In Montreal, it’s impossible to walk more than a block without bearing witness to an immense, brightly coloured mural, a graphic wheatpaste, or an intricate spray painted tag. Maybe you’ve come across them in the alley beside your neighbourhood’s grocery store or on the side of a building in the Mile End – or just maybe, you’ve seen them hung up on the walls of Station 16 Gallery on St Laurent blvd. Since its inception in June 2013, Station 16 has been taking art off the streets, giving it a new home, and earning it a new level of interest and respect. What started out as a local print shop in Montreal’s Garment District, Station 16 has become an established art gallery helmed by Adam Viera, Carlo de Luca, and Emily Robertson. We caught up with Emily – the Gallery Director – to talk street art, the creation of Station 16, and what it means to live beautifully.
Tell us a bit about Station 16, and about how you became involved with the gallery.
I had been working as an art consultant for several years when I met Carlo de Luca. We shared the same passion for great art. He introduced me to the Montreal street art movement and soon thereafter to Adam Vieira who became Station 16’s Artistic Director. Carlo and Adam transformed the Station 16 print shop into a printing mecca for renowned local and international artists such as INSA, A.CE London, Stikki Peaches, WIA and Labrona. I officially joined the team as Gallery Director when we opened Station 16 Gallery in June 2013 in association with MURAL Festival. Station 16 showcases the best work street art culture has to offer!
What has been the most memorable or special experience with Station 16 so far?
Every month brings new experiences and challenges! Obviously, the opening of the gallery was a life changer! But beyond that, we are extremely proud of the success of our Global Street Art Story which we launched on Kickstarter last December. For this project, Station 16 will create silkscreen prints for sixteen different artists from sixteen different countries! From day one, our goal has been to share our passion with other art enthusiasts… the Global Street Art Story is a great way to feature what’s happening worldwide.
Being Director of the gallery, you’ve clearly got a knack for curation. How do you decide which pieces fit with the Station 16 brand? What’s your favourite piece in the gallery right now?
Adam and I have very different tastes, so working together is a blast! When we both love a new piece then we know it will be a hit! It’s important that the art feels fresh and new. I am drawn to art that encourages dialogue such as Stikki Peaches’ What if Art Ruled the World tagline or Enzo and Nio’s Alarm Pull series.
Can you share some advice with those of us wishing to curate street art in our homes?
I think it’s important to buy what you love. Surround yourself with artwork that speaks to you – not just art that matches your wall colour! Trust me – that colour will change, while the artwork you select will last a lifetime. Don’t focus so much on having one style: being eclectic can add richness of your collection. For many years, I collected art on a minimal budget, so my purchases tended to be of smaller size. I hung them clusters, as we do we our print wall at Station 16 Gallery. It gives the work more oomph!
When it comes to art, are you a dreamer or a realist?
I’ve never thought of art on those terms! I guess that because of my background, I tend to be more of a realist. It takes a truly magical piece to make me fall into the dreamer category… but when that happens, I’ll want to take the work home with me.
You’re obviously a lover of street art – a movement that’s seen quite a bit of growth and development in the past year, thanks in large part to projects like Mural Fest and Station 16. How do you see street art evolving in the future?
Street art has a much longer history than most people know. Over the past decades we’ve seen the culture grow and evolve to include so many elements – from tagging, mural works, wheatpastes, interactive street art – all the way to yarn bombing. I’d certainly love to see the movement include more sculptural in situ elements.
You and the gallery crew recently took a trip to New York. What can you tell us about the difference between the art communities or scenes in Montreal versus New York?
We’ve traveled to New York many times, and every time we are surprised with how educated and passionate the locals are about street art and graffiti. The community is very close and the fans are part of that tight-knit group. On the plus side for Montreal, street art enthusiasts have many more areas to safely walk around and enjoy the art, whereas in New York available alleyways are rare, and the city gets wiped clean regularly. I think our Montreal artists are aware of how long the art can last in the streets, so they seem more conscious about picking great spots and working on large-scale projects.
What does living beautifully mean to you?
Being surrounded by family and friends and having everyone healthy is a priority for a beautiful and happy life. You know, when Station 16 was robbed last November, people were surprised at just how quickly we bounced back. Sure, it was a difficult experience for us. But we have a great team and we all have our health… that’s the key to success! I feel we can overcome anything under those circumstances.