Grab a pint and a paint brush

Concordi’ART hosts an evening of artistic exploration in collaboration with Paint Nite Montreal

Rather than spend a typical night out at a bar, a group of 20 Concordia students participated in an evening of drinking and painting hosted by Concordi’ART, in collaboration with Paint Nite Montreal, at Peel Pub on March 7.

According to Nathalie Sjarova, the vice-president external of Concordi’ART, the aim of the club is to create a community of people who enjoy both art and business. Concordi’ART’s motto is “building bridges between business and art.”

Alizé Honen-Delmar, the club’s president who is currently on exchange in Australia, created Concordi’ART in February 2017. Sjarova, a marketing student, jumped at the opportunity to be part of the executive team when she saw a post on Facebook seeking candidates.

Concordi’ART aims to encourage and help connect two typically dichotomous worlds. “Art students can learn a lot from business students, but also business students can learn a lot from art students,” Sjarova said. “It’s a very huge asset to be creative in [the business] environment, and at the end of the day, artists are entrepreneurs.”

Concordi’ART executives from left: Céline Salibi, Diana Jane Tran, Yonathan Chu, Sarah Morstad, Vincent Letarte and Nathalie Sjarova. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Last week’s Paint Nite was an opportunity to bring people together to make art. Jessica Di Giacomo and Daniel Torchinsky, the co-producers of Paint Nite Montreal, led the painting tutorial.

A plate with large drops of paint in the primary colours—blue, yellow, red—as well as black and white, four paint brushes and a nicely rolled up apron were set up next to each white canvas sitting on a mini easel.

The goal for everyone was to recreate a painting that illustrated a close-up of an owl’s face. The first step was to outline the eyes with bright yellow and orange, and outline the beak with intimidating and unforgiving black.

Slowly but surely, the canvases went from white to covered in different self-made shades of green and blue.

With “drink-and-dry breaks” between each of the three layers of paint, participants were able to socialize, encourage one another and take a look at all the owls being created.

Paint Nites combine art and drinks for an evening of creativity and socializing. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

The final layer of paint required short brush strokes dipped in shades of blue, green and white to create a feather-like texture.

Despite all participants following the same steps and recreating the same painting, there was still room to express creativity. Some participants preferred to blend out the feathers, while others had a distinct ombré effect, going from light green to dark blue. Each eye varied in size from canvas to canvas, and one participant, Nathan Marrache, decided to paint Angry Bird-like eyes.

“It’s amazing how everyone’s painting looks so different even though it’s supposed to be the same,” said Marrache after he looked at everyone’s final paintings.

Paint Nite hosts events almost every day at various venues. More information can be found on their website: Further information about Concordi’ART and any upcoming events can be found on its Facebook page.

Photos by Alex Hutchins

Student Life

Laughing at myself with strangers

One Concordian’s experience participating in Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids

Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids (GRTTWaK) hosted their fifth Montreal show on Nov. 20 at La Sala Rossa.

On an elevated stage, with bright lights making it virtually impossible to see the audience before me, I shared childhood writings, from elementary school assignments to angsty teenage diary entries, for a night of comedy and emotion.

Katerina Gang reading things she wrote as a kid. Photo by Jenna Misener

GRTTWaK is a travelling, open-mic show hosted by Dan Misener. Misener and his wife, Jenna Misener, have traveled across Canada since 2007, bringing the show to Canadian communities big and small, where locals sign up to read their childhood writing. Misener hosts about 30 shows per year.

The Miseners came up with the concept in 2006, after returning home for the holidays. “We rummaged through a bunch of old boxes that my wife had stored at her parents house. In one of those boxes was her diary from when she was 13 years old,” said Misener.

“We spent a lot of that Christmas reading this thing out loud to each other and laughing and crying, and it was just this lovely perspective that I had never seen before in my wife,” said Misener. “It struck us that lots of people probably have this kind of material.”

