Montreal’s artist haven

Filmmaker Geneva Guerin has generously shared her documentary film, Van Horne & Waverly, for New Worker Magazine’s inaugural issue.

Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood is said to have more artists per square inch than anywhere else in Canada. Facts like that are hard to prove, but from what I observed during a recent visit, I am inclined to agree. While there I was lucky to catch a screening of Van Horne & Waverly which depicts a vibrant neighborhood in transition, brought to life by a community of artists and collaborators. The film takes us to industrial warehouses and empty lots around the Mile End intersection of Van Horne and Waverly, places that have recently been transformed into creative workspaces and hubs of artistic activity and collaboration.

Van Horne & Waverly shows the evolution and beauty of the neighborhood through an in-depth look at three artists. We are invited into the workspaces of sculptor Glen Lemesurier, multimedia artist Rouge Lefebvre, and musician and performance artist Radwan Moumneh, and get to know the artists through their work and their stories.

“A paradise of play and talent”

Canadian filmmaker Geneva Guerin returned to her native Montreal after living in France. In Paris, she had shot a documentary on the plight of France’s Afghan refugees, called La Cantine Afghane, and upon her return it was time to start editing her film. The search for affordable space to work from led her to check out shared studio spaces in Mile End.

Visually, she was enchanted with the area and its warehouses and post-industrial relics, but what particularly captivated her was its artistic community. She signed on at Nomad Nation, a shared workspace for independent creative professionals that’s near the intersection the film is named for. In her words, the experience working there among artists “was kind of this paradise of play and talent. There’s a lot of intermingling, it just lends itself to talking to people. It doesn’t take long before you’re popping into other people’s studios because the entire block is all studio spaces.”

That experience left an impression that persisted even after she finished her work on La Cantine Afghane, so much that she decided to make another film, this time turning her documentary eye from foreign conflicts and toward the art, artists, and neighborhood that made her city beautiful.

Of the artistic and social richness depicted in Van Horne & Waverly, she told us, “I don’t know how long it will last. I wanted to capture the neighborhood at this unique moment in time. The film might, in retrospect, be a film on the golden age of this neighborhood.”

The film is exclusively available online here and at its home on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation site: Van Horne & Waverly on CBC.

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