On the 4th floor of a former clothing warehouse with a view overlooking Mount Royal as well as the Central Market, Daria Fontaine-Pasquali presents her bronze and aluminum sculptures which evoke “the idea of ​​the cycle, of transformation, of resistance.”

The artist speaks of course about his art, but also, without knowing it, about the change in the artistic center which hosts his exhibition held with two other graduates from Concordia University.

Rising rents, threats of eviction: the news is often bad when it comes to artists’ studios. But the story of the move, or rather the anchoring of Ateliers Belleville in the “Central District” – better known as the Chabanel district – has a happy ending.

In 2019, when we met co-founder Jonathan Villeneuve⁠, the picture was much darker: a lot of time and money had been invested in moving into a former munitions factory on the corner of Beaubien and Waverly streets, but a employee of the real estate company Canderel came knocking on the door to announce the construction of an artificial intelligence campus.

It has instead become a multifunctional building with offices and shops, where Ateliers Belleville are still tenants until May 2025 (before the rent is expected to increase radically). “Some of our artists will stay until the end. We call them our last Gauls,” says Alexis Bellavance, another co-founder of Ateliers Belleville.

“It allows for a transition,” underlines Jonathan Villeneuve.

A transition to what? Towards the 50,000 square foot building at 545 Rue Legendre Ouest, owned by Ateliers Belleville.

For their business plan and real estate prospecting, Jonathan Villeneuve and Alexis Bellavance benefited in particular from the support of the technical resource group Bâtir son district. It was dizzying to go to the notary and put his signature next to the sum of 6.2 million dollars. “It was a leap into the void, but a good risk,” says Alexis Bellavance.

It is also a calculated risk, since the Quebec Municipal Commission granted Ateliers Belleville an exemption from property taxes. You should know that they are recognized as a cultural production and dissemination organization and that their model is based on sharing places.

There are currently 80 members, the maximum achievable before the renovation work which is due to begin in November and which will eventually make it possible to welcome around 120 more (not counting 200 external members who will come to benefit from the facilities without having a space to ‘workshop and 36 others in residence).

“There’s a ton of shortage of artists’ workshops,” says co-founder Jonathan Villeneuve.

Renowned artists have migrated to Rue Legendre, including Maria Ezcurra (part of the MAC’s Women Volcanoes Forests Torrents exhibition) and Lynn Kodeih (winner of the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Scholarship).

The sculptor and jeweler Anne Dahl has been living there for a year, surrounded by plants. “I moved from Ottawa,” she says. I love the shared tools and facilities, but especially the community. I used to have a studio at home, but it’s so much more invigorating and supportive when other people are around. »

“I’ve never had a workshop before. I wanted a community and to meet people,” adds glass artist Geneviève Grenier, who has been a member of Ateliers Belleville since last July. When we visited, she was experimenting with melting windshield shards in a special microwave-safe pot.

The evening of our visit was the seventh show in the ÉCHOS: music for large spaces series. Another is organized in collaboration with the Elektra festival.

On one of the four floors, we were also able to see the installation by artist Navid Navab created from an old Casavant organ robotically modified.

On the top floor, the Golden Rod exhibition ended, put together by three graduates from Concordia University. The works of Daria Fontaine-Pasqualli, Lucy Gill and Jacob Lepp explore themes of cycles, identity and preservation through the multiple lives that objects and materials can have. Daria designed sculptures inspired by cemeteries and the passage of time, while Lucy created leather sheets with cucumber, bananas or cantaloupe.

While the workshop crisis is still ongoing (even those inaugurated by Marc Séguin on rue Crémazie have been subject to significant rent increases), Alexis Bellavance and Jonathan Villeneuve are delighted to have been able to preserve the do it yourself spirit des Ateliers Belleville, even if the development of their building on rue Legendre is far from finished.

“We have climbed a mountain, but there is still a chain,” says Jonathan Villeneuve.

The Ateliers Belleville nevertheless already embody “a utopian vision which is taking shape”, he rejoices.