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

This week, we’re stretching the classic definition of show at least a couple of times, but for good reason as you will see. So here are this week’s picks for Montreal arts shows:

Keep the Beat Launch

This one is more of a campaign rollout than a show, though there will be readings by actors Jacqueline Laurent-Auger and Denis-Martin Chabot. The main reason we’re including it is because Maison Plein Coeur, an organization that helps people living with HIV/AIDS, is fighting to stay open after losing its federal funding.

As today is World AIDS Day, it is an appropriate time as any for them to launch their Keep the Beat campaign. You can find out more at tonight’s event.

The Keep the Beat Launch is Friday, December 1st from 7-9pm at Maison Plein Coeur, 1611 Dorion. The event is free, but please RSVP via EventBrite


While this one is definitely a show, it’s the audience that bring the entertainment. It’s a strip karaoke show brought to you by local raunchy theatrical burlesque troupe Glam Gam Productions and they’ve been doing it the first Saturday of every month for a few years now.

So what exactly does strip karaoke involve? Well, people sign up and go on stage to sing just like in regular karaoke but are free to remove as much or as little clothing as they want. Glam Gam always provides a safe space. More details can be found on the Facebook event page.

Bareoke is Saturday, December 2nd, from 10pm-3am at Café Cléopatra, 1230 boul St-Laurent (2nd floor). $5 at the door


This one definitely is a show, an art show. You’ve probably seen some of Cryote’s commissioned street art around town and now you have a chance to see what he can do in the more traditional milieu of painting, and if you want, take some of it home with you.

His style is surrealist and generally features animals and pastel colours.

Cryote’s art show vernissage is Friday, December 1st, from 6pm to midnight and will also be viewable Saturday, December 2nd and Sunday, December 3rd from 11am to 8pm at 87 Mont-Royal Ouest. BYOB and art will be for sale

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

The streets of Montreal are filled with all sorts of graffiti, wheatpastes, and murals, but the artist Swarm is one of few that stand out among the rest. Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, the multi-disciplinary artist started doing street art in Toronto in 2011, and has been Montreal-based since 2014. Heavily inspired by outer space, bright colours, portals, and the void, her wheat pastes and sprays add an ethereal, dreamy vibe to the city’s infrastructure.

wheatpaste, 2016, photo credit: Swarm

Aside from that, she has been involved with Unceded Voices since 2014, a collective of anti-colonial street artists, participated in OFFMural-Es (2014), a feminist/anti-corporate/anti-colonial street art movement, and was a featured artist in Street Meet Saskatoon (2015), an annual public/street/graffiti art festival. While a lot of her work is politically charged, Swarm is also a master of celestial imagery which fuels her work across many disciplines.

While popular motifs of space beings/plants, portals, and naturally occurring patterns in space and nature seem literal on the surface, in her artist statement she talks about them as symbols for abolishing oppressive power structures, her experiences with gender identity, gender oppression, and being multi-racial. These themes carry over from her political work into the work she does where the audience only sees the surface and is left to interpret the meaning, which is intended to provoke feelings of boundlessness, transcendence, and hope.

Sleepover Drone installation, 2017, photo credit: Swarm

It’s important to note that Swarm is a multi-disciplinary artist because she doesn’t fall into one category. Other than street art, she practices studio arts, printmaking, makes jewellery, and creates beautiful installations in Montreal’s DIY scenes.

Sleepover Drone!, a recurring event at Mile-End DIY-space La Plante, often commissions Swarm’s installations to create an otherworldly experience for those interacting in the space. Metallic flowers, portals into space, soft drapery and lights strung around the room’s perimeter all sets the perfect ambience for the drone-music-centered events.

You can also see a permanent installation on the terrace of Casa del Popolo, which includes a pink fence, giant moons and space plants at the very least. You’ll have to go check it out in person to see it, or scroll through her instagram to find photos. Wherever you see her installations, it’s always magical and makes you feel like you’re in a dream.

Swarm also has an Etsy store, Maison Cinq, where you can buy stickers, screen printed patches, handmade jewellery and original art directly from her.

* Featured image: Wheatpaste (2016), photo credit: Swarm

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.

Today, I had coffee with some artists from the Montreal collective 5 Wolves No Pig. We discussed their upcoming project The International Public Art Festival. Its second edition runs April 13-19 in Holbox followed by a combined project in Mexico City hosted by the art gallery Arca Mexico.

Holbox (black hole in Mayan) is a fishermen’s island located on the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo with a population of approximately 1200 people. It is well known for being one of the few locations in the world where one can swim in the open sea with whale sharks. It is also the home of a vast collection of flora and fauna and no vehicles are aloud on the island to preserve its eco-friendly lifestyle.

