|La Monastere performs at St. Jax Anglican, photo Natalie Bull|
We’re back, exploring the adaptive reuse and co-use (congregation still present) of faith buildings in Canada and the United States. Funded by the Metcalf Foundations’ Leading and Learning Fund, representatives of Artsbuild Ontario, The Toronto Arts Council, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, and Faith & the Common Good finished up our journey in Montreal.
These were two very different venues, bringing different learnings. At St. Jax we spent significant time with the Reverend Graham Singh talking about the theology of space sharing and the place of the church in the modern world. At Bourgie Hall we were with curator Jacques des Rochers and Isolde Lagace, Artistic Director of Arte Musica talking about creating a beautiful space for the arts that aligns with the museum's changing vision of its place in the modern world. So… perhaps not so different after all! Each leaders in thinking who helped us unpack many ideas.
The Reverend Graham Singh comes from Holy Trinity Brompton in the U.K., known for pioneering the Alpha Course and shaking up Anglican worship with a more informal approach that has attracted younger congregants in droves.
Now at St. Jax’s, Reverend Singh has taken out the pews to create a beautiful open hall and focuses on the “social infrastructure of beautiful gathering”. Indeed. Arguably that is what the performative arts does as well. The experiment at St. Jax is new but they are interested in attracting permanent artistic partners and have recently announced the residency of a local circus company La Monastere who will utilize the sanctuary/main hall. In addition they have been hosting film shoots, created a lovely dance mirrored dance studio and are talking about opening a gym in high ceilinged basement space. I look forward to following the developments at St. Jax.
Heading over to Bourgie Hall in the afternoon, we walked through the causeways connecting the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, through galleries and hidden walkways to Bourgie Hall. The Museum originally purchased the former Erskine and American Church as an exhibition space. However, three factors aligned to change the direction. First, the light was not good for exhibitions because of the stained glass. Second, philanthropist Pierre Bourgie offered a significant donation to the project if the hall was used for music as well, taking advantage of the gorgeous acoustics. Third, the Museum was entering a renaissance period and was considering the position of performance in its work, so the timing was ideal.
The hall has 467 seats and in the first year hosted 53 concerts, rising to a total of 160 in 2019. The concerts are a combination of those programmed by Arte Musica (the resident separately-incorporated music organization) and curated rentals. Arte Musica and the Musuem have a collaborative agreement which allows the Museum to use the space when it is available. The Museum remains the owner of the space, conducting all upkeep and renovations, but with Arte Musica contributing on occasion. From our conversation, it seems clear that it is a very symbiotic relationship with great communication and common purpose in the programming of the space.
This was our seventh and final day of explorations. It has been an illuminating journey, opening up new models, throwing light on partnerships and encouraging us to imagine broader applications. We are so very grateful to the George Cedric Metcalf Foundation for the time to explore.
So, what’s next? Stay tuned for exciting announcements coming out of this work! While you’re at it, check out Flick the Switch Art Collective, a successful matching venture in Toronto that came out of the Matchmaking event from this project. Nice work guys!