Street art in Montreal is written in large

A mysterious creature playing the piano, a white tiger baring its fangs and an enormous Batgirl: dozens of artists are busy painting giant frescoes this June for the tenth edition of the Montreal Mural Festival.

Initiated in 2012, the street art event aims to be crowned “leader of urban art” in North America, organizer Pierre-Alain Benoit told AFP.

Visitors can see more than 100 past and new murals in the central neighborhoods of the French-speaking metropolis painted by artists from Canada and around the world. Twenty-one artists painted new murals this year.

Among them is Caroline Monnet, an Indigenous artist whose origins date back to the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States.

The beginner here chose to paint geometric patterns of repeating triangles or rhombuses common in Ashininaabe textiles, which have been “passed down from generation to generation”.

This celebration of her culture, she said, is also a sort of political statement, rebuking the nation’s colonial past.

“We were excluded from any cultural expression for a very long time,” she explained. “So to be able to have my art on a platform as big as this, and also make it accessible to a wide audience…I think that’s great.”

“I think we’re taking a step forward,” she said, cans of spray paint in hand.

For others, like Kata Hull, a painter from Boston visiting Montreal with her husband, the outdoor exhibition is an opportunity to reach a wider artistic audience.

“I like to see art anywhere, so the outdoors is more accessible to more people. And not everyone is interested in the gallery,” she said.

Natalie Capuano, who took more than 500 photos of the murals, expressed her pride in seeing so many, saying “it changes the look of the city”.

“It’s such a pleasure to come and discover new murals every year, we are often surprised and it’s much more beautiful than bare walls”, says the resident.

Among Montreal’s most famous murals are two massive portraits of its most famous singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who died in 2016.

The festival also features 25 hip-hop artists including American rapper Lil Yachty and French rapper Kaaris.

And passers-by who download the festival app can experience augmented reality installations at two nearby parks.