About Art and Design in Montreal
If Toronto is Canada’s commercial hub, Montreal is its cultural capital. Named a UNESCO City of Design in 2006, the city is home to 38 museums of all shapes and sizes. Art, architecture, natural history, science, photography - take your pick. And as for music, ask Arcade Fire, Stars, We Are Wolves, etc what they think! The last few years have seen an indie rock explosion, with new bands and artists springing up on every corner, and fiercely loyal fans that will stand in crowded bars to see the up and comers play. For bigger shows, head to the Bell Center, where everyone from the Rolling Stones to Lady Gaga has made an appearance.
If it’s festivals are more your thing, you’re in luck. Summer is basically just one event after another, from the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, and Les FrancoFolies (the world’s largest French-language festival), to Just for Laughs, through Osheaga weekend, and ending with Pop Montreal, you can catch hundreds of shows (many of them free!).
Also it’s home to Megan Draper (and Jessica Pare, who plays her). Walking into Don at an art show? Très chic!
Montrealers are really friendly, so don’t hesitate to ask for help, directions, or suggestions. Word to the wise: any effort to speak even the most minimal amount of French goes a long way in some neighborhoods.
If it’s cool in Canada, it probably started in Montreal. Once Canada’s industrial hub, Montreal gave in to the economic might of Toronto and focused instead on having some soul. The city was the backdrop for some of the biggest cultural shifts in Quebec history, including the Revolution Tranquille in the 1960s. Where there once was a strict divide between English and French speakers, that line has gradually faded - though it flares up every now and then.
Politics & Economy
Canada’s political system is a mix of parliamentary democracy and federal system. The country is divided into 10 provinces and three territories. Montreal is located in the province of Quebec.
Until the 1960s, the province of Quebec was dominated by a conservative Catholic Church. While you’ll still find traces of that traditional past every now and then, the city is predominantly liberal. (Our conservatives are fiscal conservatives, not social ones). The socio-political tensions in Montreal aren’t based on the traditional divide between left and right but on issues of language and class. In 1968, René Levesque founded the Parti Québécois, a political party advocating for Quebec’s independence from Canada. There have been two referendums on the issue of separation, in 1980 and 1995. On both occasions, the “No” side prevailed. Quebec is currently governed by a minority government led by the Parti Québécois, with the Liberal Party as the official opposition.
Many companies - like Bombardier, Cirque du Soleil, Molson Coors Brewing Company, Ubisoft Montreal - have their corporate headquarters in Montreal. The aerospace and videogame industries, the arts, and tourism are the backbone of the city’s economy.
William Shatner, Jay Baruchel, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jessica Paré, François Arnaud, Leonard Cohen, Corey Hart, Arcade Fire, Stars, Yanic Truedsale (Michel from “Gilmore Girls!”)
Montreal Beer Fest (end of May), Canada Grand Prix (June 7-9), Les FrancoFolies de Montréal (June 13-22).
Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Pointe-à-Callière Museum, Biodome, Montreal Botanical Gardens
Holidays & Festivals
Saint-Jean-Baptiste (June 24 - Quebec national holiday), Canada Day (July 1), Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, Les FrancoFolies de Montreal, Festival Just for Laughs, Osheaga, Montreal Film Festival, Nuit Blanche à Montréal, Igloofest, Piknic Electronik, Festival des Nuits d’Afrique, Fringe Festival Montreal.
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