Le Centre Pierre-Péladeau Marks 10 Yearsby Jay Alexander Poulton
/ September 2, 2002
The objective is to break the tendency to
view the arts as something separate from people's daily lives and to convince
governments and private companies of the viability of the artistic community.
When the house lights go down and the audience begins to murmur with
excitement, few of those murmurs are about the work that goes on behind the
scenes. That excitement is a testament to the months of marketing, sales, and
artistry that go on prior to raising the curtain. Such is the case for the
Centre Pierre-Péladeau. Since its opening 10 years ago, it has gone from a
simple venue for music and dance, to a cultural centre whose mission is to bring
to its stage a wide variety of artistic talent from around the world that
continues to challenge the diverse audiences of Montreal.
Director Eric Larivière considers the arts to be for the community, part of
the culture that can bring quality into people's lives, but he admits that there
is a delicate balance between business and the arts. "It is the job of the
presenter to reach the artist and the public and bring both of them together,"
To say that culture is a growth industry in Montreal would be an
understatement. From classical music to contemporary dance, Montreal is awash in
a variety of cultural shows and events that would satisfy any palate throughout
the year. For Larivière, this growth provides a unique set of challenges for a
non-profit organization trying to survive in an increasingly competitive market.
Emphasizing this point he said, "The first challenge in this city is to find a
niche within a market that is extremely competitive. The second challenge and
probably the most difficult for a centre like ours is simply funding." As a
multipurpose venue the Centre Pierre-Péladeau does not qualify for many grants,
such as those for concert presenters from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du
Québec, nor grants for presenting foreign artists from the Canada Council. Cash
flow is the bane of every non-profit organization's existence. "It's impossible
to get a regular loan by ourselves. If we weren't backed by the Université de
Québec à Montréal, we wouldn't be able to qualify for the loan we do have."
"I think to a certain extent we have succeeded but there is always room for
improvement," Larivière reflected. "In the beginning, we had no money for
programming. When I came here in 94, my mandate was to bring people in, so I
rented the venue out just to make some money."
The objective, for Larivière and the Centre Pierre-Péladeau, is to break the
tendency to view the arts as something separate from people's daily lives and to
convince governments and private companies of the viability of the artistic
community. "I prefer to focus my pitch to the various organizations on what they
will contribute to the artist and the community and what we contribute to the
public, rather than the economic activity."
Lately, however, that pitch has become harder to get across. With the recent
downturn in the economy and the reluctance of cash-strapped governments to
invest in the arts, the competition for grants and private money has become an
increasingly difficult arena for non-profit groups. This has forced venues like
the Centre Pierre-Péladeau to come up with increasingly creative ways to sell
their ideas to the government and private companies. "The challenge is to get
the business community interested in the project you are trying to put together
and get them to like it," said Larivière. "Then you can develop a relationship."
To this end, the Centre has allied itself with companies like GE Capital, Hydro
Québec, Caisse de Dépôt, and Caisses Desjardins. Developing those relationships
is essential for groups seeking a platform to get their art out into the public
In addition to offering artists a venue for their work, the Société du Centre
Pierre-Péladeau does promotional work as well by printing over 300,000 glossy
programs to market the shows, distributing the tickets, and working with media
partners like Radio-Canada to advertise the events. The Centre has also set up a
program called Top 5 that offers a special ticket price for High School and
CEGEP students between the ages of 12-18. Without this support system many shows
of the kind presented at the Centre might not normally be seen on any other
stages in Montreal. Many venues survive by presenting a more popular series of
concerts that attract the large audiences and the advertisers that come with
that popularity. Larivière admitted that a more popular program would make
things easier but responded confidently: "Concert music is what I call high art
but it can be popular too. I could try to bring in someone like Bruno Pelletier
and we would sell tickets for sure, but that is not what the Centre is about. We
let other venues take care of those types of show."
For its tenth anniversary the Société du Centre Pierre-Péladeau plans a
special series of concerts representative of the Centre's history and what its
administrators hope to feature in the future. The main gala on Sept. 5, will
show what Larivière calls a concert of classical and world music made in Canada.
Artists from different cultural backgrounds and communities throughout Canada
will gather for a show that he says represents what the Centre's mission is
about. Larivière added that they are using the anniversary as a means to raise
money for a fund to help develop young talent. "It is through events like this
that we show what we have been and what we intend to become."