Starchild Stela is a prominent part of Montreal’s underground art scene, known mainly for their activist graffiti/street art, zines, and fine art. If you live in Montreal, chances are you’ve seen their work in the streets. If you haven’t, now you’ll probably notice them everywhere.

High-femme imagery and characters paired with bold slogans such as “support survivors” (of sexual violence) and “he won’t change, just leave” can be found painted on exterior walls, freight trains, and slapped on mailboxes/other public spaces in sticker-form. Fierce and powerful, they have a style that turns heads and makes a difference, from making drab infrastructure more aesthetically pleasing to making the world a better place.

Starchild Stela agreed to do an interview on how they got started, their relationship to DIY culture, giving back to the community, and their views on the Montreal graffiti scene.

by Starchild Stela

girlplague: When did you start doing street art/graffiti, and why?

Starchild Stella: This is a question that comes up a lot for me in interviews, and it’s a bit odd to answer for me because it was still an era where street art wasn’t popular yet. It wasn’t an enlightened decision, it wasn’t really planned.

I started because other people I knew were tagging, everybody in my circle kinda did it (although not seriously). Everybody had their name & signature. At that time we didn’t have access to fancy sprays and it was niche and you got to really suck at first, just the type of stuff teens who spent lots of time outside would do.

I really had not much going on in my life at that time besides struggling and being angry at the world, I was drawing a bit but “art’’ wasn’t really a thing for me. I was a “bad kid” and went through a lot with the justice system, was on probation (for other reasons) during pretty much all my teenhood and pretty much felt untalented and useless. I think I was also looking for something to do to deal with myself.

My first “graff” was pretty much the same character as I do today but it was really bad. We stole sprays in a car and we did it, and I remember, ah – that’s really something I could be good at. (This would be circa 2002-2003).

You make personal/art zines. Do you find a correlation between the DIY nature of both zines and graffiti?

There’s a DIY connection with everything I do, it is my lifestyle. Coming from a low income background and still being poor, unfit for conventional “work” because of disability as well as a desire for independence led me to live “for free” as much as I can.

I think it’s also grounded in a hope for community. Zines were an inherent part of my recovery, and so is graffiti. I don’t like rich people graffiti – lol. I think consumerism and technicality within the “industry” of graffiti makes it feel inaccessible to people.

I see it as an illusion; you can add flares and robotically paint something fancy looking but it won’t be interesting if you don’t have a genuine style. The truth is you don’t need fancy paint to make cool things. I don’t know, for me graffiti that is not DIY is likely to be boring and I couldn’t care less for art by privileged university students or 30 something graffiti uncles. This may sound cocky but the scene is so oversaturated!

The graffiti/street art scene is very male-dominated. How has this affected you as non-binary and femme?

Honestly I was so unaware of feminism before – the way people acted towards me within these circles made me really self-conscious of my gender, how I was never gonna fit in. Experiences of misogyny made me learn about anti-oppression.

Graff is a scene where women are still perceived as either sluts or wifey. Since I don’t fit in either category that just makes me an oddity. But at the same time, graffiti has no gender. If you put the work in, the people that need to know will know, it’s not about pleasing people, so at the end you do you. It”s about you and your friends fucking shit up.

by Starchild Stela

You do a lot of work fighting against rape culture, transphobia, racism, and other types of oppression. Is there a political agenda in your work, or is it natural to you because you are passionate about these topics?

At this point I don’t know if qualifying my art as “fighting” is correct; generally I explore in topics that affect me directly. For example, I do lots of work surrounding surviving traumas, especially in my writing.

I don’t see my art as activism but often people say that my work is political. But it’s fucking 2017 I think anyone’s work is political. As a white person, I think it’s inappropriate to call anything I do as anti-racist or anti-colonial, although I do my best to unlearn oppressive behaviours, to learn and pay reparations where it’s due. But these things are not a political agenda; I think we should all take the time to reflect in the ways we are complicit and support directly the work of people who are affected by these systems of oppression.