Misener records each reading for the show’s eponymous podcast, which is available online. A few readings from each show make it onto the podcast, which is released every second Monday.

The podcast started in 2008, and has evolved as more voices participate—it is downloaded about 250,000 times a month. “Quite frequently, I get notes from listeners who heard a reading on the podcast that really resonated with them and really spoke to their experience,” said Misener. “And that’s really gratifying.”

Each show opens with Misener reading his own childhood writings. “Nobody wants to go first, so I always go first,” said Misener, who shared an elementary school journal entry about “root bear flats” during the latest show.

As a long-time fan of the podcast and the concept, I decided to share my own writing at the latest event on Nov. 20.

After attending a GRTTWaK event in January 2016, I went home and searched through my old writing. I spent hours reading and laughing at old poems, assignments and diary entries. I put some pieces aside in anticipation of GRTTWaK’s next event.

Selecting writings really allowed me to reflect on how I’ve changed since my pre-teen years. Some of the stuff I found was funny and light-hearted, but some of it was downright embarrassing. I knew I wanted to share it, but I initially felt very unsure.

“I think some people are apprehensive about the idea of sharing personal or private stuff that they’re maybe not super proud of—the parts of themselves that they like to keep hidden or the parts of themselves that aren’t on public display,” said Misener. “But I think there’s a lot of power in that.”

I shared one poem I wrote when I was 10, which featured lines like “I worry what the world will become with racism and terrorism” and “I cry at the knowledge of death.” I found it quite dramatic and funny for a 10-year-old. I also shared a diary entry I wrote when I was 12 about lost love, being “emo” and President George W. Bush.

“It can be really kind of scary,” said Misener. “We’re asking people to get up on stage and be open and honest and vulnerable in front of a crowd full of people that they don’t know.”

Getting up on that stage was an amazing feeling in that, once I started reading, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was shocked at how easy it was to open up to a group of strangers. With each line or phrase, I could feel the warmth emanating from the crowd. It was really refreshing, and almost therapeutic, to laugh at myself with strangers.

Another participant, Kristen Witczak, read several journal entries about Shakespeare and the 1994 referendum from her elementary school journal. “When I stumbled on my grade five English journals, I just couldn’t stop laughing and I thought, ‘This is kind of unique,’” said Witczak.

“Reading to the audience was a blast. It was a hugely supportive crowd and, as soon as they started laughing, I felt completely relaxed and just enjoyed the moment,” said Witczak. “I’ve been to a GRTTWaK event before and I think they’re a fantastic evening spent with a warm, kind community of strangers.”

“Our show is a show where the audience is already on your side,” said Misener. “When people get up on stage and they see the warmth in the room and they see the authenticity of the readers who share their writing, they warm up to the idea a little bit.”

Going forward, Misener hopes to incorporate a visual element to the show and create a web series to accompany the podcast. There’s no end in sight for the show, as Misener said he’s going to keep doing it so long as people are willing to share.

Student Life

Making city living responsible living

University of the Streets Café hosted a talk on urban health, environment and social problems

University of the Streets Café held a discussion on the impacts of city living for Montrealers, and invited attendees to share their thoughts, experiences and ideas about how to improve all aspects of city living.

“We tend to forget that we live in the city at the cost of someone else,” said Baijayanta Mukhopadhyay, a guest speaker for the bilingual conversation, which took place at Montreal’s downtown YMCA on Oct. 10. Mukhopadhyay is a family doctor in Northern Ontario, a volunteer physician with Médecins du Monde Montreal and the co-coordinator of the Canadian chapter of the People’s Health.

Mukhopadhyay said that people tend to believe that cities like Montreal are self-sustainable urban organisms.  However, he said most resources come from outside the city, and cities may not actually be the healthiest places to live. “Cities are not the centre of our society,” he said.

For example, he explained that a lot of food travels a long way to get to cities, and as a result, it is often more processed than the food that gets shipped to rural or suburban areas.

