Hope is on the horizon for Montreal’s struggling students

A new take on student housing finally puts students first.

Students are struggling to find affordable housing in Montreal, and ever since the tuition hikes and the recent rent increase, they aren’t left with many options.

More affordable housing will soon be available for students who need it. A new non-profit housing project has been announced by l’Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE), a Quebec company that develops student housing. It will be located in the heart of the Griffintown neighborhood, with close proximity to Concordia and McGill University.

This new project aims to create more affordable housing for students. The name attributed to the building is “Le Cardinal,” and will be approximately 18 stories high, housing thousands of students.

According to UTILE’s website, “the 290-unit project meets the growing demand for student housing by creating a living environment that promotes academic success, exchange, and concentration.”

A study conducted by a non-profit organization showed that in the province, 77 per cent of university students are renters. Oftentimes, three or four students are crammed in little apartments because they just cannot afford to pay the rent alone. Many are also unfortunately taken advantage of by their landlords, and this has become increasingly common in the past year.

Craig Sauvé, one of the city councilors of Montreal’s South-West borough, said that many students struggle with inflation and the housing crisis. They have fewer resources to be able to house themselves adequately in good areas with access to public transportation.

Most of the current construction in Griffintown is private housing, built by developers for profit. Even so, because UTILE is a non-profit group, they have different finances. The councilor says having non-profit housing in Griffintown is an opportunity to have two different types of housing in the area.

“When UTILE came to us, at the very early stages of the project, they said they’d like to do something, but it must be at a high density,” Sauvé said.

The city of Montreal and UTILE have both decided that the entirety of Montreal and the Griffintown area would benefit from affordable student housing. Overall, this would help transform the area into a vibrant, diverse, and more sustainable neighborhood.

With gains like that, Sauvé said the council was very receptive to the idea, wanting to correct the past mistakes in terms of affordability in Griffintown. He believes that welcoming more students to the area will also help bring creativity, livelihood, and energy to the neighborhood. The council thinks it’s a big win for Griffintown and Montreal.

However, many residents are not as receptive to the idea. Despite this project being an opportunity to house students in need. Residents are not particularly happy with the new construction plans. They say the 18-story building will be completely out of balance with the neighborhood, sitting twice as high as the residential and historical buildings around it.

The councilors understand their concerns, but this decision was made for the greater good, according to Sauvé.

“When the project was presented to the city council, all 55 members of the committee voted in favor of the UTILE project, it was unanimously supported by all,” Sauvé said. From that point on, the city decided to move forward with the project.

Other Griffintown residents have also spoken out, saying that they very much welcome the project and that it will benefit the neighborhood.

The project is expected to be completed before the start of the school year in 2027.


Interdisciplinary exploration through collective knowledge

Concordia alumna Sandra Volny speaks about her latest project

Concordia graduate Sandra Volny explores concepts of sound and space through forms of collective knowledge and shared skills in her recent project, Sound and Space Research.

Volny is a multidisciplinary artist who splits her time between Paris, France and Montreal. A MFA graduate from Concordia University, she recently completed her PhD at La Sorbonne in Paris this past December. Through her work and research, Volny focuses on exploring concepts of sound and space, as well as their dualities and complexities. This can be seen in her video installation, where does sound go, where does it come from, which was exhibited at Concordia’s FOFA Gallery last fall.

Sound and Space Research continues Volny’s investigation of aural and spatial awareness, with the added component of collective knowledge and concepts of shared intelligence. This is done through the collaboration of interdisciplinary forms and shared learning experiences. Throughout her career, Volny has collaborated with other artists of various disciplines, each participating and bringing their specific expertise to a project and to their collective work.

Where does sound go, where does it come from, which focuses on the use of sound, specifically sonar in small fishing villages in Chile, was a collaboration through Volny’s collective, Triangular Project. Volny and two fellow artists, Florine Leoni and Macarena Ruiz-Tagle, traveled around Chile together and worked in tandem on their specific focuses and artistic practices within the theme of aural and spatial awareness.

Sandra Volny’s where does the sound go, where does it come from (2016). Photo by Richard-Max Tremblay.

It was with Triangular Project that Sound and Space Research first came to fruition in 2017. The project, in collaboration with the Ionion Center for the Arts and Culture in Greece, is an artistic research platform for participants of all expertise and disciplines.

Sound and Space Research is a week-long experience. Each day involves diverse activities and exercises, providing participants with a range of mediums to practice and explore. As part of the focus on shared knowledge, participants practice a wide range of primarily fine arts-based disciplines, including dance, music and visual arts, as well as architecture, wellness professions and anthropology. The project is not focused on participants’ previous accomplishments, but rather encourages and facilitates further growth on a personal and collective level. Participants come from all over the world, and do not require a particular level of education or experience to participate. Last year, however, about 60 per cent of participants were Concordia students or alumni, according to Volny.

