While Images de femmes has always had a strong visual arts focus and a growing music component, in the past it has also featured literature and film.
At the vernissage in 1994, Governor General recipient, playwright and novelist Marie Laberge and internationally acclaimed playwright Abla Faroud read from their work. Award-winning documentary filmmaker, screenwriter and director Mireille Dansereau presented Les seins dans la tête in 1995 and Les cheveux en quatre in 1997. While documentary filmmaker and long-time Mile End resident Sophie Bisonnette showed Des lumières dans la grande noirceur in 1996, with the film’s star Léa Roback in attendance. In recent years, Bisonnette has been widely praised for Sexy Inc. Our Children Under the Influence, a documentary about the media's hypersexualization of children.
The Mile End of the early 1990s was hardly the thriving artistic neighbourhood it is now. "It didn't have much identity at all," said the local historian. Empty storefronts lined Park Avenue, and north of St.Viateur, there were plenty of crack houses. "I can’t count the number of times I witnessed police cuffing some young dealer lying face down with a cop’s boot on his back," she said.
The Mile End's turning point came in 1993. Not only was the dilapidated YMCA torn down and rebuilt, but the Habs also won the Stanley Cup, filling cafés on Bernard and St. Viateur streets with screaming fans during the playoffs. There was also another important initiative. A citizen's action group, le Comité des citoyens du Mile-End (CCME) successfully convinced the city of Montreal to buy the old Anglican Church on Park Avenue and convert it into a library. This development project not only provided the neighbourhood with a library and meeting place, and but it also provided Images de femmes with a much-needed venue.
The CCME has been instrumental in assisting initiatives like Images de femmes. "Their work has made the neighbourhood the creative, vibrant place it is today," said Harvey.
"Residents of the Mile End did their socializing where they shopped, in doorways, and out on the street, having no other place to congregate," said the local historian. As a result, there has always been a strong relationship between members of the community and shop owners, who have always been more than willing to lend a hand to aspiring artists.
This tradition is alive and well today. A number of Mile End businesses still feature the work of local artists in their storefronts and shops. The first week of March is a great time to go for a walk in the hood and see the work of the next generation of artists.
For a listing of the Images de femmes events, "like" their Facebook Page or follow them on Twitter at @MileEndIdF. Tickets to the March 10 Rythmes de femmes are on sale at the Rialto ticket office or can be purchased at the door ($15 general admission, $10 for students and seniors).
Other related links:
Images de femmes 2010
Images de femmes 2011
Rythmes de femmes at Rialto Theatre 2011
19th Images de femmes 2012