Quebec artists are leaving the city because of the lack of studios

Quebec artists struggle to find studios to create. Twenty years after the golden age of the L’Allier era, they now face a building shortage fueled by real estate speculation and exacerbated by an overly restrictive regulatory regime. Faced with this wilderness, many prefer to leave the capital in favor of the regions or Montreal.

On Tuesday, around thirty artists from all walks of life gathered around the scale of the crisis, the lack of workshops that forced creators and makers to uproot themselves to work. The evening convened by the new Atelier rêve committee brought a consensus: urgent action is needed to prevent the exodus.

Creative spaces are becoming more and more the cost of the market. Consigned to real estate speculation, workshops and artists live in danger of eviction every time a building changes hands.

At the beginning of September, the sale of 17 rue de la Barricade in the Old Port threw about thirty artists on the street. A stone’s throw from the Musée de la Civilization, this century-old building will transform yesterday’s workshops into tomorrow’s tourist accommodation.

The artist Marie-Hélène Parant is one of the ousted. “Every time it’s kicked out, it’s a piece of Quebec’s cultural heritage that gets thrown in the trash,” laments the number of acts he’s volunteered and suffered, no longer counting on ten fingers. his career.

Once again, he must find a new home to house his art—in the city and in an economic context where rents are low and prices are rising. Marie-Hélène Parant emphasizes: “Several artists leave Quebec to go to the regions.” Resignation overcomes him: he himself thinks of looking elsewhere for a studio.

The city is listening

A city like Quebec knows what it owes its art community. In the early 2000s, the administration of former mayor Jean-Paul L’Allier, who wanted to inspire revitalization in the capital’s lower town, relied especially on artists to make Saint-Roch shine. Several decades later, the district’s vibrancy still owes a proud candle to the designers who energize it.

“Having artists in neighborhoods is unusual and extremely valuable,” says Catherine Vallières-Roland, consultant in charge of cultural documentation. We are well aware of the challenges they face, but the current context presents new challenges with downtown rents and the current low vacancy rate. »

Currently, the City of Quebec offers a dedicated grant to help visual arts and crafts artists stay in their studios. This support is used to cover part of the cost of renting or buying an area, whether residential or not. According to the elected official, “About thirty artists benefit from it every year”, and he also points out the presence of the Ateliers du Reactor, a place of creation established by the City under Regis Labeaume and criticized by all artists. Atelier rave evening.

“We don’t even have the right to put nails in the walls,” says Marie-Hélène Parant in particular. One sculptor explains that his less than 100-square-foot building cost him $380 a month five years ago. All are critical of the Frost fence that separates each tenant’s building. According to the main concern, the lack of proximity is presented on the Workshops website as promoting “synergy between tenant artists”.

In the short term, Mayor Bruno Marchand’s administration is considering appealing to owners of vacant buildings. “Their buildings could be used temporarily by artists and that could help revitalize our commercial arteries,” the elected official believes. However, the city promises to fix the problem in the long run.

“We are thinking about models that will be sustainable over time to ensure that these places can sustain the artistic profession for several years,” adds the consultant, referring to the creation of trusts with public or private partners or the purchase of buildings.

Very strict rules

The Marchand administration also plans to bring residents back to Old Quebec to prevent the sector from losing its soul and becoming a tourist postcard. Councilor Vallières-Roland does not rule out the creation of space for artists within this project, which is still in its infancy.

The capital also has its share of abandoned churches in search of a new vocation. Montreal, in this regard, leads the way by allowing temporary occupation of empty spaces, a promising solution for artists – and often cost-effective. Other municipalities such as Chicoutimi and Trois-Rivières have Touttout and Silex workshops that are the envy of Quebec artists.

They mobilize to find solutions and get their grievances heard. They particularly decry the overly rigid regulatory framework that restricts mixed-use downtowns and restricts the creation of workshops. Sculptor Jean-Robert Drouillard emphasizes: “There are no spaces where we can create heat, dust, noise …”.

In remote peripheries, the procedure is no less complicated. Visual artist Julie Picard had to go to great lengths to get permission to create in her home in Beauport. “It’s the same as building a 15-story building to get zoning to create an artist studio,” he laments. It’s also complicated. »

“Everyone wants to stay in Quebec, but for many artists it is currently impossible,” concludes Marie-Hélène Parant. This is a shame, because it deprives our city of artists who may shine in the international world tomorrow. »

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