|J’s studio circa 2007. he let the riffraff in, obviously….|
Remember this article in the March 6, 2012 issue of the Montreal Gazette? The one where they talk about how Mile End is “taking bold action to protect artists?”
And yes. Here comes the irony, folks.
A couple weeks after this article appeared, the artists who occupied the former Hotel2 Tango, located in an old building wedged between Van Horne just east of Parc ave and the train tracks, were given their one month’s notice.
The new landlord, owner of Miniac repairs, decided he could not abide the “noise” (otherwise known as music). He limited even more the time the musicians could jam (though they still had to pay ) as Mr. Miniac claimed “their racket” wrecked the zen garage space he was trying to create. Even the pitter patter of dog feet from a visiting pet would send him (illegally)up into the space to complain.
And just in case you are wondering, yes, that old Hotel2Tango, the old recording studio that arguably served as the hub of alternative music in Montreal.
Alas, no longer.
My husband happens to be among the displaced artists . J had been there for five years. His studio was one of the larger ones, looking out on to the traffic of Van Horne below. It was perfect-a ten minute walk from our home in Parc-Ex. Close to other studios and stores. Best of all, he had daily contact with other artists and musicians in his space- talking ideas, listening to the bands jam, well you know- basically taking part in the whole artistic fermentation process. The rent was affordable, the space was large and he had a place to connect with other artists.
Happy happy shiny shiny times.
The Gazette states that Mile End has provided some protection to artists and the community (because who wants stinky businesses in their hood, artists or not?):
The new zoning amends the city’s urban plan to recognize the importance of the creative economy and limits heights and densities to that of the district’s existing buildings. While a grandfather clause protects current companies, the new rules bar warehouses, wholesalers, transport firms and heavily polluting industries from moving in. New occupants are limited to 500 square metres.
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Mile+takes+bold+action+protect+artists/6255090/story.html#ixzz1v45xuci3
Bi-laws are all well and good, but nothing will get in the way of a new entrepreneur who does not want you there. There had recently been a big turnover at the space where the former managers had vacated. It was being run on a volunteer basis by one of the tenants of the space, but there was no lease. Of what I heard, even the hydro was in the name of someone who had vacated the space years before.
Though the artists fought for their space, there was nothing much they could do. Mr. Miniac would not stand any noise at all. He wanted to up the rent and kick out all the musicians. I suspect he has some ulterior motive, some other plans for the space, but his dealing with the artists was underhanded and dishonest, so who knows? He also entered their space illegally on more than one occasion and, I repeat, just in case you didn’t get it before, limited the time the musicians, who had paid to use the space for practice, could actually practice.
The artists of the Hotel did not feel very supported at that moment.
Now my husband, who works as a scenic painter and as a visual artist, has his paintings, sculptures, boxes of rusty bits (he really likes his rusty bits) in our basement and at the warehouse where he works. He has not had time to find another studio and probably won’t until August. He is using the coffee table in our very small living room to make large drawings, and I worry for his posture (he is always leaning over his drawing like a myopic jeweler inspecting an old lady’s diamond).
What pisses me off is that the signs of Montreal turning into another New York, where the artists who made it such a funky place to live in the first place can no longer afford to be there, are popping up. We have already had to move our home north of the tracks and now his studio will be going that way too. At this rate, we will be in the arctic by the time we are 60.
It pisses me off that Mr. Miniac did not have enough respect for his new tenants to be straight up with them and tell the Hotellers exactly what he was planning, but instead strung them along thinking things might work out and then making unreasonable demands. It felt very much like it was a calculated unreasonableness, one where he was being unbearable in order to get them out and do something more profitable with the space. Though I could be wrong. It has happened before. Time will tell. If you go by and see some major construction though, I reserve the right to say I told you so. (yes, I am that petty)
The attitude towards artists also pisses me off. Mr. Miniac was very worried that the Hotellers were going to trash his place before they left (granted, we did not put much effort into the clean up but there was no trashing- we are not frat boys after all- oh geez- did I just stereotype frat boys after getting mad about the stereotyping of artists? Yes. Yes, I did.). When J went to look at other spaces he came up against the same attitude- “we do not want any riff raff here. Sorry.”
Hmmm, by his definition of riff raff, I do keep some low company then…
So how do we stop this sort of ignorant gentrification from happening again?
Well, for starters, the artists must organize. Not in a vigilante or even union kind of way, but in a hey! We should have a lease! Kind of way. Figure out a good way to cover the expenses for the space. Even put some away for a rainy day. Part of the tragedy of the Hotel was that it had been through so many hands so recently, nobody really knew or even remembered who had signed what. Collectives are good. Cooperatives. If only to protect your space and the right to do what you set out to do in it. J and another Hoteller are semi-looking for a space with exactly that plan in mind, however work and family and approaching absences make it unfeasible at the moment- so this story is to be continued.
Also public awareness- I guess. That sounds so lame. Public awareness of what? That artists are not usually the Caravaggio-esque debauched criminals, the Rimbaud-esque gun-running , nihilistic sops that will eat away at a space like foppish termites?
Studio tours are good (they do happen around Mile End, I see them).
Blog posts like this too I think (though I do confess to a goodly amount of vitriol- you would too if your house was once again invaded by rusty bike chains and other things I can’t identify).
And yes, having the support of the community also helps quite a lot. Bravo for Mile End for regulating the real estate bi-laws! Now what kind of bi-law regulation is there to contain unreasonable jerks?