Sound and Space Research is a very intense experience, with all of the participants living together, working together and sharing the same spaces. According to Volny, this intensity encourages and creates something special. Participants have to push themselves; each day consists of different activities in different forms and disciplines. This aspect ties into Volny’s own work process, in which she immerses herself in new environments and works in collaboration with other artists, such as her travels in Chile for where does sound go, where does it come from. This was a very intense experience for Volny, because she was meeting new people and exploring different facets of her research in a new environment, while also creating new work born from these experiences and interactions.

At the end of the program, there is a collective exhibition for the participants to showcase work they have created during the week. This final showcase is open to the public, as a component of the partnership with the Ionion Center, to encourage interaction between the artists and the community. This accessibility is important to Volny and for the participants, as it allows further connection with the community.

In mid-May, Sound and Space Research will once again take place in collaboration with the Ionion Center for the Arts and Culture. It will be organized by Volny, alongside sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard, who will work as a mentor in the program.
Sound and Space Research works outside of academic institutions, and a university degree or a specific level of expertise is not required to participate in this project. The project does have connections with academic spaces, though, and Volny said there are plans to expand it internationally, and eventually to Montreal.

More information about the Sound and Space Research project, including how to apply to this year’s session, is available on its website.

Feature photo courtesy of Sandra Volny


Reggies’s board of directors projects $6,000 deficit for end of year

General manager Justin McLellan optimistic despite last year’s larger-than-expected deficit

Reggies’s board of directors predicted a $6,000 deficit for the 2017-18 year at its annual general meeting on Nov. 20.

The Concordia campus bar’s board of directors and roughly 30 of its members gathered to review Reggies’s financial situation and highlight key areas for improvement.

In a presentation of Reggies’s audited financial statements from the year ending on June 30, 2017, outgoing president Rachel Gauthier said the campus bar ended last year with a larger deficit than expected.

“Like a lot of restaurants in Montreal, it takes approximately three to five years to actually get on your feet and have a good profit,” Gauthier said. Reggies is entering its third year of operation since re-opening in 2015 following two years of renovations.

Reggies is also entering its second year as a solidarity co-op. The bar is non-profit and customers can purchase a $5 membership which grants them part ownership and access to board meetings.

“We had to do two things at once: open and then transition into a cooperative,” Gauthier said.

To address the bar’s deficit, Gauthier said the board is implementing a number of cost-cutting initiatives which include choosing recipes that use many of the same ingredients to cut down on food waste and limiting the number of staff working at the same time.

Gauthier said the board should do more to gain new members and encourage member participation.

“The goal is to have as many members as possible because you want people to be involved in the bar, and you want people to want to give their opinions, give their ideas. That’s the point of a cooperative,” she said. According to Gauthier, Reggies has about 500 members.

Incoming president Veronika Rydzewski said Reggies is “not very visible on campus,” so a marketing committee will be created to increase the bar’s presence. She said the marketing campaign will include putting up a banner in the Hall building mezzanine and being more active on social media.

Rydzewski said Reggies was given an advance of about $34,000 from the CSU over the summer. “This was necessary for us to continue and re-open in September,” she said.

Despite last year’s larger-than-expected deficit, Reggies general manager Justin McLellan said that since he became the acting general manager in August, “we’ve increased our sales compared to last year, we’ve been on budget, and we’ve been cutting costs wherever we can.”

McLellan said Reggies is introducing new events, including open-mic and trivia nights. He said Reggies has also entered into partnerships with a number of brands, including Molson and Red Bull, allowing the bar to buy their products at a discounted price.

“We’re working a lot this year to re-vamp Reggies, to really focus on stuff that’s attractive to students,” McLellan said. “We want to showcase students’ talent. We want to be a place that people can come enjoy and hold events at low costs for student associations and make it a fun overall place for people to come and enjoy themselves.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins


engAGE-ing in research to reasses aging

Concordia research centre explores music therapy, community programs, technology

As Concordia’s newest research unit, the engAGE centre has one very specific focus: interdisciplinary, innovative research that aims to improve the lives of elderly people.

Funded by the office of the vice-president of research and graduate studies, the engAGE centre features research from all four of Concordia’s faculties.

According to Shannon Hebblethwaite, the director of the engAGE centre and an associate professor in the department of applied human sciences, the centre specializes in diverse and community-focused research that “aspires to change how we think about aging.”

“EngAGE researchers partner with older people and their communities to address challenges and facilitate opportunities in all realms of life—social, physical, cognitive, emotional and political,” Hebblethwaite said.