Other factors, such as housing and public transit infrastructure in cities, can be damaging to physical health and have major influence on people’s well-being, said Mukhopadhyay.  These factors can result in sickness, such as asthma in kids.

Robyn Maynard, a Montreal-based activist, educator and writer, addressed the social and economic inequalities suffered by communities within Montreal every day. Maynard’s research focuses on gender and race issues, and her fieldwork experience includes street work within the disadvantaged communities of Montreal.  She said the city can be a discriminating place for minorities, and the at-risk population, which includes homeless people, drug addicts and sex workers. She noted that part of the population is often denied security.

She and Mukhopadhyay agreed what people think makes a city healthy may actually make it unhealthy.

Attendees discussed who is responsible for addressing these problems, and brainstormed solutions for making the city a better, healthier and safer place to live.

One of the proposed solutions was for people to attend their neighbourhood and city council meetings. Attendees discussed this solution as a good starting point for getting involved in the conversation of city health and security, and opposing elitist urban planning.

Abby Lippman, the event moderator, discussed violence and its toxic effects on Montreal and other cities. Lippman is an associate researcher at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute and a long-time feminist activist.

“I think about violence as what the system is doing to people. I think the system is being violent by taking money, by taking health away, by putting up lousy housing,” she said.  She suggested that if society and authorities worked on bettering people’s health, then violence control would naturally occur.

The next University of the Streets Café conversation will take place on Oct. 27 at Aux Deux Marie, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aux Deux Maries is located at 4329 St-Denis St. The conversation will explore the topic of rebuilding communities.

Graphic by Thom Bell

Student Life

Over one hundred days as an Al Qaeda prisoner

Former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations Robert Fowler discusses his “season in hell”

Canada’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Robert Fowler, spoke about his experience as a prisoner of the Al Qaeda terrorist group at Concordia’s DB Clarke theatre on Sept. 25.

In his presentation, “Sleeping with Al Qaeda,” Fowler discussed his 130-day experience of horror, as well as his thoughts on curbing radicalism, terrorism and violence in the regions of Africa where he was captured.

It was December 2008. Fowler, along with his colleague Louis Guay, were chosen by the United Nations’ secretary general to help defuse the tense political situation in Niger during a citizen-led rebellion against the government. Following a meeting with Niger’s president, Fowler and Guay were ambushed and captured by a group of radical terrorists, and smuggled into Mali. It was the start of what Fowler called “a season in hell.”  Fowler would later go on to publish a book about this experience in 2011, which he titled Season In Hell: My 130 Days in the Sahara with Al Qaeda.

Fowler explained that he and Guay were considered prisoners of war, and were treated as such. They were hated.  “Every moment was filled with fear,” said Fowler.

The men who captured Fowler and Guay were militant Salafist terrorists—conservative extreme radicalists who believe in violent jihadism. “[They] hated everything we stand for… our most cherished concepts of liberty, democracy, equality and free will,” said Fowler. “They were the most focused, most selfless, most single-minded and least horny group of young men I have ever encountered.”

In the depths of the Sahara Desert, Fowler experienced first-hand the mentality of these violent, extreme radicals. “The whole issue of free will is wrought with horror for them … In their view, nothing is man’s choice—it’s God’s choice … They wanted paradise. It didn’t matter when. If they died in jihad, it would be theirs.”

Fowler described a time during his imprisonment when he was assigned to a small area—the foot of a tree in the middle of a field, with a single guard keeping watch. The man was clearly upset—he was gnashing his teeth, pacing and mumbling angrily to himself. Eventually, the man thrust his gun in Fowler’s face and told him: “Just kill me, I want to go to paradise!”

Photo by Ana Hernandez

After 130 days, the Malian and Canadian governments finally negotiated Fowler and Guay’s release. The “season in hell” came to an end, and Fowler said the experience convinced him these jihadists could not be reasoned with.

