Montreal Artists Are Turning An Ugly Wall That Looms Over The Plateau Into A Massive Mural

The community will choose from a selection of interactive murals that are being projected onto the wall.

Associate Editor
Montreal Artists Are Turning An Ugly Wall That Looms Over The Plateau Into A Massive Mural
Art by Birdfingersss | images courtesy of Colin Riendeau

Every morning, as Colin Riendeau sits by the window of his Plateau-Mont-Royal apartment sipping tea, he looks up at a huge grey concrete wall. Now, after seven years, he's doing something to change that. By partnering with Montreal artists, MAPP_MTL and MURAL, Riendeau is helping to transform the eyesore across the road into one of the area's biggest and most vibrant murals.

Before the final mural can be painted, Riendeau and the artist collective — consisting of multimedia director Aude Guivarc'h and interactive designer Hugo Daoust (who's also a media artist and creative coder) in collaboration with several mural artists — are projecting digital, interactive versions of potential mural designs onto the 13-story building as a test run, beginning this weekend.

How did this project come together?

Art by Dalkhafine | Image courtesy of Colin Riendeau

The wall is one side of the 13-story "Habitations De Mentana" building, low-rent housing run by the Office municipal d'habitation de Montréal (OMHM).

"Some see it as an ugly slab, others call it home. I see it as a canvas: a future work of art that can motivate, inspire and bring together a diverse neighbourhood," said Riendeau. "I want people to look up and be proud of where they live."

Riendeau said he set up a meeting with the OMHM in January 2020 and they were "really interested" in the idea of putting up a painted mural — but then the pandemic happened.

This posed a "huge problem," Riendeau said, because the OMHM would normally require him to conduct a door-to-door survey "to make sure the community is involved and the residents have some say in what goes on to the building."

He leveraged his background in the arts to gather a team, and they got creative in order to find and execute an innovative solution.

How will this project work?

With funding from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the collective is turning several muralists' concepts into animated, digital murals that'll be projected onto the building.

The projections serve as a COVID-19-friendly way of showing community members samples of the potential mural designs. Once the residents have seen all the options — probably during a month-long, larger-scale event in spring 2022 — they will choose one to be a painted, permanent fixture.

Riendeau said they are aiming to have the permanent mural completed as part of next year's MURAL Festival or Montreal International Projection Mapping Festival.

Art by Mort | Image courtesy of Colin Riendeau

Three of these digital murals are set to be tested this weekend: one by Montreal artist Dalkhafine (Delphine Dussoubs), one by Montreal artist Mort and one by Vancouver artist Birdfingersss (Paige Bowman).

They'll be projected from the roofs of neighbouring buildings as well as from Riendeau's infamous window, which currently has a 100-pound projector that he described as a "microwave from the '70s" wedged in front of it.

If you swing by the "Habitations De Mentana" building after dark, you should be able to get a first look at what's to come.

Not all of the animation is ready yet. But the idea is that, eventually, depth sensors will be positioned to create an "interactive zone," so when pedestrians walk by or stop in front of the wall, their motion triggers the animation.

"It will create a back and forth of interactivity where if you have two people that cross paths, they can stop and talk to each other," said Riendeau. "That's the whole purpose of this — to create a conversation point [...] which will also bring people together."

It's unusual to see a multimedia installation that uses this calibre of tools and technology outside the Quartier des Spectacles, the collective told MTL Blog, which is why Guivarc'h called it "a nice surprise for this neighbourhood."

"Even though we are using high-end tools and technology, this is about [...] the people that live here and bringing them something colourful and fun," added Daoust.

While there are still a few months to go until the main event, Riendeau said he wants this weekend's test run to "light up the night sky," providing the community as well as passersby with "hope" and "joy" during a "dark period of the year."

"It's our Christmas present to the neighbourhood," Riendeau told MTL Blog.

The Saint-André Wall Project (Le Mur de Saint-André)

Art by @Birdfingersss | Image courtesy of Colin Riendeau

Price: Free to check out!

When: The test run will take place Saturday, December 18, and Sunday, December 19, from around 7 p.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. Plans are in the works for a larger, month-long interactive installation exhibition in spring 2022, eventually resulting in a permanent painted mural.

Address: Rue Saint-André between Avenue Duluth Est and Rue Rachel Est on the wall of the building "Les Habitations de Mentana," Plateau-Mont-Royal, Montreal, QC

Why You Need To Go: Watch as a Montreal eyesore transforms into a vibrant, colourful work of art. This innovative mural project is designed to light up the night sky, providing hope, joy and inspiration to passersby while enlivening a local neighbourhood.

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This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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