Finding Urban Nature exhibit showcases unique green spaces in Montreal

The exhibition co-hosted by Concordia, McGill, and urbaNature celebrates the biodiversity and community spaces found in areas around the city.

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, groups and individuals came together to celebrate the urban nature spaces in Montreal. The one-day exhibition focused on four urban nature spaces and dived into their histories, uses, and biodiversity. 

The event was coordinated by Ashley Spanier-Levasseur, a Concordia student in the Loyola College of Sustainability and Diversity, in conjunction with McGill and urbaNature Education. 

This exhibition drew attention to the uniqueness of spaces like Champ des Possibles, which is an abandoned-rail-house-turned-communal-green-space in Rosemont. Other spaces acknowledged in the exhibition included Falaise St-Jacques (a stretch of forested cliff located south of NDG), Parc-Nature MHM (a large site made up of wetlands, meadows, and woodlands in Hochelaga), and Technoparc Montreal (a high-tech industrial park near the Montreal-Trudeau airport).

“They are not parks. They are not these manicured, perfectly maintained spaces where you can have baseball diamonds—they are nature,” said Morgan.

Concordia political science professor Amy Poteete had conducted research studying the use of these spaces and their environmental and ecological impacts. Maps charting the community use of green spaces, graphs comparing the daily temperatures inside and outside of them, and infographics about the uses and histories of the spaces were displayed.

The artistic contributions to the exhibit were made from various communities and independent artists. The contributions included; wish flags from a summer camp in NDG, photography from community members, and videographic ‘portraits’ of the urban nature spaces from photographer KWP Morgan.

Interactive elements like audio recordings of birdsong and bat calls were set up around the exhibition for attendees to listen to with headphones, and 360 degree video portraits of the four spaces were projected on a screen in the centre of the room. Video navigation was controlled by a mouse on a podium in the middle of the room, and those involved with the creation of the exhibit encouraged attendees to use the mouse to “look around” the spaces. 

One hope of the exhibit was to bring awareness regarding these spaces to those who may not know they exist. 

“Surprisingly not everyone knows that these places exist,” said Morgan. “To a degree [our hope for this] was that we want people to know these spaces exist, and also we want people to know that these spaces are important.”

Another hope was to bring together a mix of organizations and individuals who worked in similar contexts around urban nature. 

“We wanted to not leave out the community partners who have been working, protecting these spaces and advocating for the continued community uses of these spaces for many years before Concordia got involved,” said Spanier-Levasseur about the importance of collaboration with and between the different organizations and individuals who contributed to the exhibit.

Poteete added, “We know that the community groups are also producing knowledge. They know their sites better than anybody else does and they have a lot of knowledge about the history of their spaces.”

The exhibition ran from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., with a Q&A panel held at 4:00 p.m. A turnout of over 100 people was reported, as a steady stream of attendees had been exploring the exhibit.

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