• The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
    A Bold, Innovative and Caring Museum

    Through its activities and strategies, a vibrant, engaged and multidisciplinary MMFA strives to forge ties with the public, its members and its partners.

The Museum’s success is founded on its innovative nature and its ability to reinvent itself and think outside the box. The Museum evolves along with its city and is a reflection of its society:

  • It has the capacity and the desire to transform itself to remain relevant
  • It is innovative, inventive, daring, resourceful and proactive
  • It initiates dialogue in all disciplines: visual arts, history, music, science, ethnology, sociology, etc.
  • It offers a bold, contemporary reading of objects, making a connection to today’s social issues
  • It is receptive to input from its community, through partnerships with artists, craftspeople, creators and experts
  • It combines disciplines and develops the educational dimension of its collections and exhibition

Beyond the Specialist Museum: Manifesto for a Humanist Museum

On November 9, one year ahead of the opening of the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace – International Art and Education, we unveiled our educational programmes, our projects to develop a socially engaged museum, our innovative partnerships and, above all, our vision of the future Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy, the largest such complex in a North American art museum.

It was a truly exceptional evening, attended by Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Ministers Hélène David (Culture and Communications), François Blais (Education, Higher Education and Research), and Robert Poëti (Transport and Responsible for the Montreal Region), as well as the Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre. It exceeded all expectations: “a dream that one day art, education and health will come together as one,” as Michel de la Chenelière said. Present in the group were many friends, Museum partners and patrons from the academic, educational, scientific and community milieus, some of whom spoke eloquently about our many collaborations.

“The impressive panoply of projects under way shows how much the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has made education and art therapy a vector of dynamism that allows it to go out and find its audiences. With its innovative content and ability to gather others around it, the Museum is an inspiring model both at home and abroad,” observed Hélène David, our Minister of Culture, whose background has firmly convinced her about the cause of education: “The Museum is not just a place where we go to look at objects, we are ourselves subjects who observe this museum, which is evidently a model for other museums, not only in Quebec but also in Canada and around the world.” The premier – a neurosurgeon, let’s not forget – congratulated us for imagining the museum differently, by quoting Picabia in jest: “Fortunately our heads are spherical because this way our ideas can change direction. So when I see what you are doing here at the Museum, this great Quebec museum, I am very proud.”

A laboratory for innovation, the Museum is leading the way by working with recognized experts in education, health, research, social services, the university and local community groups, with support from the business and philanthropic communities. This vision represents a socially engaged manifesto for a humanist museum. It promotes new, 360-degree approaches to art instead of from just one disciplinary angle. Research, notably in neuroscience, demonstrates the benefits of the arts for well-being and even their therapeutic value: the circuits between our purely biological being and our purely cultural being are continually being better defined. Our understanding of the sensate and emotional dimensions of human nature is being enriched through scientific research and through the practices used in Museum visits and workshops.

I am convinced that, in the twenty-first century, culture will be recognized as being as important for health as sport was in the twentieth century. I believe our innovative and multidisciplinary initiatives, supported by our numerous partnerships, anticipate humanity’s future needs. I am certain that culture, in which museums play a vital role, has an overarching mission to respond to broad social issues – academic success, inclusion, diversity, the aging population – beyond 1% of the budget.

Community Involvement

Through the highly innovative Sharing the Museum programme, we work with more than 450 community organizations whose clienteles include immigrants, refugees, the underprivileged, the disabled, seniors and people at risk. With Michel de la Chenelière’s first donation, we made a qualitative and quantitative leap, doubling our educational and community facilities in 2012. We launched several pilot projects in health and education. We initiated and produced a documentary, the first in the “Art Is Good for You” series.

The result? The Museum ranked first among Canadian museums in 2015, with 307,000 participants in its educational, cultural and community programmes – a 207% increase in three years!

A Socially Engaged Museum

The Museum welcomes children from low-income families with Les Petits Bonheurs, the Fondation du Dr Julien, the Breakfast Club of Canada, and the more than 5,000 schoolchildren who visit the MMFA every year as part of Une école montréalaise pour tous. It also supports efforts to encourage students to stay in school with Youth Fusion, Atelier 850, Société de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul and DAREarts.

The Museum combats violence and social exclusion by helping young victims of bullying at school (Fondation Jasmin Roy, LOVE). It offers many programmes to organizations focussing on alleviating homelessness (Dans la Rue, Saint James Centre, Old Brewery Mission, Chez Doris and L’Itinéraire) and promoting adult literacy (Le Tour de Lire and the Comité d’éducation aux adultes de la Petite-Bourgogne et Saint-Henri). The Museum helps with the reintegration of the intellectually challenged (Centre d’éducation des adultes de LaSalle) and people with severe disabilities (Action Autonomie Handicap, L’Amitient, Handicap International).

