Lighting up the darkness in Ville St. Pierre

event postcardIt’s been a little over a week since I caught the Parcours des lucioles en tête, but I’m still shaking my head in amazement.

The Saint-Pierre neighbourhood of Lachine does not enjoy a great reputation. The area was once its own city and many people still call it Ville St. Pierre. To many Montrealers, it’s a place you pass through as quickly as possible. You drive through Saint-Pierre on your way to Highway 20. Or you bike through it on your way to the Lachine Canal. But you don’t linger. Media coverage (often exaggerated) of drug problems, violent incidents and murders in the neighbourhood doesn’t help things.

I moved to Saint-Pierre nearly a year ago. As an NDG gal transplanted to an area with no full-fledged grocery store, no cafés or places to hang out, boarded up storefronts, plenty of dépanneurs, fast food joints and stray cats, I’ve often wondered whether St. Pierre’s affordable rent made leaving NDG worth it. I’ve attended security committee meeting events and I do my best to support local initiatives but I felt something was missing.

The Parcours des lucioles on tête blew me away because it showcased Saint-Pierre’s cultural side, something that’s not always obvious when you walk around. An initiative of Revitalisation Saint-Pierre and artist Nicolas Rivard, the event not only let citizens reclaim problem areas in the neighbourhood and turn them into lighted art installations, it showed me why this neighbourhood is interesting and special.

Unfortunately the evening of December 13 was bitterly cold. We waited at Roger-Richer Park for the walk to start but the bonfires organizers set up didn’t warm us up enough and we were hungry. So we headed to a restaurant for dinner and came back to see as many installations as we could on our own.

From 5 to 8 p.m. people could walk around to see all sorts of citizen-created art, lit up in different ways. People could visit 12 art installations and performance pieces around the neighbourhood.

Rivard’s video, Bulles Citoyennes, was projected on the doors of Rockfield Church so that the doors served as a screen. I didn’t see much of his piece, but from what I understand it showed residents blowing bubbles. Rivard has a photo of the video on his website.

A newly decorated bus shelter on Rue des Érables featured images that included a sun/ladybug and candy canes.

a huge street level church bell with a knitted cover

A church bell lovingly restored and on display on St. Jacques St. was “yarn-bombed” and now sports knitting created by women from the Cercles de Fermières du Québec’s Saint-Pierre chapter. Sadly, the group’s other knitwear piece, a hat and scarf placed on a monument erected in Kirkland Park in the 1960s in memory of longtime Ville St. Pierre mayor Dr. C.A. Kirkland, was stolen before anyone could see it. I realize there’s a market for bronze but I don’t understand why people steal public monuments and I wonder how the people at the scrapyard where this monument was no doubt taken reacted when they saw knitwear on a statue? Surely they knew it was stolen?!


 Frédérique Gagné-Thibault, wearing a TV on her head, explains Saint-Pierre historyFor the Joyeux téléjournal, Frédérique Gagné-Thibault wore a TV on her head as visitors sat on chairs and a sofa listening to her talk about Saint-Pierre history.






the green classroom - chairs, evergreen sprigs and a watering can lit up in greenIn front of École Primaire Martin-Bélanger,  Mélanie Castagnier placed child-sized wooden chairs in a circle with other chairs hanging in a pile above, a watering can in the mix of the piled-up chairs. Evergreen branches lay on the wooden chairs. The work’s title? La Classe Verte – the Green Classroom



children's colourful handmade flowers and landscapes lit up on a snowy lawn

Martin-Bélanger elementary students brightened the snow in front of a community garden with handmade flowers and landscapes.





a fake egg's nest in a parking lotMélanie Poirier’s bird’s nest full of huge eggs sat in a parking spot in a parking lot bordering Kirkland Park.






A colourful four-part mural depicting Saint-Pierre history

A huge mural painting hung on the side of a building near the corner of Saint Pierre and Rue des Érables. Caroline Fiset and Lyane Lefebvre told us their mural, À Saint-Pierre, Imagine!, depicts the history of cultural and other organizations in Saint-Pierre. I found it interesting to learn Saint-Pierre is the birthplace of the first Optimist Club in the Montreal area, and the neighbourhood has sprouted a number of theatre organizations, including groups where parents and children perform theatre together.


As we headed home, we saw Revitalisation Saint-Pierre founder David Marshall rocking out with his electric guitar on the steps of the Centre Fernand-Laplaine.  Marshall, whose artistic contribution was called Guy-Tare Drastique, seemed to be enjoying himself in spite of the cold.


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