THE MONTREAL ARTS CENTRE: A NEW KIND OF “INCUBATOR”

Par Alan Hustak le 13 août 2013

Business discipline and artistic creativity produce unique marriage

In business, the word “incubator” has become synonymous with investors taking a chance on hi-tech start-ups. The partnerships have worked so well they have been responsible for some of the most important technological advances. It’s rarely been tried in the art world. Now Montreal is home to one of these unique experiments.

IMG_0437.JPGIf you were to head down to Griffintown to the corner of William and des Seigneurs you might be surprised at what you’ll find. The old Caledonia Iron Works foundry on the south side of the street has been converted into the Montreal Art Centre and Art School.  The gentrification of the old industrial neighbourhood began about two years ago when realtor ,art patron and artist himself, Allan Diamond, acquired the two adjoining Victorian warehouses built by John McDougall and converted the 22,500 square feet into exhibition galleries, a reference library, and art school. He began renting out studio space to  artists such as Barry Macpherson, Ron Jones, Barbara Tolloczko, James Nurse, Isreal Tsveygenbaum, Karen Colville and Laura Holman.  All but 17 of the 80 incubating artists cubicles have been rented. The complex also houses a stairwell exhibition of reproductions of great masters, a small museum that acknowledges the history of the location, and a comfortable wood-paneled  lounge for special events where you can chat with the artists about their works. It even has  a Tai Chi instructor.

IMG_0438.JPG  “I was looking for cheap space. I got the building before everything around it started to take off,” says Diamond, who wanted to devote more time to his own painting, which has been a hobby of his for the past 25 years.  “Now there are thousands of condo units going up around here. We are just starting to expand and realize our potential.” 

Inspired by the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Va., the complex is designed for artists who want freedom to create, not freedom from work. They just need freedom from want. The creators, who rent space for $200 a month, are engage in a wide variety of disciplines, including painting, photography, jewelry and stained glass making, printmaking and sculpture. 

What is neat about the studios is that visitors can get to meet the artists and talk to them about their creative process.  The goal, says Diamond, is not only facilitate the making of art, but to make art more accessible and affordable to buyers. “It is a new approach to marketing,” he says. “The very best way to promote yourself as an artist is to exhibit, and we give our artists a place to start, a place where their art can be shown and be seen and appreciated by a greater number of potential buyers.” 

The centre also has film screenings, lectures and art workshops

IMG_0446.jpg“It’s a fun place,” says one of the tenants, former McGill professor Ron Jones, turned artist, “It’s a community of like-minded people, an arts club and commune where you can  exchange ideas with the most interesting people.”  The Centre’s reach has gone beyond Montreal. It recently hosted a gala evening celebrating over 40 artists most of them from outside of Canada.

The Montreal Art Centre in Griffintown is at 1844 Rue William. For information on exhibitions. Member artists, and upcoming events visit montrealartscentre.com or call 514-667-2270.

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