The art of the deal: empty storefronts become gallery space to lure shoppers back downtown
MONTREAL -- With many Montreal storefront real estate lying empty, some landlords have turned to the arts in a bid to bring people back downtown.
Where some would see a crisis in the decimating effect that online shopping and the COVID-19 pandemic has had on brick-and-mortar stores, Frederic Loury, who runs the Art Sousterrain festival, saw an opportunity.
“During the pandemic, I noticed it was a necessity to build a bridge between real estate and emerging artists,” he said.
Loury convinced several downtown landlords to lend available spaces to artists.
One of those artists, Dana Edmonds, now has storefront space in Alexis Nihon Plaza.
“I thought it was a really cool idea because I got to expose art, which doesn't get exposed a lot,” she said. “It's hard to get into galleries in the first place, so at least we can show our work.”
Edmonds is sharing her space with fellow artist Florence Gagnon, who said the initiative is giving people who don't normally go to art galleries a chance to see what local talent has to offer.
“I think it's a beautiful way to integrate art into places that don't usually have it,” she said.
For the landlords, it's a smart marketing opportunity and a way to get people shopping again.
“They were kind of afraid of coming back to Montreal, so basically this will make them want to come back and shop and visit some emerging artists that we have with Art Sousterrain,” said Alexis Nihon general manager Danny Thery.
Edmonds says that while her work might be in a store, she isn't giving a hard sell to curious window shoppers.
“My work is kind of political, It's commentary about over-consumption, mental health, climate change. I like the dialogue,” she said. “If I sell something, that's great. If people just look at garbage a little differently, then I'm happy.”
Thus far, there are 30 stores being lent to artists downtown. Loury said he believes mixing art and retail will become a trend.
“Others have to rethink the model if they want to survive.”