Despite this, Fowler doesn’t think all-out military action is the solution. “It is about diminishing the jihadi threat to the point the Africans can handle it. It is not about turning Niger into Alberta,” said Fowler. He cited the violence and poverty that continues to this day in areas like Mali and Niger as an example of how little Canada and the rest of the western world have done to help. “The Canadian senate published a paper called ‘Forty Years of Failure’ because we haven’t fixed Africa,” he said.

Press photo.

Fowler said he believes that the solution to the problems in Africa is to keep funding and supporting UN peacekeeping missions in areas where jihadism continues to cause problems. Fowler gave the example of the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The mission consists of about 15,000 military personnel with a current budget of just under $1 billion. Rather than attacking with all-out force, MINUSMA carries out security-related tasks and helps defuse violent situations, while protecting and promoting human rights in Mali.

While Fowler has high hopes for programs like MINUSMA, he said he realizes that the conditions in places like Mali and Niger have not improved significantly since the time of his imprisonment.  He recalled a time in the 60s, after he finished college, when nearly every one of his friends had traveled to culturally diverse countries like Niger. Nowadays, Fowler said, “it’s just too damn dangerous” for people to explore many parts of Africa.

Fowler’s discussion was the first in a series of speeches and panels organized by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, titled “Assaulting Cultural Heritage: ISIS’s Fight to Destroy Diversity in Iraq and Syria.”  The series was held at Concordia on Sunday, Sept. 25 and Monday, Sept. 26.

Student Life

Keeping it sultry with Lady Josephine

An open house, the burlesque way: chair stripteases, inner sexiness and tease 101

On Aug. 29, L’Académie Arabesque Burlesque invited newcomers to discover, learn and practice burlesque performance.

Approximately 20 guests, comprised mostly of women, attended the event at the Wiggle Room, a go-to spot for Burlesque nights on Boulevard Saint-Laurent. The event took place in a large, dimly lit room that serves as a bar when classes aren’t taking place. Music played, and high-key lighting drew the eye to the room’s pièce de résistance: the stage. Dark leather couches, brick walls, framed pictures of dancers and large, dramatic curtains gave the space a vintage feel.

Lady Josephine is one of the founders of L’Académie Arabesque Burlesque, and was one of the hosts of the open house. She said her vision for the school started when she participated in workshops with her mentor, BonBon Bombay, in early 2015.

“This is our second year teaching here at the Wiggle Room,” she said. “It started out with workshops, and now I’m the director. There are also other teachers who give classes, workshops and coaching.”

The two-hour evening session was divided into five categories: tease 101, chair striptease, burlesque fitness, theatre exercises and dance choreography. Lady Josephine was accompanied at this event by Jessica Rae, another teacher at the school.

The evening started off with Lady Josephine trying to bring out participants’ inner sexiness. The guests formed a circle, closed their eyes and had to imagine themselves doing something “sexy” in public. They then had to perform that scenario for another guest.

When asked to define the word burlesque and what it meant to her, Lady Josephine described it as a “theatrical striptease”.

“[Burlesque is] stripping, but funnier—a celebration of nudity and sex as two of life’s best things—and a cry for revolution dressed up in a pretty costume,” said Lady Josephine.

Burlesque bachelorette party Photo by Eloise Huston.

Lady Josephine demonstrated striptease on a chair. Each individual chose to play either the submissive character, which involved sitting on the chair and spreading their legs open, or the dominant character, which involved turning the chair around and sitting. For the last two parts of the evening, Rae also showed participants’ the theatre’s place in a burlesque performance, and how dance and striptease are equally crucial to the performance.

At Arabesque Burlesque, Josephine and the other teachers teach the American burlesque style, which is very theatrical, comedic and costume-oriented. Most of the school’s students are women, but Lady Josephine said Arabesque Burlesque also attracts many men. She explained that it is a way for them to embrace their sensuality.

Lady Josephine encourages anyone interested to come visit one of the three open houses that happen every year, or to try out a few classes. Burlesque, she said, attracts people for a variety of reasons.

