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Art in Montreal: Struggles & Innovations

By Mia Kennedy


On March 12th, Legault announced the cancellation of indoor gatherings assembling crowds of more than 250 people. All events planned for Place-des-Arts were cancelled until further notice, the Montreal St-Patrick’s day parade was postponed, and The Cirque du Soleil dropped a national tour.

These restrictions, implemented to reduce the spread of coronavirus, had an extensive impact on all major art shows in the summer. The cancellation of these events caused Montreal companies and artists to suffer huge financial losses.

The coronavirus has been a huge challenge for artists in Montreal. Health is a priority and planning cultural events has become more complex than ever. Artists are encouraged to find new and innovative ways to distribute art. For instance, on August 29th, Pop Montreal delivered Macbeth: A Reimagining on the Streets to the public. The stage, complete with music and smoke machine, was mounted onto the back of a truck that moved through the streets of The Plateau during the performance. Director Heather O’Neill’s innovative show allowed people to watch from their balconies while exercising safe social distancing. The continued resilience of Montreal’s artists is a testament to the strength of the community and its remarkable individuals.

One such individual is Rachel Echenberg, the Fine Arts chairperson and program coordinator for the Visual Arts program at Dawson College. Her exhibition Conversations With My Family was scheduled for September at the Galerie B-312, but it took until the end of June for the gallery to give her the green light. Even then there was uncertainty as to how it could be safely presented. “I had no idea if it would happen,” Rachel remembers.

The gallery pulled inspiration from organizations such as Projet Casa, which used reservations to control the number of people in the space. Although they don’t inhibit your experience, the restrictions are apparent; masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer. Rachel explains: “People want to keep making art. People want to keep going. We’re just having to find new ways to make that happen.” Despite the measures, people visit the gallery every day to support local artists.

The cancellation and postponement of many events have caused immense losses to Montreal’s artistic community. People’s jobs and incomes vanished overnight. Quebec responded with an almost 300M$ investment into its cultural sector, announced on June 1st, 2020. Over the course of the pandemic, Canada has put in place different forms of financial aid and pledged up to 500M$ for various arts-related sectors. The provincial and federal governments both hoped to revitalize the arts and stimulate creative professionals. Was it enough?

“It’s a really scary time for a lot of people. We’re always insecure and now even more so,” Rachel shares. Quebec and Canada’s aid are welcomed by the community, but they cannot reverse the irreparable losses Montreal has faced. The community feels fragmented after the loss of so many jobs and businesses.

When it comes to Dawson, there are many ways students can continue to enjoy the arts and virtually attend events. The Warren G. Flowers Art Gallery continues to showcase wonderful pieces from members of our very own Dawson College and various renowned artists. You may have seen the summer exhibition The Weight of Delirium by Andy Fabo. The gallery’s new exhibition Resistance and Resilience will be available from October 22nd to November 28th of 2020. Dawson is also offering various online activities such as Speed-Friending, Netflix parties and painting workshops, and Multicultural Food Week and Multicultural Showcase Week are right around the corner.


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