Public street murals are more than just pretty paintings on walls, they’re signs of a healthy city. By that measure, Montréal is full of life. The city is teeming with such a variety and volume of murals my head was literally spinning nearly as fast as my wheels as I cycled through its streets for the past four days.
From one end of the city to the other, in gentrifying neighborhoods like Mile End to downtown and the Old Port, murals adorn everything from college dorms to high-rise condominiums. Their subject matter is as diverse as their geography: abstract explosions of color, psychadelic dreamscapes, and even obvious references to pop culture.
I know I’m biased, but I think a bicycle is the perfect mural viewing platform. Unlike being in a car or a bus, you can stop and stare whenever you want for however long you want. You can’t see anything from the underground Metro. And you can cover much more ground on a bike than on foot.
And while murals aren’t roadway infrastructure (although in New York City they meld the two in a very cool way), my hunch is that they have a non-negligible impact on vehicular travel because they make moving through the city much more interesting. When people are interested in something — whether in a car or on a bike — they tend to go slower and operate their vehicles with more respect for the built environment. The murals make urban travel fun and exciting, instead of stressful. You also can’t discount the positive psychological impact they have — at least on people who like this style of art.
Montréal is proud of their murals. Their 11-day Mural Festival starts starts Thursday and features guided mural tours, lectures by artists, a conference, and a corporate-sponsored “VIP Experience”. It even has a companion smartphone app.
Check out a few more of the murals I spotted. Keep in mind, I never went out in search of them. All the images below were taken randomly as I biked around…
Portland has a strong mural scene as well. To learn more about ours, don’t miss the Pedalpalooza PDX Mural Ride on June 16th.