Ctrllab: A Place to Play, A Space to Create

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Yep, you know it  Montreal’s got an art gallery around every corner with a bar on either side. It’s got an abundance of artistic talent and plenty of galleries to showcase it. But what about art spaces? Places where ideas are incited and projects are created? In the heart of Montreal’s artistic mecca, Ctrllab is pleased to fulfill this need. Located on St. Laurent at Prince Arthur, Ctrllab (“control lab”) is a multi-purpose art space that, unlike a gallery, fosters artistic growth and advocates community involvement.

Four years ago, co-founder Shermine Sawalha recognized the lack of affordable art spaces in Montreal to research and create, and took action. She resolved to open her home and share her space with other artists. Ctrllab evolved out of the need for “a space free of government and private funding, a space where any voice is heard and works are shown, a stepping stone for emerging artists, a place we can all call home” says Shermine.

As Ctrllab grew and formed its own identity, an artist-in-residence program was initiated and Shermine moved out of her home in order for others to fully use the space. “Ctrllab is an Art House that tends to open its doors, walls and floors for local, national, and international artists to take control of their ambitions, and to create, exhibit, and explore different possibilities within our space and with the assistance of our team” she explains. “Rather than seek out exhibits or judge the artist’s work, we have a non-discriminatory policy that allows a new way of approaching the arts and galleries.”

As for community involvement, Ctrllab opens its doors and makes itself accessible to everyone. “Ctrllab gives deals to students, non-profit organizations and charities, and offers the cheapest classes in town to make it affordable to the majority of the population. It has also opened its doors for discussions with local community members to identify the problems and needs of the community and offer the opportunity to work in the direction of tackling these issues.” Ctrllab is also available as a rehearsal and performance space, and its prime location is ideal for album launches and private events. “Ctrllab has established itself as a vibrant venue for video, photography, sculpture, painting, dance, music and theatre. It is also open to young artists and curators seeking to present professional solo or group shows.”

Last Friday, I climbed the narrow staircase to Ctrllab’s studio loft to take in the Fairmail photo exhibit. Strikingly beautiful photography adorned the walls; some black and white, some splashed with the vibrancy of Peruvian culture. The photographs evoked a range of emotion, from mood mellowing images of impoverished elders to vividly painted art along dusty terracotta streets. The curator of the exhibit, Caroline Gauthier, explained that the photographs were taken by underprivileged Peruvian children as part of a program she initiated.

Caroline had first traveled to Peru as an instructor with Fairmail, a company that provides photography training to underprivileged Indian and Peruvian teenagers. Fairmail produces fair trade greeting cards with the teens’ photographs, returning 50% of the profits from individual card sales back to each teen, helping to finance their housing and education. However, the photographs displayed in this exhibit were from Caroline’s second trip to Peru. She and a group of photography students traveled the country with the teenagers, providing them the rare opportunity to explore new areas of their country while taking diverse photographs.

Ctrllab is currently wrapping up a long run of Sunday evening figure drawing classes, but is always offering workshops and classes by local artists for amazing prices. On Thursday July 14 and 21, Ctrllab is holding a two session drawing workshop with Montreal-based artist Indra Singh, whose illustrations range from stunningly realistic charcoal drawings to playful cartoons. The workshop is only $50, and goes from 9:30am-12pm both days.

Beginning this evening, Tuesday July 12, Ctrllab is featuring Aryan Arian’s photo exhibition Black Takes Me Away, on display until July 19. The vernissage is tonight, from 7-11pm. From July 21-23, Vice Magazine will be holding their photo issue exhibit at Ctrllab. Head to the vernissage on July 21 from 7-11pm.

Keep on checking Ctrllab’s website for upcoming classes, events and exhibits!

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