In the weeks leading up to January 21, 2017, I was actually disappointed I was scheduled to facilitate a Pop-Up Art Hive at a neighborhood library. It was the same day as the International’s Women’s March (originally set in Washington, Montreal was having its own Sister March) and I would get to take part. Since the election in November of a truly despicable person in the U.S. (which happened to be my home the first 22 years of my life), I had already been feeling insignificant, as a young Latinx woman. Getting left out of a march defending women’s rights just added to the feelings of powerlessness.
I communicated with Melanie and Lindsay to think of ways our event could be held in Solidarity with the March. We wouldn’t get too political, but we could encourage participants–young and old–to reflect on what they’d like to change in their own lives or in the world. I set to work planning our projects. The “secret theme” of the Pop-Up became Empowerment.
January 21st started as most Pop-Up days do: getting to the Benny Library early for set-up. The difference was that myself, Lindsay, Woo-Mi, and our other volunteer for the morning discussed the March: we were at the library, but our minds were at the Place-des-Arts Esplanade (or in Washington).
However, when participants started to trickle in and begin our “mini-March” project, I realized I was exactly where I needed to be.
Some participants took the project seriously and wrote messages on their mini-protest signs; others took it in a completely different direction (someone decided their egg carton was a dinosaur).
Some participants discussed politics; others were just there for something valuable to do with their family.
Everyone left the space in a much better mood than when they arrived. I was reminded of the magic of making art in the community. We–the Cheap Art Collective–helped make it happen.
Public spaces, like metro stations, community centers, and the library remind me about the beauty of Diversity our city of Montreal should be proud of. We tend to live in bubbles–one bubble for those who think like us (or look like us), another bubble (wayyy over there) for those with a different set of values. Public spaces burst those bubbles, and the Cheap Art Collective (and the many other organizations working in the community) take the mix of people from all walks of life and encourage them to make art, Together.
I will always be grateful I’m a part of the Cheap Art Collective. I realized that day I wasn’t weak at all, and I could turn something I love into something extraordinary that, at least could brighten someone’s day. (At best, perhaps some participants also realized their own potential to make change.)
The next day I received an e-mail with an attached photo, thanking me for the mini protest sign and I had given her and her children. My heart just about melted.