Great mobilization of artists |  Disgruntled artists regrouped

Hundreds of artists gathered in front of the Montreal office of the culture minister Thursday afternoon to reiterate the extent of their dissatisfaction with their community’s underfunding.


Rallying cries, signs with powerful messages, tears… There was emotion in the voices and faces of the artists gathered between rue Sainte-Catherine and boulevard De Maisonneuve, where the artist’s main interlocutor lives. The Minister of Culture, Mathieu Lacombe, did not take to the streets to interact with demonstrators when the Grande Mobilization des artistes du Québec (GMAQ) launched the first call for protest a few weeks ago.

For the second time in a month, on Thursday, hundreds of artists gathered and reiterated the same demands as in mid-April. Despite Quebec’s Conseil des Arts et des Lettres (CALQ) announcing a $15 million increase in its budget on Tuesday, specifically to help companies, the GMAQ doesn’t feel its demands have been heard. The committee estimates that an increase of at least 100 million is necessary to reach the minimum threshold on which artists can live.

Photo by Dominique Gravel, La Presse

Artists gathered in downtown Montreal to protest their community’s underfunding.

All art forms were represented, from music to dance, theatre, visual arts, cinema and literature. A rare moment, some speakers on the platform noted, that signaled the importance of the current movement.

At the start of the rally, a group of young people stood in front of the still empty platform. Asked by PresThese young students (including a graduate) from the National Theater School expressed a genuine fear of not being able to practice their profession.

“Being at school is a bit scary,” says Aimee Lambert-Beland. We want to make this work as valid as any work. It is discouraging and wrong to have a government that places so little importance on culture. We leave school not knowing if we will earn money in this profession we are studying. Under ideal circumstances we want to do what we love. »

Photo by Dominique Gravel, La Presse

The author is Louis Clermont

I think when we studied there, we didn’t expect a salary like doctors. But we need a minimum. Culture is just as important as fields like health or education.

Louis Clermont, Young Writer

For Aimé Tuyishimé, who recently graduated from theater school, “the environment is a bit pessimistic and doesn’t have much to offer us”. “The little system that supported the youth is collapsing,” he says, citing the example of the Quat’Sous team, which cannot support this year’s graduates as it usually does in first productions. “Above all there are many here to preserve the culture, but we feel a lot of support for the next generation. »

“Job Change”

On Thursday they belong to all walks of life, but also to all ages. A group of young students accompanied, in tutu, dancer, choreographer and artistic director of the École Supérieure de Ballet Anique Bissonnette. “They are the dancers of the future,” he says. They want to keep their dreams alive. It requires 10 years of training. But without dance, they would have nothing even for those who would become spectators in the future. They must continue. We need to encourage these young people. We ask for a world of dance that our youth can dream of. »

Photo by Dominique Gravel, La Presse

Artistic director of the École supérieure de ballet, Anik Bissonnette

A people recognized by artists all over the world. It is absolutely necessary to support them.

Annick Bissonnette, artistic director of the École supérieure de ballet

The CALQ budget, which allows creators of all walks of life to create, distribute, promote and sustain works, is at the heart of the demonstrators’ demands. On Thursday, artists were able to understand the real consequences of what they perceive as underfunding the arts.

Without adequate funding, “we either consider changing careers or we don’t have the life we ​​want to lead,” believes Marie-Claude Plante, executive of the Regroupement des Artistes en Arts Nations. “Unfortunately, we are going to destroy the socio-cultural fabric. There are immediate effects, but long term. »

“The working and living conditions of artists must be improved,” he adds. More support and reform was expected. We have to be very bold, bold to change processes, add real action plans that can change the situation. There is a big difference between walking on the ground and tall structures. »

Cry of the heart

The festive music that enlivened the street was replaced half an hour later by a series of speeches on a stage set up directly in front of the Ministry of Culture building.

Joined by actor and director Mani Soleymanlou, actresses Violette Chauveau, Macha Limonchik and Anne-Marie Cadieux, shortly before the parade, writer Rebecca Teraspe wrote a speech for the event, calling for true recognition of the value of artists. The crowd was moved to tears by the heartfelt words of the one who couldn’t be there for the ceremony.

Photo by Dominique Gravel, La Presse

Actress Anne-Marie Cadieux in the crowd

“We can see that 15 million is a good amount, but it’s a little ridiculous,” recalled one of GMAQ’s members on the microphone, recalling that culture represents 1% of Quebec’s budget. “We are still asking for 85 million. »

“Culture cannot thrive if rent cannot be paid,” read a sign. “Art is nothing,” said another. “Attention to our artists, it could be yours…”, said a large sign inspired by road signs.

Visual artist Sarah A. Tremblay took the opportunity to offer a heartfelt rant to the media, which, according to him, “disrespects” his profession by not giving enough space in newspapers, radio or television. “It is urgent to realize that culture is not a permanent achievement and that culture does not last forever,” he said on the microphone.

Valérie Lefebvre-Faucher, writer and director of journalism Independence, calling for the government’s “insult” not to be tolerated. “We are together to put words to injustice, to take care of all of us, and to demand a share of happiness. »

Emily Fordin, trumpeter and artistic director, began her talk by saying, “Constantly being on the brink of burnout is a way of life.” He also recalled that non-NPOs will not benefit from the 15 million bonus announced by Minister Mathieu Lacombe. Asked if he still works in music, he says the answer is increasingly negative, while the government weakens the safety net for artists like him.

Photo by Dominique Gravel, La Presse

Artists gathered in downtown Montreal to protest their community’s underfunding.

Rosalie Beauchamp, general director of Monastere, represented the circus arts on stage. In a highly emotional speech, he recalled shows being canceled due to lack of funds and artistes leaving the industry not because of lack of passion but because of professional exhaustion.

Choreographer Melanie Demers lamented the “sick” world of dance. “We’re tired of having to fight to dance,” she said into the microphone. Remember that dance has power in society. It’s easy to control people who don’t want to dance. »

Visibly moved, exhausted, but united, the artists then marched through downtown Montreal, making their will to survive even better heard.

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