Créer des ponts rejuvenates Montréal’s abandoned businesses

Créer des ponts rejuvenates Montréal’s abandoned businesses
Artificial Nostalgia by Hearyung Kim; courtesy of Art Souterrain.
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The need for space is always keenly felt in artistic communities, no matter what the current socio-political climate is. With real estate prices still on an ever-bloating trajectory and both the pandemic and apathetic developers causing countless businesses to shutter their doors, the sheer volume of wasted space is staggering. But non-profit organization Art Souterrain is doing what it can to remedy this issue in an inspiring way in the city of Montréal with their new initiative—Créer des ponts.


Running across three months from July 15th to October 15th, Créer des ponts (translating to “building bridge”) is partnering with the city of Montréal to inject liveliness and culture into the slabs of commercial ghost town that have emerged throughout the city. In an effort to combine the efforts of the real estate business and fostering creators, thirty vacant businesses are being transformed into spaces for artistic presentation.


“This large summer deployment is part of a willingness to support young emerging artists,” Art Souterrain explains on the initiative’s mission statement. “To encourage local businesses and revitalize our city center.” It’s a valuable connection to be forged, without a doubt. Those in the arts are more often than not at odds with those who hold deeds and keys, so any form of collaboration that results in an amicable understanding of the value artists bring to urban spaces is a positive.


Cut Pollinators, Our Hosts by Maude Poirier Felx; courtesy of Art Souterrain.


Créer des ponts has laid out a “pathway” across a map of Montréal to guide potential viewers through the refurbished locales. Besides the once vacant businesses, there will also be ten glass display cubes posted along the route which will display contemporary works for the public. The vast majority of the locations are concentrated in the downtown core, unsurprisingly. This puts these pop-ups in high-traffic pedestrian areas where the average person can easily feel the effect of these rejuvenated storefronts—which coincides with Art Souterrain’s modus operandi of making fine arts accessible and understood.


The less spaces to show art, the less art is seen. Even if the internet has made the arts more available than ever, there’s still a distinct difference between the consumption of digital content and having art woven into our environments. An endless march of properties being purchased only to be left gutted and bleak serves nobody in any community. Through Créer des ponts, Art Souterrain is pushing for an endlessly valuable aspect of both city development and art exhibition that one would hope would be a given by now. To let art be in the world, to be with the people, and to have somewhere to be seen.