The Museum focusses on the “togetherness” of our cultural diversity by supporting education for girls (60 Million Girls Foundation), the integration of indigenous women (Foyer pour femmes autochtones de Montréal), and interculturality (Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys, Vision Diversité, Diversité Artistique Montréal, Michaëlle Jean Foundation – for young black Montrealers). Our Impressions residency for artists from a cultural or aboriginal community, in association with the Conseil des Arts de Montréal, is a pilot project. In 2017, one wing of the Museum will be devoted to world cultures, enriched with original intercultural programmes (music and banquets).

The Museum lends its expertise to six Quebec universities to conduct research into health, education and society: Université de Montréal (use of technology at the college level), UQAM (art education in a multicultural context), McGill (preventing radicalization with the CSSS de la Montagne and the Centre Sherpa), Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (teaching social studies in elementary school), Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (art therapy and autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, young victims of sexual assault), and Concordia (certificate in onsite museum education and mediation).

The Museum campaigns for peace with Concordia University thanks to an extensive partnership focussing on this topic (social and psychological peace, combating violence and exclusion): eight projects have been developed with professors from Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts (art history, art education and art therapy). Peace and harmony come together in Montreal, a multicultural and inclusive city.

The Museum and Health

The Museum innovates with its health-care partners in research and pilot projects: to validate and monitor the impact of a Museum visit, studio practices and even reintegration into the workforce, in treatment or rehabilitation for the following:

  • Alzheimer’s with the Alzheimer Society of Montreal, Alzheimer Group, Centre Évasion, Cummings Centre.
  • Post-traumatic stress with Ste. Anne’s Hospital (PTSD in veterans) and suicide (Concordia University).
  • Cardiac arrhythmia with the Montreal Heart Institute.
  • Autism, a world first, with the Miriam Foundation, La Fondation Les Petits Rois, Giant Steps School and École Irénée-Lussier. There are several pilot projects, including one to destigmatize intellectual disabilities and autism and encourage integration into the labour force. Two young adults are now part of the Museum team.
  • Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, with the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and Concordia University.
  • Psychological problems and mental health issues with Ste-Justine Hospital, the Centre d’Apprentissage Parallèle, Les Impatients, the Jewish General Hospital of Montreal, the Centre d’intégration à la Vie Active, The Yellow Door, RelaxAction, as well as McGill University.

The Museum is a place that enhances well-being for seniors, in partnership with Réseau Sélection and Défi Santé, and for convalescents (Jewish General Hospital) by offering health walks in our galleries. This helps dispel loneliness and encourages physical fitness and mental well-being.

The Museum exhibits works in medical centres, through a partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts for three exhibitions featuring works from the Art Bank collection in the new CLSC des Faubourgs. These exhibitions will travel to various health-care organizations.

The MMFA is a founding partner of the Research Chair in Art, Culture and Well-being at UQAM, along with the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) and Exeko, a community organization. It serves on the new advisory committee for the exhibition centre at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

The Museum as a Laboratory for the 21st Century

With Michel de la Chenelière’s second major donation, the Museum can expand its educational, social and therapeutic initiatives to an unprecedented degree. With a total area of 38,620 square feet, the Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy will be the largest educational centre in a North American art museum. In November 2016, it will welcome our community, school and family clienteles with specific areas for digital mediation, a cafeteria serving healthy meals, a Family Lounge, galleries, a safe bus loading zone, plus twelve studios.

Two studios for art therapy, a world first in a museum, thanks to support from Bell Canada. The first will be for groups taking part in our clinical research projects, a consultation area and private areas for confidentiality. The second is an open art-therapy studio for community use, in collaboration with Concordia and its Ruches d’art network.

The Museum wants to educate across Quebec with EducArt, an ambitious pilot project supported by Quebec’s Digital Cultural Plan. This novel digital platform was created in collaboration with teachers for inclusion in the Quebec curriculum across all subjects (social studies, science, French, mathematics, ethics and religious culture, etc.). For 2017, seventeen cross-disciplinary educational projects have been developed with partner schools in Quebec’s seventeen regions, based on our encyclopedic collection, a national treasure.

Michel de la Chenelière explains: “I see and hear moving testimonials from students, underprivileged families and people with a variety of mental and physical disorders who, thanks to the Museum, feel less lonely, less excluded. They rediscover their will to live and find their way in life… Art is good for you: this is something we experience daily at the Museum.” Thanks to this remarkable patron, the Museum doubled its educational facilities in 2012, and will triple them in 2016. This scholastic publishing magnate wants to give back to education and to Quebec. On behalf of our entire team and all of our visitors: bravo!

We’ll leave the last word to his daughter Évelyne, a well-known author and actor, who attended the event that evening with her sister Véronique and their families: “Do you remember what it felt like to be seven years old? My father does. He may be sixty-six and a half years old, but his childhood is not far away. He doesn’t have to struggle to remember, it’s with him every day. It has made my father someone who lives in the moment. When you look at my father, you can see childhood in his eyes, in his shoulders, in his smile, and above all in his driving need for dreams, life and beauty.”