Summer in Montreal is a time of festivals and celebrations. The year’s foremost event is the 24th edition of “Festival St-Ambroise Fringe Montréal”, from June 2 to 22. The Montreal Fringe is a vibrant kaleidoscope of artistic expression, featuring drama, dance, comedy, music, and the visual arts. It’s a bilingual event, uniting artists of every background and description.
Quebec’s population of eight million has a strong cultural commitment to the arts; its French-speaking community enthusiastically supports home-grown talent. Non-French speakers, less than twenty percent of the province’s population, are much like the rest of Canada; that is, more heavily influenced by foreign cultures – particularly by their American neighbors. Quebec’s English-language arts community is strikingly resourceful and resilient, while committed to maintaining artistic associations with its French compatriots.
Quebec’s English-speaking artistic community thrives, thanks to organizations such as ELAN, the province’s English Language Arts Network. Founded in 2005 “by a group of professional artists who wanted to exchange ideas, resources and connections”, ELAN’s mission includes “resource sharing, promotion and visibility, professional development, arts advocacy and networking opportunities”.
ELAN hosts monthly “Schmoozers”, which are opportunities for artists to meet, mingle and to promote upcoming projects. One such gathering was held this week, at the Fringe. The free event, a warm hearted assembly of talent and creativity, was hosted by ELAN’s Executive Director, Guy Rodgers, and Mainline Theatre’s Executive Director Amy Blackmore, who heads the Fringe as well.
The evening included a "Minute Market", offering ten groups of artists the opportunity to showcase their productions in one minute segments. Some of those included a poem by Jay Winston Richie, playwright Jesse Strong’s “Sense Gentle” and performance activist and experimental theater artist, Donovan King, promoting the Fringe's offshoot, "Infringement Montreal".
Invitations and business cards were enthusiastically exchanged, as the roomful of artists united, in celebration of artistic expression – whatever the language, the culture or the medium.