Falling a close second behind February as everyone’s least-favourite month (though Montreal has cleverly thrown a wrench in that logic by holding our Nuit Blanche festivities in February), November might not seem the most fabulous time in this northern town – but one look beyond the superficial and it’s abundantly clear that November is awesome, especially if you’re a fan of free stuff, the arts and leisurely times outside…
(walk in the park) This time of year is great for walking in any of the city’s many parks and neighbourhoods – the leaves have turned orange, yellow and red and are falling fast as our usual winter wonderland months approach. Walk the wide, level path up Mount Royal (and take the steps to the top for a great view of the city), or dress warmly and head to Parc LaFontaine for an afternoon picnic. Parc Jean Drapeau, located on an island in the middle of the St-Lawrence River and home of the Biosphere, offers plenty of free and natural distraction too.
(artistic freedom) Buzz abounds about the MMFA’s Big Bang show, a multidisciplinary event-exhibition that can be enjoyed on many levels, whether you’re an art aficionado or just looking for a dry place to spend a rainy day – it runs until January and entry is free! Twenty artists have teamed up to show not only their talents, but the interplay of their work with works in the museum’s collection – from the video work of Denys Arcand and Adad Hannah to choreographer Marie Choinard’s photography and En Masse collective’s graffiti-like mural art – the show is an intriguing and entertaining journey. Access to the museum’s wide-ranging permanent collection remains free as always – current exhibitions include Dorothea Rockburne’s first Canadian retrospective In My Mind’s Eye, an installation called Resolute Bay by Quebec artists Louis Couturier and Jacky Georges Lafargue and paintings by Michael Merrill, inspired by the architecture of the Museum’s new pavillion.
(public entertainment space) Inside the Place des Arts complex is a newly-appointed public performance space: L’Espace Georges-Emile-Lapalme. And by public performance, I mean free performances – awesome! As part of this month’s Arab World Festival, the series Charabia (Babble) features film screenings, music, dance and visual art every evening until November 13. Meanwhile, as part of the Quebec Triennial, artist Lynn Marsh’s video installation, The Philharmonie Project (Bruckner: Symphony No. 5, movements 1 & 4), shows until the beginning of January. On November 17, enjoy a little klezmer-Quebecois music from Gadji Gadjo, and on November 18, hang with the Yoel Diaz Cuban Jazz Trio. Dance features too: learn the polka on November 20, and on the evenings of November 23–24, see performances from Louis Bédard Danse, Wants and Needs, and Isabel Mohn.
(modern art movement) The Musée d’art Contemporain’s Quebec Triennial, continues with free entry every Wednesday evening alongside the free events series featuring Montreal artists, performers and musicians – Tim Hecker on November 9, Dominique Pétrin and Georges Rebboh on November 16, Sylvie Cotton on November 23, and Martin Tétreault on November 30. Galleries – public, commercial and artist-run – in the Belgo building at 372 Saint-Catherine West are always free and open to the public: check out Galerie Pangée, Skol, Galerie B-312, Art 45 and many more. Up near Jean Talon Market, visit Battat Contemporary, currently showing new provocative work by truly great Canadian artist Sophie Jodoin.
(zine scene) While you can spend a fair amount of pocket change at Expozine, the two-day fair is more than a marketplace – it’s a celebration of Montreal’s incredible independent creators of books, comics, zines, poster art, crafts and assorted miscellany. Now in it’s 10th year, the event brings together not only over 270 exhibitors from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the US and Europe, but acts as a community meeting place and a free-form idea-generation zone. Often, Expozine happens around the same time of our first snow fall, but this just makes the whole experience somehow cozier – plus there are snacks and warm beverages: November 26–27, noon to 6 p.m. at Église Saint-Enfant Jésus (5035 St-Dominique).
(a lot like christmas) I’m just not ready yet. Seasons tidings and all the trappings seem to come earlier every year. But can I really feel irked in the face of the Montreal Santa Claus Parade? It’s been going on since 1925, after all, and tradition is tradition, just as happy, excited kids is the kind of excitement I can fully buy into. On November 19, see Santa Claus among the 20-plus floats making their way along Saint-Catherine street in downtown Montreal, from Fort Street to Saint-Urbain. And on November 25, Plaza St-Hubert hosts it’s own, if lower-key, Christmas Parade, starting at 7 p.m. on Saint-Hubert at Bellechasse and traveling down the plaza’s shop-strewn street to the corner of Jean-Talon.