Around sixty new works have just appeared in the alleys of a single Montreal neighborhood. Their canvas? The local walls, offered free of charge by owners who had no idea what would be painted there…
I love walking in the streets. They give different access to houses, revealing their hidden, more real and inhabited side. In Vieux-Rosemont, they also reveal… a museum. Thanks to Canettes de ruelle, each year, the neighborhood is adorned with works created by local graffiti artists, muralists, painters, illustrators and tattoo artists.
I attended the seventh edition of the event, at the beginning of September. In three days, more than 80 artists painted nearly 60 walls between the 5e and the 9e Avenue, then between Boulevard Saint-Joseph and Rue Masson. This open-air exhibition will last a year, since next Labor Day, everything will have to be reinvented.
The citizen approach was initiated in 2017 by Clarence Quirion-Nolin, a mural artist in search of surfaces to magnify. When he surveyed his neighbors, several offered to give him a wall of their house. From year to year, the project grew. Today, the annual event is administered by Clarence, Dominique Azocar and Olivier Bousquet.
There are established artists and others who are doing their first mural. We try to show as many styles and techniques as possible. It’s an opportunity for artists to experiment, since they have carte blanche!
While the creators are busy, the spirit is helping one another. Some residents clean brushes or lend their yard for storage of materials. Local merchants offered food and refreshments to the troops. Volunteers are everywhere. Even part of the budget necessary to create the murals rests on the community, through a crowdfunding campaign.
Everyone gives themselves for the pleasure of art, that’s obvious.
Julie Maurice, who has lived in the neighborhood for a year and a half, confirms this to me: “We have noticed that people from elsewhere come to walk in our streets, they stop and take photos. It is an event that has repercussions all year round. »
While she introduces me to her son Kiliann, the artists Julian Palma and Kaori work in the scaffolds near her house. A face is emerging on the immense candy pink surface.
Kiliann admits to me that his favorite mural in the area was done by Julian Palma. It is a beautiful blue bird that can be seen from their yard. He is delighted to know that his own mural will bear his mark too.
But isn’t it a little stressful not knowing what the duo is going to paint in your home?
“On the contrary, it’s exciting,” Julie Maurice answers me. We’re embarking on the adventure and that’s part of it. Comes what will happen! »
A little further on, I discover the mural orchestrated by the artist Antoine Claes and his son, Émile, 8 years old. Their duet is called “Les fils and chips”. This year they are offering a large canvas so that local children can create too. Around thirty of them have undertaken the experiment so far. And if they have the choice between different tools, most opt for the spray (the can of paint). I understand them.
“The intention is to open minds and give people a taste for painting,” Antoine Claes explains to me. I’m surprised at how well it works… Because next to video games, it’s just color! »
A damn beautiful color, in any case.
In another alley in the neighborhood, Jamie Janx Johnston is waiting for the children. The artist has long been a museum educator. He has prepared leaf-shaped stencils that young people can paint on a wall displaying a giant praying mantis.
I want them to learn that art is accessible. That’s what we do in the streets, you know! Not everyone can afford to go to a gallery…
Jamie Janx Johnston
Art for everyone. It’s beautiful. Especially coming from an environment sometimes marked by solitude.
“We practice a very solo art,” Eksept, a regular at Canettes de ruelle, confides to me. We are often alone in our pod. It’s important to have events like this to share a coffee or some painting with other artists. »
Diane Roe compares it to a family celebration where we can finally see our distant loved ones again (without arguing). His mural and life partner, MSHL, adds that so much mutual aid and volunteering “it brings balm to the heart”.
He comes from graffiti, she from fine arts. Together they paint a magnificent abstract work. I have rarely seen one like this.
Alley cans, it’s a time to explore. As we have carte blanche, it is very different from a contract. I draw a sketch then, then… We don’t do the sketch at all.
She laughs and I bow to this carelessness.
If everything that is created here is ephemeral, I am reassured to learn that the works generally remain untouched. It is rare that they are vandalized, the result of a dialogue between the organizing team and the street artists.
Olivier Bousquet points out to me a graffiti by Alex Scaner, an important artist who died in 2017. We would never do a mural covering it. The activities are designed with the well-being of the creators, their community and the neighborhood in mind.
I tell myself that if some people denigrate the arts that take place in the street, it is because they have never spent a morning listening to the artists of Canettes de ruelle. I hope they will come for a visit next year or that in the meantime, they will at least take a walk in the Vieux-Rosemont district.
There is something to amaze everyone.