I try to “give back’’ to my community in various ways; however I tend to do work only about experiences I know. I’m highly interested in anti-oppression politics, read a lot, do my best to unlearn oppressive behaviours and recognize the ways I am benefitting from systemic oppression. I try to remain critical and humble.

You’ve been travelling a lot and doing a lot of work in other cities, including a residency at James Black Gallery (Vancouver) in July. What are your experiences with and feelings on doing work in places other than Montreal?

I have been here all of my life, so it feels good to get out. I am immensely privileged to be able to do that work. Montreal for me is my home of traumas. Going places I’ve never been, even if they are only a couple of hours drive away, makes the memories flow around and heal myself.

I am lucky. I want to meet new people and often feel stuck in Montreal. Travelling brought me perspectives. Right now I’m working on an upcoming show with Laurence Philomene to be held in Toronto.

You have a large following, including almost 10 000 followers on instagram. What do you have to say to fans who are inspired by you, and/or want to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t follow my footsteps is my main advice lol. I say that because I made lots of mistakes, learned some lessons the hard way. I’d just say do what you love with sincerity, be humble, even if you think you’re the shit there’ll always be people who will disagree.

Listen if you get called out, learn to take your space, and leave room for others. You don’t have to be under the spotlight all the time. Be aware of your privileges. Respect the people who support you. Have fun – you can’t have fun all the time of course, but if the work you do brings you joy, you are up to something.

Do you have any non-art related aspirations in life?

Live my best life. Getting my shit together. Baking the most delicious desserts on earth. Developing my practice as a witch. Being there for survivors. Develop strong friendships and travel if I get the chance. Being financially stable enough to support my family and my cats without stress. I want to put energy in healing & managing my PTSD, to live a healthy and joyful life.

You can view their work on instagram (@littlestarchild) and buy their art, zines, stickers and more merch in their etsy shop, or check out their zine distro

People are made up of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus among many other essential elements. These elements create our world, the planet, the galaxy and the universe. So it’s no wonder why international graffiti artist and hip hop emcee Monk.e is on some next level, out of this world shit.

He released his seventh album earlier this year, Esclavage, Exode et Renaissance. To say the least, it’s a banger for any Hip Hop head.

I caught up to Monk.e for a short building session while he was painting at Mural Fest this past June. We spoke about his album, Coca-Colanisation, Babylon, multi-dimensionality, knowledge as a weapon and more.

Monk.e will be performing at the End Of The Weak emcee world challenge September 4th and with Syme and Reptile Rampant! at Club Soda October 9th

The album is available at:

Mural Fest 2015 started yesterday— that 2 week transformation of the Main into a real live art gallery is something that gives our city its unique flavour. And, yes, there will always be that little niggling beef with Under Pressure, but I don’t really care. There’s talent and walls enough for both.

There are some sick muralists on this year’s roster. I was really pleased to see MTL graf scene veteran MONKE finally get the nod. The dude’s murals are top notch. Also, Toronto’s JARUS will do a wall this year— as far as large scale realistic work with aerosol is concerned, JARUS is holding it down.

Of course then artists are not all aerosol based, there are different mediums in effect— The melding of medium and style is what makes street art so interesting and identifiable. And by saying identifiable I don’t mean it’s easy to spot, I mean with such a wide aesthetic it’s easy to find a resonance within oneself.

NYCHOS, AXEL VOID, EARTH CRUSHER – like yo, it’s gonna be a good festival this year. I’ll be down on St. Dominique and Maisonneuve in the gravel lot with mad all city chilleurs if you’re down.

The 19th edition of the international graffiti convention Under Pressure is upon us! It is the largest and longest running festival of its kind in North America.

Started by Montreal graffiti artists to show the positive side of street art, it is an event for the community and by the community. Everyone involved in making it happen volunteers and most of them have been involved since the early years.