She also explained that the research conducted at the centre is separated into four groups: culture, creativity and aging; community, care and connectivity; health, well-being and the lifecourse; and politics, policy and the economics of aging.

Culture, creativity and aging is focused on fine arts approaches to elderly care, including art and music therapies in long-term care facilities and research about how cultural factors influence obituaries and the remembrance of the elderly.

The Concordia engAGE research centre is focused on interdisciplinary research to improve the lives of elderly people. Photo courtesy of Shannon Hebblethwaite

Community, care and connectivity focuses on community programs and improving elder care, while the remaining two groups focus on medicine and policy.

Specific research projects include a study on how technology influences the relationship between older people and their family members, coordinating “Art Hives” (free, public art sessions open to all community members), and research on how music therapy can impact elderly people living with dementia.

Despite the centre only receiving Senate approval in June, engAGE researchers have already developed connections with local, national and international partners.

EngAGE is working with community non-profit organizations, including the advocacy group RECAA (Respecting Elders Communities Against Abuse) and Group Harmonie, a Quebec organization focused on assisting elderly people struggling with addiction and substance abuse.

Additionally, Eric Craven, the project coordinator for the Atwater Library’s Digital Literacy Program, serves as the centre’s community representative on the engAGE governing board.

EngAGE has also conducted research in partnership with a number of hospitals, including Sacré-Cœur Hospital and the Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, and has worked with residents in long-term retirement homes, including Chartwell Retirement Residences, a company with nearly 180 residences across Canada.

According to Hebblethwaite, the centre’s researchers will be focused on a number of events over the next few months. Several engAGE researchers are preparing to present some of their findings next weekend at the annual Canadian Association of Gerontology conference in Winnipeg.

Additionally, the centre will be co-sponsoring Age 3.0: Aging in the City, a public educational event on Nov. 1 that will feature panels and workshops given by the centre’s researchers. EngAGE’s governing board is also planning a symposium during the winter 2018 semester, although a topic and date have yet to be chosen.

Ultimately, Hebblethwaite’s primary focus is the research the engAGE centre facilitates. She said the centre’s main goal for November is to “explore opportunities for new and innovative collaborations among Concordia researchers and community partners.

Photos courtesy of Shannon Hebblethwaite

Student Life

The art of formally asking for money

FASA hosts a workshop on the art of grant proposal writing

Many students will have to write a grant proposal at some point during their careers. Since a grant proposal is essentially a money request, writing one must be done with care.

On Feb. 1, the Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) held a grant writing workshop aimed at arts students, but it was relevant and open to students from all faculties.

The workshop focused on tips for writing the perfect grant application for various projects.

Guest speaker and regular grant writer Amber Berson said grant writing is basically an application process where you ask for money for your work. The PhD student said the first and most important thing to focus on is mastering writing skills.

“Grant writing is an important skill, and it is a wonderful way to fund your art practice. But being a successful grant writer does not make you a successful artist,” she said. Berson said the skill is also useful when writing an artist statement, or, a description of the project, in a cover letter for a job, residency or an open call for submissions to galleries.

Berson said it’s important not to feel discouraged when applying for grants. “Even if you keep applying and you do not get positive results, it should not and does not take away your value as an artist,” she said.

Berson advised students to be clear and precise in their proposals—introduce yourself, and explain what your project is, what you need the money for and why would you or an organization needs to fund this project—why the project is worthwhile.

“You should never try to apply for all of the grants just because you need the money. That is very transparent to the grant agent. In certain cases, it even hurts your eligibility for grants in the future,” said Berson. She said students should contact the FASA agent or another grant agent if they have doubts or questions about the process.

As with any application, deadlines are very important with grant writing. “If you absolutely cannot meet a deadline, contact your agent immediately,” Berson said.

She stressed it’s also crucial to follow the instructions and meet the word limit or minute count for video submissions. While it seems obvious, she said, it isn’t always executed.

Asking for money must be handled with delicacy. Being realistic in terms of budget is an important thing to keep in mind.

“When you apply for a grant, you are applying for a not-for-profit project, which means you should not be making money off the project. Asking and getting [money] are completely different, and you should always ask for what you or your project are worth, and it should be realistic.”

For any student interested in applying for a grant to fund a project, Berson highly recommends visiting the Canadian Artists Representation (CARFAC) website.  This website is a useful tool for helping students with grants and planning their budget. For students interested in finding out about arts funding, the Regroupement des Centre d’Artistes Autogérés du Québec (RCAAQ) and Artère are also great resources that have helped many artists get grants for their art.

For more information or to apply for grants, visit their website.

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