Face-to-face with the city: ATSA turns 25

May 4, 2023

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Since 1997, ATSA has been rallying Montrealers around key social issues by organizing multidisciplinary events. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the organization will hold an extended edition of its popular Cuisine ta ville! event, from May 5 to 14 in Place des Festivals. More than 75 local artists and collectives will present thought-provoking contributions related to migration. We spoke with ATSA co-founder Annie Roy, who shared all the details.

Can you sum up ATSA in a few words?

ATSA’s mission is to help citizens have stimulating immersive experiences. When you participate in an ATSA event, we want you to come away feeling that you’ve gone to the heart of an issue with the people most affected by it. Because art opens our minds and can reveal every possibility, we believe it can be a powerful driver of social change. Our works encourage interaction between people from all walks of life, so we hope to plant a seed in people’s hearts and minds to make everyone feel like part of something bigger, feel that they can have a real impact. Each and every one of us makes the city.

What makes ATSA unique?

I’d say the event-style format of our actions is unique, even groundbreaking. ATSA has revealed the festive side of activism. By bringing people together for fun events, we want to inspire them to get involved, without indulging in any heavy-handed moralizing.

You founded ATSA in 1997, in a very different social context. How have the last 25 years allowed ATSA to transform the city, and how has ATSA itself changed over the years?

ATSA has evolved with its society. Our very first activity was an illegal action in the Quartier des Spectacles called La banque à bas (“the sock bank”). Unfortunately, that work, which addressed the question of wealth inequality, would be every bit as relevant today as it was then. Nevertheless, some things have changed for the better. In the last 25 years, we’ve organized more than 60 actions in public spaces on a wide range of social, economic and heritage issues. État d’Urgence, an event that we held in Place Émilie-Gamelin for 20 years, was aimed at transforming the way society at large perceives homelessness – and it certainly helped change perceptions. Today, we pay more attention to unhoused people and we approach them less harshly, less warily. That’s something to be proud of!

What is Cuisine ta ville?

In 2017, we were starting a new creative cycle and we asked ourselves which issues were major preoccupations in today’s world. It seemed to us that the question of mass human migration is central to contemporary societies. And that led us to want to create an event like Cuisine ta ville!, a series of installations and activities in public space, all related to migration.

Today’s Quebec is more culturally diverse than ever, and we have to embrace that fact by opening ourselves to all realities and stories. To succeed in building something together, it’s essential to create opportunities to bring people together. Cuisine ta ville! is just such an opportunity. We meet face-to-face in public around food, which is always a wonderful excuse to meet and share – and more!

Can you tell us about the fourth edition, which will start on May 5 in Place des Festivals?

This year, to celebrate our 25th anniversary, the event will last ten days. The new edition of Cuisine ta ville! is built around the theme of memories. Quebec’s motto, Je me souviens, gives us an opening to explore the experience of every Quebecer: we take an interest in the ordeals and hopes of those of us who left other countries to come here, in the identity issues that exist in Quebec, in the language question, and of course we celebrate Indigenous peoples and commemorate their history.

Place des Festivals will be filled with our installations, which will be open at all times. Under the awning you will find several exhibitions, including Focus Iran, in support of the “Woman, life, freedom” movement; and Focus Immigrant, curated by the Native Immigrant organization, whose mandate is to build cultural and artistic bridges between immigrants and Indigenous persons.

The big stage will feature several music, film, dance and theatre presentations. We’ve also planned many moments of reflection, with testimonials and round tables. Of course, we will host our very popular cooking parties, where a variety of guests cook dishes from different cultures. There will also be meditation activities for younger people. After four editions of Cuisine ta ville!, we want to launch a social movement that will allow us to tackle our society’s challenges together.

Cuisine ta ville
From May 5 au 14, 2023
Place des Festivals