This year, as always, the Under Pressure team has put together an amazing program. Here is a preview of what is coming up through the week:

The festival opens Wednesday August 6th with the 22nd edition of Beaux Dégâts at Foufounes Électriques. $5 entry will allow you to see six teams paint live for two hours with music from High on Beats. Plus you will get to vote for your favorite team with your empty can of beer.

On Thursday August 7th, the Fresh Paint Gallery (221 Ste-Catherine E.) will host their seventh Off The Record Conference. This time, guests will speak of Hip Hop and Education. It sarts at 6pm and entry is $2.

Friday night, the Fresh Paint Gallery will host the 5th edition of Art Attack where artists Otek, Lapin, Mad Dog, Sime and Asur will be painting one of the walls to the sounds of live music from the High on Beats team.

Then, over the weekend, you can witness local and international artists fill up the walls along Ste-Catherine between St-Dominique and St-Elisabeth. The street will be shut and a stage installed in the parking lot next to De Bullion. There will be live music both days from noon onwards. Also on the agenda are a skateboarding competition with $1000 cash prize and Bboy and Bgirl competiton.

At night, you can keep the party going with the Heavy Pressure evening at Cabaret Underworld on Saturday night for $5 and, to close up the festival on Sunday, DJ Afrika Bambaataa will perform live at Foufounes Électriques for free.

For more info, please visit

Last March, I heard the film Making A Name, a documentary on Montreal’s graffiti scene, was screening at the FIFA Festival and got tickets right away. I was lucky because it was the only screening of the movie and it sold out quickly.

Patrick O’Connor, the man behind this amazing project, started photographing the Montreal graffiti scene back in 1995. In 2004, he got his first video camera and started documenting Montreal’s graffiti sub-culture using the contacts he got as a writer back in the 90s. I recently got the chance to meet up with Patrick and talk about his past projects and his new film Freights, which premiers tomorrow at FIFA.

 Why did you decide to create Making A Name?

I was planning on making a global documentary originally. I traveled in Europe, visited 15 cities in 10 countries, and got a lot of footage. Then Pablo Aravena came out with the documentary Next: A Primer On Urban Painting in 2005, which is probably one of the first global documentaries. After reflection and discussion with David Boots, a very good friend, I decided to do the project on a smaller scale and focus on Montreal.

Making a Name

How long did it take to make the movie? What was the biggest challenge?

It took almost ten years to make Making A Name. The action shots of the movie were mostly filmed between 2004 and 2008; some interviews were done around 2007-2008, but most of them were done between 2008 and 2012. The biggest challenge was to feel stuck in between some writers fighting for different reasons; some people gave me a bit of a hard time but it all worked out. Most of the writers knew me already so they trusted me.

How did you react when FIFA decided to screen your movie?

I did screenings of rough cuts in smaller venues such as bars for a few years before that, which although also had amazing turnouts overflowed with people, with getting into FIFA I felt it validated me as a filmmaker for the first time.

What did you think of the night of the premiere? The Cinquième Salle at Place des Arts was sold out with a very vocal crowd. 

I was totally expecting the audience to be loud. A lot of the writers smuggled some booze in and were more vocal than others. The street artists got booed by some writers, as some are hardcore purists and don’t like their work. It was a fun time.

Will Making A Name be released in theatres? Has it been in other festivals?

Making A Name along with bonus material will most likely be released on Youtube and limited DVD copies as well eventually. It did screen in Toronto in a theatre and that went well. I did the movie more for the experience, to learn and now I know more about making documentaries.

How would you define the Montreal graffiti scene? What has changed over the years?

There is a lot less graffiti in the metro, there used to be tags on every step of the escalators back in the days. There are a lot of new writers in the streets, but the game itself is the same. A bunch of the older writers are still around, some who still do illegal work while others mainly legal. There was a lot more political graffiti here around the time I started documenting it in 1995.

Do you have a favorite writer?

