Les Encans de la quarantaine: from small project to big success

A collective shows how beneficial it is to support local artists

It all started as a small initiative to provide local artists with a source of income during the pandemic. Now, les Encans de la quarantaine has become something bigger. The outcome was unexpected.

Sara A. Tremblay, a Concordia alumna who graduated in Photography in 2014, launched the initiative in late March. The initiative is a virtual platform that promotes works from Canadian-based artists and offers a source of income to them by connecting them to potential buyers. When the project began, Tremblay looked for artists that wished to sell their artwork; it instantly became a success. Tremblay has received many artworks since the opening of the collective. Many came from artists attending universities, like Pardiss Amerian, an Iranian-Canadian visual artist who is currently completing her Master’s in Fine Arts at Concordia.

“I was constantly overwhelmed by the size of the collective. It became bigger than I thought,” Tremblay said.

Although Tremblay resides in the Eastern Townships, she was able to connect with Montreal’s artistic community easily online. Since the beginning, Tremblay has been working on the collective remotely with other members that reside in Montreal.

“It’s great to be able to work with the artistic community of Montreal and not live in the city,” continued Tremblay.

Little by little, Tremblay found people who would be willing to help her manage the collective. Tasks include drafting press releases, helping conceptualize the initiative, and managing the collective’s Facebook page and Instagram account. At first, applications were sent to her personal Facebook account. Instead, she redirected applicants to an email linked to the collective.

Over the course of the summer, lots of work started to pile up on Tremblay’s desk. In response to the collective’s growth, Tremblay decided to register the collective as a non-profit organization. She has an advisory committee from the artistic community to guide her with grant applications, and is in the process of creating an administrative council.

Since July 13, the collective has asked for a contribution of between $20 and $30 from both artists and buyers after each time a piece is sold to help fund the collective.

“That gives us a little money,” Tremblay  said. “It’s not much for now, but eventually we will be raising funds.”

As a result of the first call for applications, 425 artworks were received, of which 275 were selected. The collective took up the challenge of selling 96 per cent of the works chosen from the first callout. Most artists have many artworks, which gives them a chance to reach a wider audience.

For the second call for artworks, Tremblay wants to attract more of an audience of seasoned collectors, and will do so by increasing the quality and maintaining a tighter selection of works.

“The success that the initiative has generated proves that it was necessary to distribute, for free, the work of artists who are not represented by art galleries,” said Tremblay. “At first, we did present the work of artists that were already represented, but we had to clarify our mandate to not interfere with art galleries. Now, we represent independent artists that can be spotted by galleries.”

Tremblay will be teaching an introductory digital photography course at the University of Sherbrooke this fall and will participate in an online residency project called 3 fois 3 from le Centre d’exposition de l’Université de Montréal on Instagram. In order to stabilize her other projects, she has delegated some of the collective to other members of the team.

“My purpose is to promote artists that don’t yet have a platform. This can be a first step for them,” she said. “The people who follow us on social media have an interest in discovering new talents. Not all of the artists are new in showing their artworks, but they may not be represented by an art gallery. My team and I circulate art and that’s my goal.”

Les Encans de la quarantaine’s second call for applications is open until Wednesday, Sept. 30.


Photo credit: Pardiss Amerian

Student Life

Broken Pencil: Tales from the stall walls

Sneak a peek inside ConU’s washroom stall graffiti subculture

Confession: reading the messages and looking at the rushed art on the stalls in the women’s washrooms across campus is a guilty pleasure of mine—at least it used to be. A little investigative journalism venture in preparation for this article led me to realize how much of the graffiti I’ve been reading since first year has been covered up. Most of the current comments—or “tags,” if you will—I’ve found are in the women’s washrooms on the ground floors of the LB and EV buildings, plus a single, lonely and forgotten anti-Trump doodle in the H building.

First off, to the pair who, likely separately, tag-team wrote: “In a society that profits from your self doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act … and loving yourself is a REVOLUTION,” in the first stall on the left side of the EV building washroom: thank you. And to whoever wrote: “❤️❤️❤️❤️for the [person] reading this” in the third stall of the LB washroom: ❤️for you too.

While some may view these empowering tags as vandalism, for others, they can be that extra push you need to make it through the day. (Think The Handmaid’s Tale when Elisabeth Moss’s character is locked in her bedroom and sees the phrase about perseverance carved into the baseboards of her closet by a previous handmaid—but the struggling student version).

The stalls also house a variety of art, life advice and stickers. In the fifth stall of the LB building washrooms, there are two Sharpie sketches of people—one with longer hair and the other with what appears to be a hijab on; the sketch is headlined with: “Everyone has their own beauty❤️.” The same stall also has a tag that reads “Work is long when you’re wearing a thong.” Found in some stalls are also the thoughts we dare not say aloud. One person writes: “I’m an attention addict, but I don’t show it,” while another person confesses: “I’m constipated.” The mixture of subconscious confessions, with body positive support and comedic anecdotes that all corroborate the nuanced experience of life is raw and refreshing to read.

Many tags have humourous undertones of solidarity, particularly with comments like “BLOODY FEMININITY,” written on the lid of the menstrual product disposal box in the last stall on the right-hand side of the EV building washrooms. “You are enough,” is written in the second stall of the LB building facilities. For me, reading messages like these warms my heart.

When having a bad day, week, month or whatever, reading an honest tag about something similar, a funny anecdote or even just reading that someone else is also not okay, is oddly comforting. The one, unifying theme found in all the stalls is the need for solidarity and support between women, female-identifying, and non-binary people. Whoever wrote: “To all my sisters, we need to love each other and be there. Stop bitchin’,” in the second stall of the LB building washrooms—you know what’s up.

Note: The Concordian recognizes that the graffiti and art mentioned in this article likely violate vandalism policies at Concordia University, and we are by no means encouraging anyone to go out and start attacking washroom stalls with writing utensils (wink).

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda.

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