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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Art Gallery Inside Montreal Homeless Shelter Brings 'Dignity And Respect' To Clients

Courtesy, Anne Guay/Old Brewery Mission
Carlos Anglarill, counselor at the Mission (and curator of the first exhibit in 2009), Denise Buisman Pilger, contributing artist, Karen Hosker, contributing artist and Gallerie Carlos curator and Matthew Pearce, President and CEO of Old Brewery Mission.

The Old Brewery Mission in Montréal has a motto: "Voyez le fin de l'itinérance" or "See the end of homelessness." And since 2009, clients, visitors and volunteers can also see art.

The Mission's cafeteria serves hundreds of thousands of meals each year and beginning with the initial exhibit in 2009, the cafeteria walls also serve as Galerie Carlos, and according to the website, the gallery is "a beautiful space where rotating exhibitions will give their clients a chance to enjoy art they wouldn't normally have access to."

The Mission, erected in 1889 to provide essential services to those in need in the Montréal area, still serves as a vital resource, providing shelter, meals and other services. And one of those services is to enhance the space with pieces of local art.

Credit Courtesy, Anne Guay/Old Brewery Mission
Denise Buisman Pilger's black-and-white photo collages of urban cityscapes hang in the Galerie Carlos inside the men's pavilion at The Old Brewery Mission in Montreal.

Montréal-area artist Denise Buisman Pilger has several of her urban cityscape photo collages hanging in the current exhibit at Galerie Carlos and she, along with Mission CEO Matthew Pearce, spoke with VPR recently about the exhibit and the shelter's mission.

"People might see it as a frill or a nice extra touch but we see it as something very important," Pearce said of having works by local artists displayed throughout the homeless shelter's cafeteria space.

"The walls of the mission are there," he said. "And so we said, 'Let us ... create an art gallery. Let's engage artists in Montréal to participate in bringing into a homelessness environment beautiful images. Let's change those images regularly, have as many artists as we can involved. It creates a space that is more dynamic, more beautiful ... The art gallery on the wall is just a huge added bonus to a feeling of dignity and respect ... for the clients."


Artist Buisman Pilger said, "When I was putting up my work here, the guys were here having their meal and they were coming up to me and asking me questions about the work and giving me compliments. You could see how it lifted the entire room. It was an amazing experience to see so directly how your artwork has an impact on its environment."

The exhibit, titled "Explore," is up at Galerie Carlos inside The Old Brewery Mission in Montréal through Jan. 11, 2017.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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