Scan is my favorite for his overall style and the amount of work he has done since he started around ‘96 in NDG alleyways. He is very consistent in his quality of letters and styles whether it’s a tag, a throw up, or a mural.


What is next?

Freights, my new documentary on graffiti on freight trains in North America, mostly Canada, as it helped save time and money. I traveled across Canada from Victoria to Halifax to meet and interview writers. A lot of the B role (of passing trains) shots were shot in Saint-Henri, as it’s one of the busiest train lines in this city with names from a wide range of provinces and states. It is a look in a specific subculture of graffiti.

Freights will be premiering on Friday, March 21st at 9 p.m, and the second screening is on Sunday, March 23rd at 6:30 p.m. Get your ticket on FIFA’s website.

Station 16, the Montreal art gallery specializing in street art and graffiti, fell victim to an art heist that happened over the weekend. The gallery’s creative director broke the news in a blog post on the Station 16 website, saying that over $50 000 worth of original artwork, prints and computer equipment was taken from the gallery located on St-Laurent just south of Prince Arthur.

The story has since been picked up by The Gazette and CBC Radio. Gallery owner Carlo De Luca is urging the public to be on the lookout for the stolen pieces. Any information can be reported to Montreal police. The following is a selection of some of the missing works:




Following my latest article on volunteering, I must now write about my favorite volunteer experience so far which is at the Fresh Paint Gallery!

The Fresh Paint Gallery is an alternative and self-financed project managed by the Under Pressure festival’s team of volunteers. The first gallery opened up in 2011 and was located in an old building on Ste-Catherine which used to host French newspaper La Patrie. The gallery was open in that location for quite a few months, getting as much as 3000 visitors monthly. The gallery is now upstairs at 221 Ste-Catherine E. at the corner of Ste-Elisabeth!

What is this gallery, you wonder? The purpose is to fill in empty spaces along Ste-Catherine and give a chance to artists from Montreal and beyond to fill it up with their art. From the moment you walk up the stairs, you are welcomed by art by Adida Fallen Angel on one side and by Delphine Delas on the other side. The art changes regularly in a very organic fashion as in it will not necessarily change all at once but one room or one wall at a time. It makes it well worth checking out regularly. You might even witness artists in the middle of taking down or putting up some art. The challenge for the artists is really to use the space fully, not just hang a painting on the wall. Most of the exhibits are inspired by graffiti and the street art movement.

The gallery runs by donation, there is a minimum $2 per person required. If you give $5, you will get a CD or a magazine and by giving $10, you will get a poster. There’s also a shop where you can get some prints. Also available is awesome Montreal streetwear with merchandise from the Under Pressure Festival as well as from Artcore.


The gallery also hosts conferences on a regular basis. The first one happened during the Under Pressure festival and was about women in Hip Hop culture. The next conference is this Friday, October 18th at 6 p.m. featuring artists such as Emmanuel Laflamme and Shawn Davis, who will discuss learning art in the streets versus art school education. More info here.

Another upcoming event at Fresh Paint Gallery is Beaux Dégâts, an art mashup evening. It started at the old location but is now hosted by Foufounes Electriques due to lack of space at the new location.beauxdegats

Six teams of two to five artists have two hours to paint a canvas after being given a theme and some restrictions. At the end, the public votes by putting their empty beer can in a garbage in front of their favorite piece. The winning team gets to destroy the others’ work! Wednesday, October 23rd will be the 13th edition. Don’t worry if you can’t make it this time, the next one will be Wednesday, November 27th. The event starts at 7 p.m. and there is a $5 entrance fee.

Go check out the gallery whenever you have some free time for some awesome art! If you are interested in volunteering, check out the recruitment page on their website and get in touch with the team or just come say hi!

Fresh Paint Gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Under Pressure international graffiti festival was on last weekend along Ste-Catherine between St-Laurent and Hotel-de-ville and what a great event it was! For its 18th edition, mother nature backed up the festival with beautiful weather, which was enjoyed by everyone.

