Oh wow, POP Montréal was three weeks ago! Alas, I never got around to blogging about it until now. But I had such a great time wandering around the Mile End and partaking in various events of the indie music festival, including the very much loved arts and crafts fair, Puces POP. Hence, this is worth mentioning now though we’re already midway through October.
It was actually my first time dropping in at Puces POP which, as part of the POP Montréal festival was held in the basement of Église St-Michel, the looming landmark in the Mile End neighbourhood. A few years back I had attended the performance by the Montréal art bands The Luyas and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, but every September I am so swamped with fall time busyness that POP Montréal comes and goes without a blip. Until this year. I had a good friend visiting me from Toronto and because she is always in the city for work, I figured it would be fun to show her around other parts of the island and indulge in some artsy-fartsy-ness, a throwback from our old days in art school.
POP Montréal International Music Festival is a five day festival that takes place every September here in Montréal. Most events are planned around the Mile End neighbourhood and include spinoffs such as Art POP, Film POP, Kids POP, and Puces POP. More than 600 artists partake in this cultural festival which focuses on indie musicians including both international artists and the many amazing bands based here in Québec. This year brought the likes of L.A.-based Local Natives, electronic veteran DJ Vadim, R&B producer and singer The-Dream, and Montréal’s own Majical Cloudz.
Our focus for our POP Montréal weekend was to first see the arts and crafts at Puces POP, then hang around the neighbourhood and drop in any of the events taking place as part of the festival. We got to Puces POP in the afternoon and it was already jammed packed! Over 70 artists, crafters and other small business owners partook in this event by setting up stalls with their offerings including handmade soaps, jewellery, bags and clothing, and even terrariums (terrariums are so hilariously trendy these days, no?).
Cara Carmina’s iPhone accessories featuring Frida Kahlo
I especially loved the array of prints, mostly silkscreen prints, available for sale. The talent was amazing and the art works were sold at unbelievable rock-bottom prices. My friend picked up three prints by Jack Dylan whose works exhibited were in the style of The New Yorker magazine covers. Dylan’s works, like vendors, were priced at such low prices I actually felt a bit worried about these artists. I know, as a former artist myself, how much time and money goes into producing each piece of art work though I recognize that with prints, because of the mass production process, is less time consuming to produce. Yet I also understood that for such a popular and successful venue such as Puces POP the exposure these artists receive is very valuable and the competition to sell the works alongside other very skilled artists is high.
While I wasn’t in the market for buying anything that day, I did talk with many of the vendors and artists and it made me think about how Montréal is such a magnet for the creative class. Many of the artists were relatively new citizens of the city; it was common for me to hear, “Oh, I moved here three years ago” or “I’m actually from Toronto but I moved here recently.” There is a reason that UNESCO designated Montréal as one of the world’s City of Design, the only one in Canada. Artists flock to Montréal for many reasons, but the ones I will highlight is that there is already a strong community of artists here in the city, that the arts receive a lot of government support (think of all the festivals we have here in the summer!), and it is very cheap to live here despite it being the second largest city in Canada. Additionally, the politics here is much more left-leaning — I know, I know, for those in the U.S. I’m sure you’re thinking now that this province is a socialist state — even in comparison to the rest of the country which, traditionally, abides well with artist types. So if you are a Canadian, or even American, artist many think — I’m going to move to Montréal. I can work as an artist without plunging into poverty, unlike places like Toronto which is very culturally diverse but extremely expensive to live in. Think of all the many Canadian musicians that found international fame. Where do they reside? Montréal. Arcade Fire, Stars, Grimes (before she went back to British Columbia), Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Chromeo, just to name a few.
Prints by Raymond Biesinger Illustration Inc.
Before the end of the day, we dropped in for a free live performance by the Montréal band, Fragile Feet. POP Montréal hosts various free concerts in addition to larger, ticketed events during the festival and many of these free performances take place in unconventional venues such as independent retail shops. Fragile Feet performed in the cool fashion shop, Empire Exchange, on Bernard along with two other artists, Norvaiza and Kieran Blake. We only caught Fragile Feet, whom were the last performers for the event, but I really loved the electrofolk sounds of the duo and Jessica Slipp’s jazzy vocals. The band were definitely up my alley and I definitely will be looking out for their music.
I do plan on dropping by Puces POP again next year, and especially in the future when I am ready to move into a bigger home with bare walls to fill. If you live in or near Montréal, or will be in the city during September I highly recommend that you attend Puces POP and attend other POP Montréal events. Can’t wait for next year’s edition of POP Montréal.
Handmade soaps by Carriage 44
Terrariums by Crown Flora Studio
Quirky greeting cards
Prints by illustrator Adam Waito
Jack Dylan’s The New Yorker-esque prints
Silkscreen prints by English Muffin