Summer in Montreal is the best time to catch up on our cultural quotas for the year: Time stretches out, schoolwork melts away, cash (hopefully) starts flowing in from summer jobs, and there seems to be a music festival for every weekend of July and August. Outdoor concerts and film screenings are given but no one wants to be trapped in a museum, so it’s easy to forget about the visual arts scene during the summer. However, Montreal has a plethora of opportunities to enjoy the visual arts while still soaking in as much Vitamin D as possible.
The FIMA (Festival International Montreal en Arts) is an outdoor art festival that shuts down a kilometre of Saint-Catherine Street for five whole days in the beginning of July. Considered the “greatest open-air art gallery in eastern Canada,” the festival features 120 established and emerging artists from various backgrounds. What makes it so unique is that the format allows for the general public to interact with the artists firsthand as they stroll from station to station—a process that is not included in standard gallery format. It also features short-film screenings, craft work demos, live painting, and multimedia performances. The entire exhibit is free to the public; all it takes is a quick stroll down Rue Saint Catherine.
Musée de Lachine
One of Montreal’s most intriguing art destinations is the Musée de Lachine, featuring its famous Open Air Museum, a contemporary sculpture garden which spreads along the waterfront. In an open and natural space, the exhibit is subject to changes in the environment—daylight, weather, and season—allowing the visual experience to change hour-to-hour and day-to-day. The exhibit is bicycle accessible, so cyclists need not dismount!
The swings at Place des Arts
It would be impossible to talk about outdoor art without talking about Montreal’s famous swings. Most people have seen them, as part of the Quartier des Spectacles at Place Des Arts, but not everyone knows the story behind them. Created by artists Mouna Andraos and Melissa Mongiat in conjunction with design group Daily Tous Les Jours, the swings are meant to create a collaborative music experience. The sounds and lighting adjust to body weight and movement, creating an individualized experience for all participants—but then harmonize with the other swings—to compose one universalized sound. The concept of the exhibit is meant to represent how community can be found even at the core of a fast-paced urban centre. And as you watch Montrealers and tourists of all ages and backgrounds stop to “play” on the swings, it is clear that it is a truly unifying experience.
Although not quite an art museum, the botanical gardens serves as a summertime feast for the eyes. The colourful display of flora, thematic gardens, and exotic greenhouses are interspersed with sculptures and season. There are virtual exhibits on topics such as “Open Windows on Japanese Gardens” and “Trees Inside and Out.” The botanical gardens are certainly an oasis of beauty and education within a metropolitan setting.
Outdoor art is scattered throughout the city and is cataloged in Bureau d’Art Public, an organization that manages municipal public art, including upwards of 300 works placed in parks, street corners, squares, and municipal buildings. The website lists the entire collection, complete with pictures and artist bios. Whether you are in Montreal all summer or just visiting for a week during Osheaga, don’t forget about the wonderful things that the visual arts scene has to offer.