It’s official: Montreal is the most artistic city in the country. A recent report based on Statistics Canada census data and compiled by Hill Strategies Research called "Artists by Neighbourhood" found that five of Canada’s most creative neighbourhoods call this city home. The Plateau’s H2W postal code tops the list, while the eastern and northern parts of the Plateau – the H2J and H2T postal codes – have the second- and third-highest concentration of artists, with 6.1 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively. Outremont’s H2V and Montreal-Papineau’s H2L tied for the seventh most creative neighbourhood in Canada.
Actors, artisans, conductors, composers, dancers, musicians, singers, circus performers, puppeteers, painters, photographers, cartoonists, sculptors, producers, directors, designers, choreographers and writers presently make up 0.8 per cent of Canada’s workforce.
The study, funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Ontario Arts Council, found that arts contribute to the quality of life as well as the social and economic vitality of communities.
"On a neighbourhood level," said Kelly Hill, President of Hill Strategies Research, "investments in the arts may contribute to changes in local economics, social environments, neighbourhood character and demographics."
Ghislain Dufour of the Société de développement du boulevard St-Laurent is delighted. His organization works with business and local community groups doing everything from cleaning graffiti to co-ordinating cultural events in the Plateau district.
"When I first saw the report," he chuckles, "I thought, ‘My God! I’m sitting right here in the heart of H2W.’"
"This area was declared a historic site by Parks Canada in 1996," he adds. "First, for its long immigration history, second, for the cultural link it provides between francophones and anglophones."
As word of the area’s creative charm spreads, however, the "entrepreneurial" class invariably gets into the act, often at the expense of the very artists responsible for an area’s popularity. "Gentrification may occur as a result of neighbourhoods being considered artsy or trendy," cautions Hill.
For Ghislain Dufour, gentrification is a "loaded question."
"It’s hard to predict," he says. "We’ve been hearing about the gentrification of the Plateau area for years, but the artists are still here." The current study was conducted with figures from the 2001 census. A follow-up study after the next census in 2006 will help determine the extent and cost of gentrification.