Hundreds of Artists Rally for Increased Culture Funding in Montreal

More than 500 artists and cultural workers gathered in the center of Montreal last Thursday, May 16, to push for increased government funding for arts and culture. Led by arts advocacy group Grande Mobilisation des Artistes du Québec (GMAQ), the demonstration took place over three hours, beginning and ending in front of the office of Quebec’s Minister of Culture and Communications Mathieu Lacombelocated in the city’s historic Ville-Marie neighborhood.

The action came amid growing public concerns about insufficient government funding for Quebec’s cultural sector. Since the government voted on the 2024–2025 provincial budget in March, GMAQ has pointed to the fact that the provincial arts agency Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ), which supports the work of roughly 1,500 artists and 900 arts nonprofits each year through its grant program, only received CA$160.5 million (~$117.4 million) in funds, signifying a CA$720,000 (~$526,585) decrease from last year’s allocation, before inflation. 

In response, hundreds of protesters rallied in front of the minister’s offices in April to call for a budget increase of at least CA$100 million (~$73 million). Lacombe subsequently announced that the government would provide CALQ with CA$15 million in assistance last Tuesday, May 14, significantly below the threshold requested by demonstrators at last week’s action.  

“Thanks for the $15 million,” theater artist Hugo Fréjabise said in an interview with Radio-Canada. “We hope you’ll realize, like we have, that it’s not enough, and that our demand for $100 million is not exaggerated and still stands.”

The Minister’s office has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

Outside the minister’s office, demonstrators vocalized their continued dissatisfaction, carrying picket signs and hanging a banner from the Centre Cinéma Impérial theater that read “No future without culture.” A roster of speakers including visual artists, writers, musicians, cultural workers, and performers also called out the government’s underfunding of the cultural sector. 

“The small space allocated to visual arts in our media acts like a dam that doesn’t let enough water in. People get used to living with perpetually dry lips,” Eastern Townships-based visual artist Sara Tremblay said, addressing demonstrators. Tremblay added that underpaid artists and cultural laborers are “exhausted” from trying to balance their work with rising costs of living, a situation that has pushed them into “an unsustainable precariousness.”

After protesters wove their way through the streets of Montreal’s cultural district in a march, the demonstration concluded on de Bleury Street with dancing and music before dispersing by 6pm.

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