Boulevard Saint-Laurent is an iconic street in Montreal known for its rich history, iconic restaurants, and vibrant nightlife - a cultural vein that runs through the heart of the city. Unsurprisingly, it also plays host to Montreal’s famous MURAL Festival, which celebrates heritage and cultural enthusiasm by holding an event dedicated to the international urban art movement every summer since 2013.
For eleven days, Saint-Laurent and the surrounding area is transformed into a giant venue for live art, music, artist talks, exhibitions, workshops, and more, drawing locals and tourists alike to witness the exhilarating event dedicated to urban artistic expression.
With visual and musical artists coming together from across the globe, the festival possesses an international flair while staying committed to its local roots, featuring a number of artists based in Montreal itself.
A dedication to local people and culture is undoubtedly a key factor in building happy and thriving cities, so much so that the United Nations has listed the protection of cultural heritage as a crucial target for its Sustainable Development Goal on Sustainable Cities and Communities.
One of the many Montreal-based artists featured in the 2021 festival is Franco Égalité, aka Francorama, whose energetic and rhythmic design breathes life into a basketball court located in Petite-Italie - a powerful tribute to the community who comes together to play on the court.
Nestled among the grayscale skyscrapers of downtown, Canadian painter Michelle Hoogveld’s technicolour vision is realized upon fourteen stories of Hôtel Le Germain, the bright hues bouncing off the nearby glass architecture and electrifying the whole street.
With a goal to showcase musical, as well as visual artists, the festival often marries the two mediums, using the murals as a backdrop for the musical performances of a diverse range of genres, from R&B to pop to house.
MURAL Festival director-general Pierre-Alain Benoit reflects on the success of the 2021 festival, which took place from August 12th to 22nd, telling the Montreal Gazette, “This year was a hybrid between what we’ve been doing and what we can do (during the pandemic). So we had smaller shows in a more controlled space. But lots of activity at the same time.”
For the people of Montreal, who spent a long and difficult winter in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this summer’s festival was particularly meaningful. Witnessing people coming together to celebrate the thriving arts scene served as a reminder of the city’s still-beating heart, kept alive in large part thanks to the artists and musicians highlighted at the event.
For those who were unable to make the event in-person, MURAL Festival’s dynamic map acts as a virtual tour of all the murals featured in past events, making it a fun and interactive way to learn about the talented artists that add colour to the city.