Highlights of ArtBridges’ Site Visits in Montreal! 1/3

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 3 blog posts to the amazing community arts and arts for social change initiatives we’ve discovered in Montréal. There is something very particular about that place, and about the work that is made possible there. Seanna and myself have been amazed by the originality and innovation of programs, the variety of organization models, the dedication and drive of mostly volunteer staff, the resources available and the crucial understanding of the importance of community arts and arts for social change. We believe that stories and ideas need to travel more across provinces, and particularly across languages, and that the rest of Canada needs to be more aware of the kinds of projects that are developed in Québec. Here are highlights about each organization we met.

Monday, June 20th  la place commune Our first stop was in the Parc Extension neighbourhood, at a fairly new art hive — part of the Art Hives Network called La Place Commune. Primarily a coffee shop restaurant whose revenues help support the rent and staff, La Place Commune set up an arts corner with supplies that can be used for free. Come for a coffee or just to make art or both, this place is open and the members believe in shared economy. We then headed to Westmount to meet with Ruth Gagnon and her assistant Anne-Celine at Elizabeth Fry Society du Québec. We talked specifically about their art programs and about the Art Entr’Elles collective and its projects. Art Entr’Elles is a non-profit organization gathering criminalized women and professional artists in collaborative projects. Through the making of art, this collective of women support self-esteem building, sense of belonging to a community, critical thinking, socio-political expression and reinsertion to society. Tuesday, June 21st We started our second day in Montreal with a meeting with the Culture Days team in their Mile Ex office. Culture Days is a 3-day event across Canada aiming to get community engagement happening around the arts. This event is particularly important for communities that have little art events on a regular basis. They have provincial chapters that run Culture Days in each province independently. It was particularly interesting for us to have a discussion with another nation-wide organization. Catherine then met with Alyssa Kuzmarov from Productions Oracle near Concordia University campus. Productions Oracle is a bilingual non-profit organization providing at-risk youth and adults with creative modes of expression through writing and video-making workshops. Participants are encouraged to share their experiences through an empowering process of documentary-making while developing social skills and values of respect and tolerance. Productions Oracle also offers production services for social and educational videos as well as promotional and corporate videos.

Liam and Dan, co-founders of Spectrum Productions.

Liam and Dan, co-founders of Spectrum Productions.

We stopped by Spectrum Productions summer camp, in Le Plateau. Working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum, Spectrum Productions is a community-based non-profit organization that provides « social, creative, exploratory and employment opportunities” through workshops, summer camps and various programs focusing on film and media production. Most of the programs are run in their own space part of an arts building in Le Plateau, with multiple rooms and professional video equipment. At the end of a day of site visits we were so happy to finally meet Jacinthe Laforte for the first time! Jacinthe has been translating ArtBridges/ToileDesArts content from English to French since 2011 remotely. She was originally referred to ArtBridges by Engrenage Noir / ROUAGE. What a delight to finally meet in person after 5 years and enjoy a glass of wine together! Don’t miss the rest of our site visits highlights in Montréal in tomorrow’s blog post!

Jacinthe Laforte and Seanna Connell. from ArtBridges

Jacinthe Laforte and Seanna Connell. from ArtBridges

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