Vacant retail spaces have multiplied in downtown areas since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the permanent or temporary closure of many businesses. In Montreal, a project aims to build bridges between two industries that were hit hard by the pandemic. The Créer des Ponts (Building Bridges) project is an alliance between the downtown commercial real estate community and Montreal’s vibrant visual arts scene.

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In partnership with the City of Montreal, the initiative offers a creative workshop for three months to 60 emerging artists. Working with the real estate community, 30 vacant businesses in 22 buildings were transformed into spaces for creation, exhibition and meetings.

Each room is shared by two artists, who come to create and meet the public.

The spaces are easily recognizable from the street or from inside indoor shopping malls. At the front of each space, works of art are exhibited and at the back of the room, the public has privileged access to the workshop space where the artists create their work.

Loury says the initiative is “a way of investing in ‘young roots’ in the arts community.
Loury says the initiative is “a way of investing in ‘young roots’ in the arts community.

In addition to the daily creative activities, nearly 25 activities are offered to both the public and artists until October 15.

In addition, 10 glass cubes are deployed across the city presenting works of art to the general public.

Ten glass cubes are deployed across the city presenting works of art to the general public.
Ten glass cubes are deployed across the city presenting works of art to the general public.

“Commercial real estate and contemporary art – two important sectors of Montreal’s economy –  have experienced turbulence linked to the pandemic and Art Souterrain wanted to propose a networking project that could meet both the continual need for vacant premises by emerging artists and support the revitalization of commercial spaces in the Greater Downtown Montreal Area,” says Frédéric Loury, head of the non-profit organization Art Souterrain, which organized the event. Créer des Ponts is the largest-scale project proposed by the organization, known for the Art Souterrain Festival, the Artch Visual Arts Fair and the Vitrine sur l’art initiative.

“The vitality of our downtown area is the key to keeping people coming back in large numbers. Montreal’s relaunch is well underway and projects such as Créer des Ponts are contributing to it. This alliance between the cultural community and that of the real estate industry is exactly what is needed to ensure the diversity that will allow Montreal to recover quickly and differentiate itself on the international scene,” says Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

Loury says the initiative is “a way of investing in ‘young roots’ as it is done regularly, for example in the new technologies sector. Great visual artists have all been looking for experiences like these at the start of their careers, springboards to develop and mature their artistic practice while building relationships with the cultural and business ecosystem. Each artist benefits from support in order to live an enriching experience. The majority of artists participating in the project will have access for the very first time in their career to a place to create where networking activities are planned.”

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