E_p12_streetParcours Lumière sur l’art: Art Light Path is an outdoor installation on Avenue Cartier in the heart of Quebec City which opened in December 2014. It consists of 34 giant cylindrical lampshades backlit with LED strips. Each shade is five feet high and eight feet in diameter displaying the artworks of Québecois artists Fernand Leduc and Alfred Pellan. They are mounted on a metal structure bolted to the sidewalk and over hang the street at a height of about 22 feet. The installation extends for five blocks on Avenue Cartier between Grand Allée and Chemin Sainte-Foy.

Avenue Cartier is close to the Plains of Abraham and Old Quebec City, and at the centre of the Montcalm District, an area rich in cultural venus. Avenue Cartier has over 100 stores and businesses including restaurants, bars, gourmet shops, boutiques and an arts theatre. The lamps described as “an art gallery floating in space” provide an indoor-like warmth accenting an already colourful and lively district.

Avenue Cartier and the Montcalm District were not always so culturally evolved. Until the early 70’s, it was an ordinary shopping area, family oriented with a significant amount of older people, many English speaking. The transformation began with a trendy bar and a fashionable boutique, shortly followed by the Cartier Cinema becoming a repertory theatre. More cafes, bars, and shops followed, making the Avenue Cartier busy and noisy for local residents. However, people who supported this lifestyle began to move into the Montcalm district and a sort of gentrification began. Today you could say the area is a bastion of Québecois culture.

The concept of the lamps was developed by Lightemotion, a Montreal based lighting firm with a theatrical background. They apply the latest innovations in design and technology for their projects and have illuminated building facades and interiors in Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania. They worked in collaboration with the Mont-calm neighbourhood’s business improvement association, the Quebec Office of Tourism, and the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec which provided reproductions of the artwork of Pellan and Leduc.

Alfred Pellan was a famous Quebec artist who was influenced by Picasso and Dali and was included along with them in the 1939 Washington exhibition, Paris Painters of Today. His paintings employed abstracted simplified forms and surrealist images. His use of colour has been described by Canadian writer Maurice Gagnon as an enchantment – shining, bursting, vibrating and resounding with intensity.

Fernand Leduc was a contemporary of Alfred Pellan who also worked in colourful abstract painting. He is considered one of the key figures in Quebec modern art. He was one of 16 signatories of Le Refus Global, a 1948 anti-establishment and anti-religious manifesto, widely seen to have been one of the factors that led to Quebec’s Quiet Revolution in the early 60’s.

The lampshades on Avenue Cartier illuminate on many levels. They brighten the streets of Quebec to promote tourism, especially in winter. They also function to beautifully highlight the rich cultural identity of the area, and they display the work of Quebec artists. The current installation was meant to finish in March, but its success is so great it will continue through to the fall of 2015. The lampshades are designed to be flexible, and the works mounted on the shades will be replaced annually with the works of other artists for at least the next five years. Moreover, there is a master plan by Lightemotion for the illumination of several more areas of Quebec City.

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