Sterling Downey, the founder of the festival, told me during a phone interview that they estimate about 20 000 people were at the festival over the weekend. Downey said that the greatest thing about the festival is how organically everything goes each year thanks to the many dedicated volunteers and great coordinators. The greatest accomplishment for him is how they have managed to keep the festival small, as in it’s accessible to the community, not pretentious or driven by economic reasons but purely fun! The artists feel like it’s their festival and they own it.

20130814_110408Many walls were painted by about 80 artists or writers from all over the world. Downey mentioned that there were artists from all over Canada, the States, South America, Germany, France. The festival doesn’t pay for anyone to come so it all depends on the artists budget and if they can make it to Montreal! All the artists are on the same level when they participate to the festival.

Most of the side streets on the North side of Ste-Catherine were painted as well as the building of La Cremiere which got taken over by Mr Clean! The walls behind Foufounes Electroniques are now all covered with new work. It’s very nice to be able to walk around and watch artists paint live in front of you, makes the whole art more approachable in a way and less underground.

As Montreal artist FLN (Futur Lasor Now) told me “The festival is a very important festival for the community. It gets people who only have a negative view of graffiti to see a whole bunch of different sides of it and it also brings everyone together which is also good.” FLN had a blast participating for the first time at the Under Pressure Festival, you can see his work just off Ste-Catherine on De Bullion street. Walking around the city you might have seen his many very original stickers! Check out his facebook page.

A skate ramp was installed outside of Foufounes Electriques on the Saturday and there was a skating competition on the Sunday with a cash prize of $1000 for the best trick!

There was live music all weekend with many different DJs playing great beats. Sunday afternoon was the Up Yours! Crew Battle BBoying with some amazing bboys and bgirls, the moves done by some were so impressive, it must have been quite hard to judge and choose the best. The crowd was huge with most of the people sitting down to be able to watch the action in front of the stage.

 20130814_111054The Fresh Paint Gallery  at 221 Ste Catherine E was also a great place to visit over the weekend. It moved recently from it’s first location a bit West on Ste-Catherine. the 1st gallery was around for 16 months. The idea behind the gallery is to keep it constantly moving, ephemeral, which reminds you of graffiti. it is an alternative self-financed project managed by Under Pressure festival’s team of amazing volunteers! The artwork changes about every 6 weeks to two months. The exhibition that is on at the moment is about language, it’s called Alpha-Bête Can’t we all just get ensemble, it offers art from many different artists such as Lapin, Carolina Espinosa, Eric Clement, Isaac Holland and many more. The entrance to the gallery is by donation and is definitely worth checking out! The gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday from noon until 9pm. There is also a lot of artwork for sale at very affordable prices!

All and all a great success yet again for Under Pressure, if you missed it this year, make sure to join the festivities for the 19th edition next year and in the meantime get your dose of graffiti by walking around the area and checking out the Fresh Paint Gallery!

The 18th edition of the Under Pressure Graffiti Festival is about to take place over the weekend. After a bit of a scare that the city wouldn’t support the Festival with the usual street closure, it seems that all is now ready to go!

The Festival started in 1995 as an inside event called Aerosol Funk and was founded by Sterling Downey. 18 years later it is the biggest and longest running graffiti Festival in North America, now that is quite impressive! Go Montreal!

The fun has already started. Six teams of artists competed against each other last night at Foufs.

Tonight, there will be a talk about women and hip hop at 630pm at the Fresh Paint Gallery, a pop up gallery located at 221 Ste Catherine E that also plays host to Friday night’s opening party. Entrance for both events is by donation.

During the weekend, the main action will be along Ste-Catherine E. between St-Dominique and Hotel-de-Ville. Live music will be happening from noon both days, with quite a few sets happening through the day all the way up til 7pm on Saturday and 8pm on Sunday.