In 2014, 5 Wolves No Pigs and Soñando por Holbox created the festival. They invited a few Montreal artists to head to paradise and paint some murals. Jason Botkin, Labrona, Omen, Cedric Taillon and Decover Magazine represented the 514 in epic ways (check out their work in the gallery)! They were joined by Mexican artists Curiot and Superdemon and others.

For the second edition, IPAF 2015, Arca Mexico is joining the team. They will be taking part in the Holbox leg of the festival and providing a second collective exposition in Mexico City. Featured invited artists include Jason Botkin, Cerrucha, Eric Paré  in collaboration with Kim Henry and many others.

They are currently holding an international open call for submissions with a deadline of February 14. There is a $20 application fee and the first place will win free transportation to the festival and all selected artists will be provided with accommodation and materials for the murals. This is a great opportunity for artists looking to expose their work internationally.

IPAF is an independent festival created by artists for artists. It prides itself for implementing a zero waste philosophy inspired by the ecological lifestyle of the island. Those who plan to attend IPAF will also be able to enjoy of Bio-luminescence and live music among other activities.

We will be covering further developments of the festival and talking to some of their artists, in the meantime hasta luego!

Click on the first image to view our gallery


Grand Lodge No. 24, the church-turned-recording-studio recently purchased by Emery Street Records, officially opened and the owners threw one hell of a fucking party. On Friday, November 14, producers, musicians, artists, members of the press, publicists and other members of the local music industry — as well as various randoms there for a good time — were invited to Farnham, Quebec to check out this latest acquisition by the independent, DIY Montreal label.

Arcade Fire, the former owners of the century-old church, caused a buzz in the international music community when they announced via Twitter that the building was for sale in January of 2013, the main reason being that the roof was in an advanced state of disrepair. Emery Street Records president, general manager and executive producer Francis Lemay saw an opportunity to take an already legendary studio and expand its reputation as well as bolster the mystique surrounding Emery Street Records and solidify their position as important promoters of the Quebec music industry. He had the old carpet roof replaced by a metal one as well as repairs done to the masonry, doors and windows. The building — which houses the studio where the majority of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible and parts of The Suburbs were recorded — was ready to take bookings from the public in May 2014.

Emery Street finally got around to marking the opening of Grand Lodge No. 24 by throwing a wild party for friends and other members of the local music community, a grand and complex undertaking at the level and with the success that they managed to pull off. It had absolutely everything a good party should have and some spectacular extras as well.

Each and every room in the place, including the common areas like the concert hall and basement living area, has been given a major makeover by some very prominent Montreal artists including Cedric Taillon (curator), Chris Dyer, street art collective WZRDSGNG, Jean-Michel Cholette, Guy Boutin and Clockshovel. The party also featured live painting by Zilon, Labrona and more.

Other live entertainment included some really top-notch burlesque performances by Lavender May (curator), Ruby Rhapsody, Madria, La Reine Rouge and La Reine Noire and the weird and wonderful Lady JosephineSeb Black and Eddie Paul both played sets interspersed between the burlesque performances. (Eddie Paul recently released a new video for his single “Shut Up and Dance”, check it out here if you haven’t already!)

They had full bars set up staffed with bartenders that looked the part, serving up Farnham Ale & Lager. Outside, there was a bonfire in a barrel and free mulled wine courtesy of Barefoot Wine & Bubbly. Das Food Truck was set up on the premises to satisfy hungry party-goers.

To top it all off, the new owners had purchased a school bus to ferry guests between downtown Montreal and Farnham, ensuring that no one would have to drive back to the city intoxicated. Hell, they even provided coat check at no cost. That’s how you get shit done.

All in all, considering everything that could go wrong when you’re a homegrown DIY label throwing a party of this magnitude, everything came together spectacularly with nary a bump in the road. Of course, a fire truck showed up at some point, presumably called upon by the presence of smoke from the barrel fire and the incessant ringing of the fire alarm when someone decided to started playing with the dry ice machine in the basement (I’m looking at you, Zacchia).

One last detail that was not overlooked: the hiring of some event photographers to capture it all, check out their work below!

Photos by Alex Sergerie, Edgar Delacroix, Michel Thibault and Jonathan B.P. courtesy of Emery Street Records. 

opening of Grand Lodge No. 24opening of Grand Lodge No. 24

Our fair city is just a little bit more colourful than it was since the second edition of Mural Festival took place last month. Local and international artists painted 20 new murals along the Main. The festival started under the rain but thankfully the sun came out just in time, allowing the artists to work on their walls. Some artists kept painting despite the rain such as RONE, from Australia, who finished up his mural on St-Dominique just as the rain stopped.

