In 1956, Montreal gave itself an invaluable present: the Conseil des arts de Montréal celebrates its 60th anniversary
From April 18 to December 31, 2016
Montreal, Monday, April 18, 2016 – April 18 marks the date, in 1956, on which by-law 2325, creating the Conseil des arts de la région métropolitaine de Montréal, was passed under the aegis of Mayor Jean Drapeau. This daring move would mark the future of the City of Montreal, which had decided to bank on its artists to take part in its development. These days artistic activity is part of the very identity of Montreal, which has become a major cultural metropolis. The Conseil des arts de Montréal is taking the opportunity of this anniversary to celebrate its 60 years of artistic creation and to invite the media to join it in celebrating Montreal artists from all disciplines.
Since we chose to support our artists very early on, nowadays we are reaping the benefits of their contribution. Art plays a role in research in many areas, forms an attraction, has demonstrated its effects on academic perseverance, offers innovative therapeutic tools. Above all, art is intimately tied to our sense of pride and our collective greater welfare. The cultural sector is now one of the pillars of Montreal’s economy, a real ignition engine that each year generates close to $11 billion in direct and indirect impacts, provides Montreal with over 80,000 jobs and generates tax revenues of $776 million for both levels of government.
A few historical milestones
From its birth to maturity, the history of the Conseil tells the story of Montreal. With the Refus global, in 1948, the 1940s ushered in a movement to liberate ideas and customs – the Quiet Revolution, with culture in the foreground. The visual arts, dance, theatre, music and cinema exploded, not only thanks to the stage, but also thanks to the tremendous springboard made available by the creation, in September 1952, of CBC French Television. Montreal quickly acquired a reputation for itself as a very dynamic artistic centre and lived through a period of great creativity. And that is exactly what the new Conseil des arts was dedicated to: supporting and encouraging creativity.
In November 1961, the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec came into being. From 1967 to 1976, Montreal was in a state of cultural ferment. This is when works now regarded as seminal were created, such as the Belles-Sœurs and the Ostid'show; the Grand Cirque Ordinaire was conceived; and the visual art studio Graff and the magazine Mainmise were born. “After ten years’ existence, the Conseil des arts de la région métropolitaine de Montréal has dispelled all doubt as to its usefulness,” wrote Réal Pelletier in Le Devoir in November, 1966. The Conseil then supported eight artistic families: music, fine arts, theatre, festivals, ballet, opera, literature and creation of original works. Between 1977 and 1986, Montreal became increasingly international, with the creation of numerous events, such as the Montreal World Film Festival, the International Festival of Films on Art and the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
To recognize artistic excellence, on March 10, 1986, the first edition of the Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal was held, and the Théâtre Sans Fil won the award for Le Seigneur des anneaux. The Conseil encouraged the development of Montreal companies. This is the time when the movement to democratize culture was fully gaining ground. At the end of the decade, Mayor Jean Doré provided the Conseil with a major boost on the strength of its crucial role in Montreal’s growing reputation and the development of its citizens. Between 1986 and 1994, the Conseil’s budget increased from $2.6 million to $9 million. This was followed by the creation of the Commission d'initiative et de développement culturel de Montréal, the Status of the Artist Act, a policy to support Montreal’s cultural industry, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles du Québec.
In 2016, with Nathalie Maillé as Executive Director and Jan-Fryderyk Pleszczynski as Chair of the Board, the Conseil des arts de Montréal remains faithful to its mission of identifying, supporting and recognizing excellence and innovation in the creation, production and dissemination of the arts. It ensures annual support for some 420 arts organizations and collectives with an overall budget of $14 million. In addition to providing concrete financial support for professional artists, making rehearsal spaces available to them and offering them advice, the Conseil also implements programs directly tied to citizens so that artists can have contact with audiences in their own communities. Through residencies, artists are given opportunities to be creative throughout the Island’s boroughs, in collaboration with the boroughs’ citizens. Under the program Le Conseil des arts de Montréal en tournée, for over 30 years now, Montrealers have been able to take advantage every year of over 400 top-quality shows, exhibitions and concerts in their own neighbourhood, either free of charge or at very low cost.
In short, Montreal gave itself an invaluable present when it gave itself the Conseil des arts in 1956! Together let us celebrate 60 years of artistic creation in Montreal.