Check your Facebook right now: odds are there’s at least one art event gathering virtual dust and sitting neglected in your inbox, destined for a tentative “Maybe attending.”
Montreal’s streets and galleries testify to its worldwide reputation as a city of the arts, so why do so many students, both artists and spectators, feel disconnected from the local scene?
AJ Korkidakis, co-founder of CEASE, a Montreal-based arts collective running its second installation of street art, sculpture, and installation pieces, chalks the malaise up to two factors: scene and cents.
“We started CEASE on the premise that there are so many amazing artists in the city and not enough opportunities for them to get exposure,” explained Korkidakis, a Concordia communications graduate.
“Our motto is ‘Art is for Everyone,’ and I really think it’s a shame that not everyone can experience the art scene as much as they’d like,” he continued. “For artists, it can be very expensive to host your own show in the cityâ€”imagine putting up $2,000 a night for one vernissage. And for people who are interested in the arts scene but don’t know anyone personally, it can be intimidating to attend an event.”
A collaboration between street art groups En Masse, DÃ‰COVER Magazine, MASSIVart, Papirmasse and Under Pressure, CEASE IT 2 aims to offer Montrealers a free and interactive arts experience that is accessible, innovative, and fun.
Held in Espace Peint Frais, a formerly-abandoned loft on Ste-Catherine whose ownersâ€”the Church of Scientologyâ€”can’t currently put up the funds to revamp the space, the exhibit asked artists to work with the spacious rooms and architectural features to create an installation that challenges both artists and spectators.
“This exhibit takes illustrators and painters out of their element and makes them do installation-based pieces, so visitors want to walk behind them and take the pieces in from all angles,” said Antoine Tavaglione, a Montreal pop artist whose ’40s and ’50s-inspired cartoon aesthetic blends political commentary and Italian cultural heritage.
His installation LATTE ROSSO on the second floor fills an empty corner with a surreal collection of black and white cartoon stand-ups, all drenched in his signature white milk, symbolizing the vital health of which cultures that live under dictatorial rule are robbed.
Tavaglione, who currently exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts with street art group En Masse, said that public response to his installation at CEASE IT 2 is proof that Korkidakis’ approach is working.
“I’m relatively new to the arts scene in Montreal,” he explained, “and while it’s great to do something in the Museum of Fine Arts, something like CEASE is obviously more relaxedâ€”I got to talk to the people who were looking at my art.’’
“The kind of freedom we offer allows people to open up their creativity a little more,” explained Korkidakis. “I mean, they can nail on the walls, they can paint on the moulding. This really takes art off the canvas and out of the museum and makes it into something new. The building we have lends itself to street art very well, because it’s large and spacious and totally unlike any other exhibition space in the city.”
Korkidakis, a filmmaker himself, hosted a light-drawing installation which encouraged other artists as well as spectators to participate.
“Some people looked alarmed, like they were thinking: ‘I’m at an opening, I’m not supposed to be touching things,’” he laughed, “but others were really into it. They were controlling video clips and using long-exposure to make these drawings, and not every gallery can offer you that kind of interaction.”
Korkidakis says attendance at CEASE IT 2 has been varied, and unexpectedly so.
“We’ve had a lot of students and people in the artistic community,” he said, “but also lots of people walking in off the street who see this space and want to know what it’s about. Lots of older people have loved it, and what we have is not the kind of art that people can access on their own.”
A visit to the exhibit confirms the public’s enthusiastic response. Eric Allain, who visited CEASE IT 2 last Friday, praised both the organizers and the art.
“I was just walking outside and discovered this space, and I’m glad I did,” Allain enthused. “I love street art and graffiti, and this is a great way for young artists to get exposure, and for the public to enjoy all they have to offer.”
CEASE IT 2 runs until Nov. 26 at Espace Peint Frais (180 Ste-Catherine E.) Admission is free. For more information, see www.cease.it.