ARTS AND CULTURE
Quebec City Hotel Showcases Work by Artists With Mental Illness
Guests can peruse (and buy) the art at Hotel 71's Galerie Vincent et moi
Quebec City’s Old Port and Petit Champlain neighbourhoods are lined with cobblestone streets, which themselves are lined with art galleries. There are no fewer than 20 galleries packed into a small area, mostly displaying the work of artists from different parts of the province. The newest is the Vincent et moi gallery at Hotel 71. Since opening in June, the art space within the 60-room boutique hotel has the distinction of supporting artists with mental illness.
The partnership is with a program which shares the new gallery’s name. Vincent et moi supports artists with mental illness by offering art workspaces, career services and by hosting exhibitions. Operated by the CIUSSS de la Capitale Nationale (formerly and more familiarly l’Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec), the program is celebrating its 15th anniversary. The initiative has evolved over the years, from first being limited to in-hospital activities, to now part of the larger artistic community in the city.
Today, the program fosters the creation of art for the benefit of those who see it, not merely those who make it. “We [Vincent et moi] are not art therapy. We are helping artists make art part of their lives, as some kind of rock,” says François Bertrand, artistic director of Vincent et moi.
Bertrand acknowledges that grouping together artists with mental illness often attracts questions from people who want a diagnosis to go along with the art. “We never speak about mental illness [at our events],” he says. “We let people see the work, and the way they look at mental illness changes.”
Original canvases and drawings from five Vincent et moi artists have been selected as part of the project with Hotel 71. Richard Jolivet, Karine Labrie, Johanne Vallée, Ann Warren and Benoit Genest Rouillier’s work fill the walls of a long bright room and adjoining smaller board room that have been transformed into a gallery space. The partnership is an extension of an initiative that started last summer when the hotel featured the work of some of the Vincent et moi artists in the lobby and private meeting rooms.
Benoit Genest Rouillier’s paintings were part of last year’s display, and he represented Hotel 71 at La Nuit des Galeries. Every September, this neighbourhood open house attracts thousands of visitors, as businesses stay open late into the night and host art demonstrations.
“I like to paint in front of people,” says Genest Rouillier. This is progress: When he first joined the program 11 years ago, being in a crowd could have been overwhelming. “When I came to Vincent et moi, it pushed me.”
The hotel has purchased one of Genest Rouillier’s pieces – a tryptic that now hangs above the reception desk. The mostly white and grey acrylic abstract paintings are recognizably his style, similar to the ones featured in the new gallery.
All the artwork is for sale and has started attracting buyers, with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars into the thousands. A portion of each sale goes to the artist, to Vincent et moi and to the hotel, which has chosen to donate its cut to the Fondation de la Famille Gilbert.
“We are very excited about the project and doing something different,” says Susan Wilkinson, General Manager at Hotel 71. “The whole idea is to showcase these wonderful people’s art and to give back to the community.”
Art gallery aside, like many buildings in Old Quebec, Hotel 71 is attention-getting in itself because of its architecture. Its façade is an example of 19th century neoclassical style, and while the hotel marks its 10th anniversary this year, the building once housed the National Bank of Canada's first head office in Quebec City.
The new gallery is also a first – and a work in progress. There are plans to rotate new pieces into the collection, and to continue to promote the new project and the artists. “When someone believes in you, you know you can do something,” Genest Rouillier says. “Now, I am doing something. I am creating.”
71 Rue Saint-Pierre, 1-888-692-1171
Gallery hours: Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.