Art promotion and social innovation in the city

If you consider that buying artworks is a privilege of the rich and that you could never afford having a sculpture or aquarelle painting from a recognized artist in your living room, here is a story that will change your mind.

Artothèque is at the center of innovation, entrepreneurship and social development: it gives you the opportunity to have a Riopelle painting in your living room for a short period of time. We have met with Artothèque’s brand new director, Justin Maheu.

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From performing to diffusing the arts

IMG_6810Justin’s piercing blue eyes can tell a lot about his motivation and determination. Indeed, when he starts describing his current occupations you begin to understand where he is heading: in addition to managing Artothèque, he is also director and pianist at Quattr’Opéra, a group of musicians aiming at promoting opera towards the general public, he is treasurer and executive member at the Quebec society for research in music (SQRM). Although Justin started his career with a music background, he realized that what mattered the most to him was to diffuse and vulgarize the arts. He could not have found a better place to do it than Artothèque, a library allowing art rental for individuals, organizations and businesses for short or long periods.

You might think that it is another consequence of the “uberization” of society but it’s not: this social economy enterprise was founded in 1995 and it is a pioneer in the field of social entrepreneurship and arts. Run by the Fondation des arts et métier d’art du Québec, it gives access to over 5,000 works created by some 1,000 local artists.

A new strategy to revitalize the art industry

FullSizeRenderFor now, Artothèque’s priority is to increase art rental – as a hybrid enterprise, it does not benefit from any public subsidies. Justin is working on systematizing the programming at Artothèque with a balance of exhibitions, training activities for children, cultural mediation. The organization is also based on a transversal renting model: “we do not only rent the artworks to individuals, we also target corporate companies and we work with members of the film industry”. Justin believes in the importance of diversifying and updating the collection: tendencies and trends evolve all the time and Artothèque has 500 “sleeping” works of art that no longer correspond to the clients’ taste.

A social enterprise first

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Of course, the business model is based on the benefits resulting from the renting but Artothèque’s mission is much larger:

“We want to give a taste for art to the greatest number of people by making works easily accessible while increasing our artists’ visibility.”

The innovative aspect of this non-profit organization is that it still provides benefits to artists: when they leave their pieces on consignment, they obtain visibility through the virtual catalogue, receive rental income from their work (between 20 and 40% of the price of the rent) and create relationships with the business sector and new clients.

Artothèque tries to find a balance between making artworks easily accessible and offering a showcasing opportunity to promising artists. Of course, individuals who become clients are already “educated”. “Our audience is very similar to people going to the opera, in their forties, with a high annual salary but we want to reach a larger public”, explains Justin.

Indeed, there is an exhibition currently happening, “Quoi de neuf“, and you can visit them in Rosemont, 5720 rue Saint-André.

Pollinating Montreal with social entrepreneurship

Did you know that honey is more consumed than maple in Quebec? Did you also know that in Canada, most of the honey consumed is imported? Alex, Declan and Etienne are young beekeepers who decided that they would spread their passion and bring innovation to the beekeeping industry in their home-city of Montreal.

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Making honey in the city is possible and you can even do it on your balcony.

Alveole is a unique and innovative enterprise aiming at mixing apiculture, education and society. It all started with Bruce, Alexander’s uncle, in Manitoba. He owns a beekeeping company where the three friends worked. Like most rural exploitations, their model is based on monoculture (one type of flower provides one type of honey).

We wanted to produce a more natural honey, following the movements of the bees as they pollinate all kinds of flowers in a radius of about
5 km

calendrierInternetAlveole is progressively changing the face of apiculture and using the company as a social tool. The company model is based on team-building: honeybee colonies are installed in schools, universities, CEGEPs, social reintegration organization. Didactic sessions are held to change common ideas related to apiculture, working without any protection, showing that bees rarely sting, explaining the role of bees in the preservation of biodiversity

In fact, the team has launched a nude calendar where they pose surrounded with bees – powerful images to change public opinion in the long term.

 

 

Building the company on public and private partnerships 

In 2013, when it all started, Alveole received a grant and mentorship from Montreal Inc Foundation. Since then, the company has been able to work through public and partnerships. Among the 85 organizations involved, Financement Agricole du Quebec, Caisse Desjardins, Aldo, Cirque du Soleil, Birks. “They pay a fix amount, obtain apiculture services, collect their own honey while we use their rooftops and backyards”, explains Etienne.  Only 7% of the pots are sold in stores and the profits are redistributed in R&D.

Other honey makers have developed urban apiculture in Montreal but the competition is positive as it means that people are more and more aware and that urban beekeeping is growing. What really distinguishes Alveole from others is its community-based vision:

We are not biologists, we want to focus our production on a didactic approach, so that our clients become producers.

“Tasting a good honey is really close to enjoying a good bottle of wine.”

Clientele is formed of epicureans who appreciate the fact that Alveole’s products are made without pesticides, unpasteurized and ultra local. Cities are the ideal ecosystem for bee colonies: they follow strict anti-pesticide legislation, they are filled with a diversity of flowers that haven’t been foraged yet and they are filled with large unused spaces (rooftops are a great example).

Alveole is constantly striving to improve bee health and innovate beekeeping practices and has developed a unique technology with a smartphone app to provide customer services and locate all urban beehives.

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Next steps? Buzzing in the rest of Canada

Today, Alveole has created more than 250 beehives on the rooftops of Montreal or in the backyard of companies and individuals, producing 3 tones of honey every year. After pollinating rooftops of Montreal, Alveole has started opening beehives in Quebec City and Toronto. They are in fact hiring at those locations (see their job & internships offers).

The team is bustling with ideas to bring bees and citizens closer and meet their various goals: enhance consciousness related to sustainable cities and environment, produce more local honey, grow urban pollination.

You can follow Alveole on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and although bees cluster in the beehives during winter, you can take part in one of their training workshops very soon.