Want to party a little, make sure to pop in the Cabaret UnderWorld on Saturday night from 9pm onwards for a minimal $5 entry. Of course, there will be an official after party at Foufs on Sunday night.

There will also be a breakdance competition happening Sunday afternoon from 3 to 5, which should be quite impressive!

You can find out more information and detailed set times at

Come out and support this great event!

The streets of Montreal are filled with art and graffiti, the line between the two often being blurry at best and non-existent to many. Graffiti has been around for a long time, we can find examples of it in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. The grandfather of modern graffiti was Kyselak, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the early 19th century. He made a bet with friends to have his name known through the Empire within 3 years without inventing a new form of suicide, which was apparently quite popular back in those days! So he started tagging his name all over the Empire and won his bet very quickly, some of his tags are still visible to this day! Modern graffiti mostly started in New York City and spread all over the world.

972241_582917585060898_979767116_nLast March, I had the chance to learn more about the graffiti culture in Montreal thanks to Patrick O’Connor’s documentary Making A Name, un art urbain  premiering at FIFA. Graffiti and tags are all over Montreal, and there are many different versions and styles. O’Connor has been documenting the scene since 1995 and has much of the city’s graffiti history as well as great interviews with many of the cities most prominent Graffiti artists. He manages to show different people’s opinions on graffiti which aren’t always positive, such as his dad’s who really doesn’t understand why people would write such ugly stuff all over the walls of his neighbourhood! The atmosphere in the theatre at Place-des-Arts was quite amazing and unique as a lot of Montreal taggers were gathered together, a rare event which resulted in a lot of cheering and booing depending on who was being interviewed and what was being said. Street artists and cops were amongst the least popular!  (Taggers and street artists don’t always get along.)

Growing up in NDG, I’ve been surrounded by tags left behind by Castro, Sake, the VC crew and many more. I never really paid any attention to them until I recently traveled to Melbourne, Australia. There I really fell in love with street art and learning to appreciate graffiti more. Since my return to Montreal in December, I’ve been taking a lot of photos of the streets and its writings. Take a look at an album I’ve compiled and see if you can figure out where the pics were taken < to be created just link to our fb photo page and i’ll put the album there later>

I also learned that when Castro travelled to LA and saw highways signs tagged, he thought it was such a good idea he brought the technique back to Montreal!

Graffiti and street art are such ephemeral forms of art, you never know how long something you paint may last. Will someone else write over it or will the city cover it up?

You might pass in front of a piece several times before even noticing it.

Street Art versus Graffiti

181199_582917631727560_275387127_nThe difference in many people’s minds between street art and graffiti is that street art has an aesthetic purpose while graffiti is considered to mainly consist of tags. The purpose of tags is mainly to satisfy the writer’s ego and spread his or her name throughout the community or a geographical area. This is the reason why you’ll find a lot of graffiti around highways, tunnels or on trains and trucks. All places where they will last for a while and that will be seen by many. Not everyone appreciates graffiti or even considers it a form of art. What you may not realize is that some taggers spend months perfecting their signature before bombing it all over the city. Also there is a code of ethics, you shouldn’t hit someone’s house or car, not that everyone respects these but they do exist.

Some taggers like to push the limits and climb high buildings to have their names reigning over the city for everyone to see; sometimes literally putting their life on the line. SAKE and CASTRO have created several great examples of these massive displays! I’m always so impressed when I see writings on top of high buildings and wonder how did they got up there Three Montreal taggers died a few years ago after getting hit by a train which reminds us of the dangers of graffiti writing.

Over the past few years graffiti art has begun finding a more mainstream appeal as some street artists have become household names (Banksy, Obey) and major companies have begun using street art to advertise their brands. A local company that is doing just that is called Eragraff, an urban skate and street wear company. Eragraff’s clever advertising campaign consists of people ordering free stickers by mail and then putting them up all over the city. They encourage you to then take a photo of your branding work and load it onto their website, it’s called Placardes ta ville! Got my stickers and started to work, get yours here