and her visiting friend at Le Milieu

Seanna then met with Kay Noele at the Le Milieu – Atelier et Café de Quartier, an Art Hive near metro Beaudry. This small corner-store art studio/café has floor-to-ceiling shelves of art supplies open for the community. One person was sewing on a machine, another working on a silk screen, another writing. Delicious cake was ready and coffee was brewing. (Sales pay the rent!) Open for the community for free, this community art studio is run as a co-op with fee-paying members. Anyone can be a member by paying about $50. Members are encouraged to volunteer to keep the doors open for approximately 3-hour periods, teach an art activity, organize supplies or help out at the café. The co-op finds enough volunteers to run this open café & studio every day (7 days a week!) year-round. What every city neighbourhood would benefit from! Kay and the few facilitating the co-op make the work look easy and fluid, but there is an art to making this work so well. Visit and find out!

At the end of a busy day of site visits, Seanna met with Chad Lubelsky, a brilliant Program Director with the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation. This was a chance to thank Chad for the foundation’s support to ArtBridges and to keep the conversation going. The foundation has provided ArtBridges with the means to develop a theory of change, an evaluation framework, impact evaluation, as well as project development and capacity building. Chad loved to hear about our site visits and had some suggestions about other programs to see. We talked about the uniqueness of community arts and arts for social change projects going on in Québec and indeed through all regions in Canada- how projects vary from city to city, region to region, based on language, culture and resources.

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