In recent years, Griffintown has carved out a truly unique place for itself in Montreal’s arts and culture scene; it is currently home to some of the best artistic cultural gems found in Montreal. From music, to art, to theater and performance – through both the hot summer and brisk winter months – there is no shortage of activities available in Griffintown for people of all ages and fields of interest. Seemingly off the beaten path, the area is perfectly suited to encourage vibrant communities engaged in artistic events. Galleries litter the intriguing mix of residential and commercial areas within the borough. Arsenal Contemporary Art is one gallery in particular that is exceptional in its dedication to its engagement with the community through the arts.
This behemoth of a building is firstly impressive in its grandeur. What was once a 19th century shipyard is now a massive space dedicated to contemporary art, measuring over 80,000 square feet. “The building was erected in 1853 by the entrepreneur Charles-Auguste Cantin for the Montreal Marine Works and by 1857 was deemed the biggest shipyard in Montreal employing between 150-200 employees and producing steamboats for close to a hundred years before closing its doors” (Arsenal, 2017). Arsenal gallery took possession of the building in 2011, only undertaking minor renovations in order to keep the historic and industrial feel of the space. Encompassing nearly all corners of artistic expression, Arsenal has dedicated 50,000 square feet to the exhibition of today’s most exciting local and international contemporary artists and 20,000 square feet to rent for corporate and private events. Division Gallery, a smaller commercial gallery, is nested on the upper floor where the owner’s private collection is also found. The building certainly is grand, though there is a warmth that emanates from its above-and-beyond approach to engaging with Griffintown as a community.
With a meager $5 entry fee, you can enjoy all of what Arsenal has to offer, including its many cultural events which are often free of charge (if not, a complimentary glass of wine is frequently provided). In October 2015, the gallery launched its Cultural Tuesdays program of weekly activities. This is a chance for music, theater, and dance performances, magazine launches, improvised comedy, as well as DJs and VJs to flourish in tandem with Arsenal’s promise to create bridges across disciplines in the arts. Danse Danse is one such organisation famous in Montreal for its contributions for the world of dance in the city and is a staple in Arsenal’s Cultural Tuesdays. This group works with renowned choreographers, using the building’s performance area to create a piece over only a few weeks and perform for the public. These performances have been met with a great support from audiences and people in the community.
Arsenal’s current main exhibition is currently featuring Marc Séguin’s Atemporalités. The exhibition space defies rectilinear norms, breaking planes into a whirlwind maze of seriously captivating work. Classic in its use of technique, and yet exciting and innovative in its contrast of subjects, materials and textures, a flavor of street style art is embedded into historically connoted subjects. This is definitely something all Griffintowners must see. Art lovers from around the globe travel to Montreal in droves to engage with its incredible arts and culture scene. Arsenal Contemporary Art in Griffintown is surely a great way to start the adventure.