“People are either looking for a way to discover self-confidence and explore the sensual side of life, or they’re looking for a fun way to use their body on stage,” she said.

For more information on upcoming open houses and workshops, visit their website.


Fandom at its finest

Thousands gather at Otakuthon to celebrate everything Japanese

A Pokémon trainer faces off against a team rocket duo while an eager crowd snaps some pictures. Pyramid Head stands near the far wall, holding a very confused baby while parents look on amusedly. Three Deadpools form a line and dance a jig while moving through the audience.

Welcome to Otakuthon, the largest anime convention in Quebec and the second largest in Canada. According to their website, this year, over 21,000 people attended the three-day convention, held at le Palais des Congrès from Aug. 5 to 7.

Otakuthon’s focus is on Japanese culture, both modern and traditional. With a full schedule of events, there’s something for everyone to enjoy, from the hard-core anime fan to the casual enthusiast. With live panels, video game demos, film screenings and special guests, it’s impossible to do everything. The events are as diverse as they are numerous. On the Saturday of the convention alone, convention attendees could sit in on panels about Japan tourism, the evolution of the Pokémon games, fanfiction, bento art and sushi modelling, to name a few.

“There’s a comforting sameness to these conventions,” said Chris Cason, voice actor and guest panelist. “The accents might be slightly different, but once you walk through the door you go ‘oh there’s a Goku, there’s a Naruto,’ it feels the same in a kind of unifying way that I really like.”

Montreal’s Otakuthon featured hundreds of cosplayers. Photo by Tiffany Lafleur.

It’s also a chance for fans to meet special guests, including those behind some of the most iconic character voices, such as Cason, who played Mr. Popo in DragonBall Z and Gluttony in Fullmetal Alchemist, or Eric Stuart, who played Brock and James in the original Pokémon series, and Seto Kaiba in Yu-Gi-Oh!

“It’s pretty amazing to feel like I am part of pop culture history. You can ask a six year old what a Pokémon is and you can ask your grandparents and they will know,” said Stuart, who gives panel discussions on voice acting as well as on direction and adaptation. “I’ve been told numerous times by the fans, ‘you’re the voice of my childhood,’ which to me is very humbling and very flattering, and I definitely don’t take that for granted.”

One of the special events on Saturday was a concert by L’Orchestre des Jeux Vidéo, a Montreal-based orchestra dedicated to playing video game soundtracks. During their 90-minute concert, the orchestra paid homage to some of the most iconic franchises. The soundtracks from Sailor Moon, the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and the Pokémon theme songs, both from the anime and the Gameboy games were just some of the scores played by the symphony. As conductor Jonathan Dagenais very accurately pointed out: while music in video games is mostly invisible, it serves to guide you through the emotional journey, reminding you to feel happy, sad, or maybe hint that a boss is in the room.

Over 21,000 people attended Otakuthon this year. Photo by Tiffany Lafleur.

The most remarkable aspect of the convention was the time and meticulous effort some attendees put into their cosplay outfits. Cosplaying, which is the practice of dressing up as a video game, movie or book character, is part of the integral fabric of anime conventions such as Otakuthon.

Face and body paint, prosthetics, and LED lights were just some of the products cosplayers used to recreate beloved characters, either truthful to the original design or with a creative twist. A particularly impressive group of cosplayers dressed as mechanic versions of Pikachu, Blastoise, Venusaur and Charizard from Pokémon. The costumes, which were painted and designed to look like metal plating (think something out of Transformers) included LED lights and voice boxes, so that when they spoke their voice was amplified above the din of the gathering crowd.

For the fans, Otakuthon is a way to express their love of a particular anime or character. For the special guests, it’s a way to see that their work is indeed appreciated.

“When you’re recording, you might as well be doing it in a closet,” said Cason. “Then you come here and it’s the theater aspect to it. It’s really a humbling and rewarding experience.”

Student Life

Montreal High Lights Festival preview

Photo by

While some students are lucky enough to be jetting off to a beach this reading week, the rest of us are stuck here in the snow. Thankfully, the Montreal High Lights Festival and its Nuit Blanche finale are here to keep us warm this winter break.

