We Are More

Article written by Florencia Lazcano in collaboration with the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi Montréal Centre-Ville.

This piece was submitted to the Citizen Journal project of the Peter-McGill Community Council. Please note that the opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of our organization. This project aims to create space for the voices of residents, students and friends of the neighbourhood through articles, photos, videos, and podcasts in any language. Are you interested in contributing? Contact us at benevolat@petermcgill.org!


I arrived at the 4th floor of 1610 Sainte Catherine by coincidence. One community center led me to another, and that way, I heard about the Collective Art Festival that the Refugee Center was holding.

The melting pot took place one weekend in August. When I crossed the threshold, I sensed the familiarity in the atmosphere, as if the space was overflowing with partnership. When I started looking at my surroundings I felt immense admiration for these humble but talented artists.

Individuals like them would cause any room to come to life, just like any of their pieces that decorated the corners and walls. An explosion of colour devouring the blank spaces made everyone in the location forget that it was raining cats and dogs outside.

I had the opportunity to talk with Cesar Celedon, a Chilean artist who landed in Canada two years ago. One of his paintings caught my attention, and I had to ask about the child in the image. In it, I could see a young boy dreaming of a world without frontiers, yearning for new paths and a place to call home.

Cesar had lived in Spain, but still searching to expand his universe, he traversed the ocean. He landed in Canada and put his hands and mind to work. In particular, the artist used his creative and kind soul to help heal others in need. Cesar is an active volunteer member of the community, and he brings his knowledge and art to those living with HIV, providing them a place to express themselves.

While exploring the festival, I met Quentin Agbemadon, a French illustrator and master of 2D animations. Quentin arrived in Montreal not so long ago. I saw him standing by his designs, and he described to me how he immortalizes characters that he finds in the picturesque nights and scenic streets of the city. The artist uses a combined technique of watercolour and sketching. He catches people’s sensibilities in a remarkably caricaturesque and authentic manner.

I stared at the walls long enough to get immersed in other people’s galaxies.

In the center galleries, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jude Ibrahim, the wellness and art therapy coordinator. We talked about her art piece. I learned that she brings the past to life by adjusting old archive photographs. She offers these dull faces a new beginning. By adding a pinch of colour, the individuals in the pictures join us in the present day; they seem to be asking not to be forgotten.

Jude’s artwork sums up the experience of immigration very well. Packing our bags and leaving our homeland while our mother tongue and culture continue, expecting that we pay them attention and keep our origins alive.

The people in this place found a way to keep their identities vibrant through time. Every refugee, every immigrant present, found a way to not look back, while at the same time, bringing with them a backpack of things that are worthy to carry.

Hiba Yassin is a young Palestinian refugee who arrived in Montreal only eight months ago. She crochets unique multi-coloured pieces. Thanks to her mother’s teachings, her skills grew, and now she sells her designs online and at local fairs.

Charly comes from an island on the coast of Africa. Their work is seized with pride, built from a non-binary perspective and directed to those who consider themselves pro-trans, queer and feminist supporters. Charly uses their shop as a medium to communicate their ideals, hoping to convey conscientization, acceptance, empowerment, and a will to end, for example, mental health taboos.

Thank you to the Refugee Center team, and all the business owners, artists, volunteers, case workers and visitors who created the perfect weekend full of connections and bonds, and for allowing entrepreneurs to grow in their fields.

The Collective Art Festival has ended, but you can always visit the Refugee Center to join some of their cultural activities. You can find their names and contact information below if you would like to know more about the artists and crafters.


Ccharly Cartier: https://www.ccharly-art.com/

HibaYassin: https://www.instagram.com/gharze_o_darze/

JudeIbrahim: https://www.instagram.com/_lookforart/

The Refugee Center: https://www.therefugeecentre.org/