By: Ann Cernek
Last fall, Catherine LaRivière wrote an article about the role that public art plays in breaking social barriers and shaping the city’s identity. The streets of Montréal are filled with public art, and even the shortest of walks reveal the creativity of the city, whether through a mural, sculpture or fountain. Have you ever wished that there was some kind of catalogue of all these public works, maybe with a map of some kind?
Well, Art Public Montréal is just such a catalogue. The website lists all commissioned public works in the city, along with photographs, medium and short artist biographies. It also has a list of suggested art tours in areas such as the Plateau, atop Mount Royal, through the Parc Jean Drapeau, Downtown Montréal and even the underground city. Each tour description comes with a mapped circuit, estimated duration by foot or bicycle, and photos and descriptions of each work on the course.
The best feature of the website is by far the interactive art map of the city, which offers a way of searching for works by neighborhood or area of the city. Every piece of public art is flagged on the map. Each flag links to detailed information on the work and artist.
This Saturday, with the help of Art Public Montréal, I mapped out my own tour and explored the neighborhood of Rosemont - La Petite-Patrie through its public art. Planning the tour could not have been easier. On the website map I selected ‘Rosemont - La Petite-Patrie’, zoomed into the area that I wanted to visit (Little Italy) and printed the page. I quickly jotted down some basic information on the works located on my map and was on my way.
First stop: “Les Balançoires” by Annie Hamel. 2016. Acrylic paints. This bright painting of two children on swings is appropriately situated in a playground. The white silhouettes ー emboldened by the snow-covered ground and cloudy sky ー popped quite beautifully against the red, orange, blue and green of the backdrop ー which also happen to be the colors of the playground equipment.
Second stop: “Cerf-Volant” by Josée Dubeau. 2014. Aluminum and electrostatic painting. This sculpture hangs in the community center of Parc de Gaspé. The depiction of a child’s toy, constructed from 325 vibrant, primary colored equilateral triangles complements “Les Balançoires”, just two short blocks away.
Third stop: Paintings hanging from the fence on the outer edge of Parc de Gaspé. After seeing “Cerf-Volant”, I walked across the park, past a hockey game on a small ice-rink and towards my next stop. I was delighted to discover that small paintings on blocks of wood were hanging on the fence bordering the eastern side of the park.
Fourth stop: A surprise mural across the way.
Fifth stop: “Untitled” by A’Shop. 2014. Spray paint. A’Shop is an art collective that specializes in public art and murals. The different styles of each artist apparent in this work make it very suitable for an alleyway shared by the many members of a community.
Sixth stop: “Untitled” by Zema. 2014. Spray paint. The birds in Zema’s painting are brought to life as they appear to have nested against the building in this ruelle-verte.
Seventh stop: “Intérieurs” by Rafael Sottolichio. 2014. Acrylic latex. This comment on public spaces leaves you longing to join the figures and walk into the image. I couldn’t’ help but think about how incredible it must look against a bright, blue sky.
Eighth stop: “Untitled” by MC Baldassari. 2015. Spray paint. At this stop I began to wonder whether Montréal muralists purposefully employ warm colors to duel against the dull, grey winters.
Ninth stop: Surprise mural on Rue Bélanger. Located in a Ruelle Magique, this mural needs some upkeep.
Tenth stop: “La Mort de Dante” by Carlo Balboni. 1921. Granite. Without knowing it, I had briefly left Little Italy. Moments after walking past a sign marking my re-entrance into the area, I came upon the oldest work in my circuit. A tribute to the heritage of Little Italy, “La Mort de Dante” has the poet in laurels, holding his Divine Comedy.
Eleventh stop: A surprise mural on the southern edge of the Parc Dante. I can’t figure this one out. Please get in touch if you have any ideas.
Aside from the painfully-low temperatures, the art tour of Rosemont was a definite success. I discovered residential streets and little shops I had never seen before, walked down a number of ruelles-vertes and even saw art that wasn’t documented on my map. Neither my fingers nor my camera (phone) agreed with the cold, but I know I will definitely give Art Public Montréal a look before travelling to new neighborhoods in the warmer Montréal months.
Special thanks to Joe for braving the cold with me.