With a multitude of events and activities happening between Feb. 17 and 27, there is no shortage of things to do. The programming is divided into several categories which tackle everything from performing arts and wining and dining to free outdoor programs, a mixed-media parade and the highly anticipated all-nighter.

This year’s focus is “Celebrating Women,” a theme that has been in the making for a few years but finally came to life with the Festival’s newest sponsor L’Oréal Canada.

“With them as the sponsor, it was a great fit,” said Caroline Johnson, a festival director of programming. “It is very motivating to have this as the program’s focus and it is interesting to show women in very male-dominated fields.”

The event’s focus will be seen most in the Sun Life Financial Performing Arts section as well as the SAQ Wine and Dine Experience, where chefs and artists from all over the world have been invited to share their talents with a Montreal audience.

While some of these events can be a little pricey, many others are completely free. So, rather than letting this reading week skulk away, why not spend it playing tourist in our city?

(Note: Some sections of the festival go on “break” From Monday Feb. 21 to Thursday Feb. 24)

Outdoor activities – daily

One of the Festival’s main attractions is The BMO Bank of Montreal Celebration of Light. This outdoor programming features dozens of free activities in and around the Quays of the Old Port and Old Montreal. With an ice slide, sugar shack, skating rink and ferris wheel to keep you entertained, you may need to return on several occasions.

February 17, 18 and 25 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

February 19 from noon until 11 p.m.

February 20 and 27 from noon until 6 p.m.

February 26 from noon until 3 a.m.

Fireworks – selected dates

At 8 p.m. on Feb. 17, 18, 19, 25 and all night long on the 26, there will be fireworks overlooking the Quays. Not only is watching things explode in the sky fun, but it makes a great backdrop for the free outdoor concerts that will be taking place on the nearby stage.

High Lights event – Feb. 19

After creating this event for the festival’s 10th anniversary, the High Lights Event returns this year starring DJ Misstress Barbara. Best known for her single “I’m Running” featuring Sam Roberts, Misstress Barbara will take participants along with her on a mixed-media parade that runs from the Jacques-Cartier Quay, along the Old Port Promenade to the Café des Éclusiers. This moving event will include multimedia projections onto the surrounding buildings and urban animation.

The parade will kick off at 9 p.m. at the Jacques-Cartier Quay

Festival lunch menus – daily

While a big portion of the festival is dedicated to the culinary excellence of visiting chefs, most meals are out of reach of a student budget. However, there are several restaurants offering lunch menus for $12.95 that offer you the fine dining experience without the added cost. If you are willing to dish out a few extra dollars, you can head online to where you can search by budget to find a restaurant.

Restaurants participating in the lunch menus are Tasca, Stromboli, Rumi, Prato Pizzeria et Café, Mogador, La Khaïma, Kashmir and Byblos le Petit Café. For more information about their chefs and locations,


Nuit Blanche – Feb. 26

Probably the most anticipated evening of the entire festival is Nuit Blanche, a night filled with visual arts, dance, exhibitions, cinema, music, theatre sports and more. One of the biggest draws is that most of these activities are not only completely free but also have extended hours. The events are not confined to Old Montreal and the Quays of the Old Port but are spread across the downtown area, the Quartier des spectacles, the Plateau-Mont-Royal, the Mile End and the Pôle Maisonneuve. For a list of programs head to and click the blue tab.

With so much to see and so little time, the festival has released a smartphone app on their website that you can download for free so that you can stay connected with what is going on.

You can also turn to page 11 for a list of events recommended by our arts editor.

Participants can also take advantage of the free shuttle service that takes you from one quartier to the next. Another bonus is that the metro will stay open all night, but if you are unable to make it home, over two dozen hotels are offering accommodations for half the price. Rooms go on a first-come-first-serve basis and range in price from $67 to $179.

Exit mobile version