A few of the walls from last year’s Mural were repainted but most of them were done on brand new walls adding even more art to the city. Kevin Ledo’s breathtaking wall of a woman from the Hupa Tribe, inspired from a photo by Edward Curtis, is of a significant contribution to this year’s festival.

This year Mural introduced Le Market, a pop up shop in the Parc du Portugal, where festival goers could shop local to live music all weekend. Also new this year, in collaboration with ExCentris Cinema, screenings of  street art or graffiti related movies. Patrick O’Connor’s Making A Name and Freights were two of the nine documentaries screened the first one focusing on Montreal’s graffiti scene and the second on graffiti traveling on freight trains. A wonderful initiative to educate on this underground culture.

Every day, the Block Party entertained the masses with live music in the parking lot behind Station 16. Kashink’s impressive, massive and colorful mural in the same parking lot is just a preview of her exhibition at Station 16 which runs until July 3. Walking around felt like being on a treasure hunt because Mural’s not just about paintings along building walls. In the spirit of street arts, Peter Schmittson decorated our streets with sculptures,  Mathieu Connery  painted our sidewalks, Labrona gave more colors to doors along The Main, Garbage Beauty beautified with calligraphy discarded items found on the curb. Finally, be on the lookout for hundreds of diamonds installed on walls all over the city by Le Diamantaire.

It’s now time for a walk around with the camera or your phone to spot all these treasures. Don’t forget some murals are on Clark, on St-Dominique and one at the corner of St-Urbain and Guilbault.

The next urban art related festival will be the 19th edition of Under Pressure International Graffiti Convention on August 9th and 10th!

Click on the image below for visuals of the festival.

Mural FestivalMural Festival


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!

Wow! How much fun was the MURAL Festival!

What a success for a first edition, everything was well set up and everyone looked very happy. St-Laurent was packed with people Friday and Saturday, a beautiful sight. A sight which is one of the reasons for the festival, to evelop and upgrade the Main by bringing people back to it.

The SDBSL (Société de développement du boulevard Saint-Laurent) has a five year plan with the MURAL Festival which is very exciting! It’s great to see new concepts and innovative ideas such as this one and to also see the support from the city and the shop owners. There are a lot of empty walls all over St-Laurent and many talented artists out there so it won’t be hard to do it again.

So what happened during the Festival?

20 murals were painted by international and local artists
Many activities on the street and random live music acts
Spotlight on an underground culture, street art, for the general public
A rare opportunity to see artists paint in the daylight and in front of the public
A chance to observe incredible techniques and the progression of the pieces over the days
4 days of no cars on St-Laurent, always a pleasure to walk in the middle of the street with no cars around and so much more

mural fest montreal

Friday night was the vernissage at Station 16 gallery featuring festival artists. There were some very interesting pieces.  The art is still up and well worth checking out!

On Saturday afternoon I joined the walking tour given by urban artist Cam Novak. What a great tour, full of information. It was nice to find out about the different artists, their styles, the street art scene in Montreal and so much more. Finding out about the inspiration behind some of the walls was probably my favorite aspect of the tour. Check out Cam’s Facebook page for more tours coming up this summer.

What’s great about the Mural Festival is that the work from the different artists is available to everyone all the time, the new museum of Montreal is open-aired along St-Laurent.

All of the murals are between Sherbrooke and Mont-Royal, starting South with Reka One (from Australia) who painted the back of the Hotel 10. As you go up St-Laurent you will find eight murals around the parking lot just before Prince Arthur, a massive one by Montreal’s collective En Masse as well as a very interesting 3D mural by Montrealer Jason Botkin and many others.

phlegm mural montreal

Escif from Spain painted a very precise lock with the word Barré (locked) as his first mural in North America on St-Dominique just up from Sherbrooke. The idea behind it is a political reflection on the fact that we are all in a hidden jail without real liberties.

If you keep going up, you will see A’Shop’s wall at the corner of Des Pins. The collective is one of Montreal’s most respected and have been doing graffiti for 25 years. You can see some of their work in NDG as well. On this wall, there is a grandmother with a paint can, showing  that street art and graffiti is accessible to everyone and all can enjoy it! A great message as graffiti is too often judged negatively by some.

This is followed shortly after by Omen’s on the left hand side on St-Laurent and then Phlegm’s very detailed and precised murals. The bar Frappé is now covered by Ricardo Cavolo’s colorful art. The very trippy wall by collective WZRD GNG is at the corner of Bagg street.

