By Naya Joseph
This past August, I took my first-ever solo trip to Montréal for five days. I did not know what to expect; those whom I knew spoke highly of its rich, French culture—“Like a slice of Europe in North America,” one said. What I found was a city rich with culture—cuisine, visual art, music, and dance.
Every day, I spent a little bit of time riding the metro to Place des Arts. An initiative started by Mayor Jean Drapeau, Place des Arts is a cultural and artistic playground—the largest in Canada. Sides of buildings covered in large murals, home to the Musée d’Art Contemporain and six performance halls, and a shopping mall featuring live musical performances and a daily light show in the water fountain—Place des Arts was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Immediately upon exiting the train station, there was a long boulevard that was inaccessible to cars. Pedestrians frequented the various ice cream parlors and poutine shops, blasted jazz music or lo-fi hip-hop from their speakers, and performers set up in the middle of the esplanade gathering large crowds of passersby as they danced, sang, performed magic tricks, etc.
I was mesmerized by how so many local artists flocked to the heart of downtown to share their talent with natives and tourists. Moreover, I was amazed that such a space existed—that professionals and amateurs alike could showcase their unique, creative talents in a space where it was appreciated and admired. In a time when underfunded public schools are eliminating creative arts programs, R&B music and artists go unnoticed or under appreciated, and movie theater attendance is on the decline, it was amazing to be reminded that art is still important and impactful—it contributes beauty to the world, speaks for those who do not have the words, and the variety of our art is part of what differentiates us from other life forms on Earth—it makes us human. I hope we all remember to make a place for art; maybe not in the streets our local cities, but at the very least in our minds and hearts.