On the East side of the street, you’ll find Other’s wall with the Paria Crew’s wall at the corner of Duluth. The face on Other’s wall (mural on Napoleon corner St-Laurent) belongs to a homeless man he met in Ottawa who asked him to bring him back with him to Montreal as he’d been stuck in the capital for too long. Other told him he couldn’t take him back but took some photos of him and brought back his face to the city! Other is a well known and respected street artist who’s been doing graffiti in Montreal for about 25 years.

Stare, Montreal’s King of graffiti since 1996, is on Marie-Anne on the North side, straight across is an interesting piece by A Squid called Sebastian.

The last two murals are some of the largest of the Festival:

roa mural montreal


Roa, a world renowned artist from Belgium is inspired by animals from the country where he is painting. His mural on Clark between Rachel and Marie-Anne is of a Buffalo. It’s his way of bringing an animal that used to be all over this part of the world to the people of the city.

On top of the buffalo, he painted a polar bear, an endangered species as well. Maybe he’s sending a message that if we are not careful, the polar bears will disappear as well. 

Also on Clark just before Mount Royal is Pixel Pancho’s amazing robot.

Along the way, you can also take detours through the many alleyways and see more work by a big variety of street artists. Check out the walls behind Greenlight Gallery, beautiful stuff!

Montreal is really lucky to have had this Festival, can’t wait for next year’s edition!

For me, the 2013 Montreal Infringement Festival’s opening weekend offered the familiar and fun, unexpected awe, a sense of longing for the show I missed and rainy artistic socializing.

grr en famille barfly infringement


The fest kicked off with an air of familiarity. To clarify, when it comes to the Montreal Infringement, familiarity means good rockin’ tunes with a socially conscious vibe emanating from everyone’s favourite dive bar on St-Laurent: Barfly.

After Martin G played a solo set of acoustic tunes where he reflected on what makes his art critical or activist (one of the questions on the Infringement application form), Grr en Famille took the stage. This six piece band (complete with accordion and violin) rocked out with bilingual tunes that everyone could dance to.

That night in Barfly, many did, just as they had done at the Infringement preview show a few weeks ago at Le Bull. A great way to kick off the fest.

psynlangwage infringement


If Thursday was familiar, Friday night was anything but. First off, I’m not that familiar with hip hop and not at all familiar with skate culture (I had a board when I was a kid, but that really doesn’t count).

I may not be the ideal person to review the Infringement Hip Hop Show that took place at TRH Bar, a new venue on the Main with a skate ramp right in the middle of it. I can, though, look at it from a theatrical perspective.

The staging was a perfect infringement on the concept of separation between audience and performer. There was none and it was beautiful.

The rappers performed right next to the ramp as skaters did their tricks. In the case of Psynlangwage, they also mingled with the crowd around the pit and even on the terrasse.

Between that bustling terrasse and the skate ramp stage area sat Atlantic City native Lucas Simmons, who’s performing theatre this Thursday but is also in town for the entire festival. This night in particular, he was drawing portraits of anyone who wanted for free.

I didn’t expect this kind of evening, but it makes perfect sense. The Infringement is all about breaking boundaries and the show was called Smashing Through Walls and these performers did just that, both lyrically and conceptually.

Have a look at a bit of the scene and listen to some of the socially conscious lyrics of Jay Manafest:


Sadly, I was all partied out and didn’t make it to the fest Saturday night. I heard from one of the organizers that Super Greek League (who had played NXNE in Toronto the night before) really tore down the house at Le Bull Pub and thought, well, that’s probably true but I can’t be sure ’cause I wasn’t there.

Turns out he was 100% correct, and here’s the video proof and incentive for me to not miss any more infringing this year:


I headed back to the fest as therapeutic rain fell on the city and washed Infringement Therapy, an outdoor interactive theatre performance which was supposed to happen at 7pm, to next Sunday at 1pm. Mother Nature didn’t dampen the spirits of those attending the Dumpster Dive Art Drive, the vernissage for art made from stuff found in the trash went ahead as planned in the alleyway behind Bifteck.

There’s no better way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon than standing in an alleyway underneath a fire escape that protects you from the rain, sipping on wine, eating brie, looking at art made on the spot from what’s available and chatting with like-minded artists. The Infringement is almost as much social as it is performance-based and the DDAD is the perfect example of this dynamic.

This was my weekend at the Infringement, but I didn’t even mention all the fest offered these past few days. As the Infringement continues, so will our coverage.

The Montreal Infringement Festival runs until June 23rd. For the schedule, please visit

* Barfly photo by Iana Kazakova, TRH Bar & Le Bull photos by Alaya Martin

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