The story of AADRAV. Only numbers mattered

Alessia Zabatino asked me to tell an old story, dating from 20 years ago. I had stored it in a drawer of my mind, almost as if it were part of another life. All this time, I have not looked back.

It feels weird, to go back in time, and observe the event of the past, which shaped a future, but with different eyes.

More than ever, I am convinced that a unique ideological thinking at the expense of diversification of ideas does not give good results. This is what the Quebec legislator has forced artists to do: to come together under one roof, ignoring ideologies and different types of aesthetics, and creative behaviors. Thus very innovative artists, an extremely dynamic network community-based, met individuals with the opposite of their sets of values​​. They were forced to set aside their ideologies to fit the law.

Oh, another very strange thing. I looked at my picture from 20 years ago. It is striking that I have ‘bliss happiness’ stamped in the forehead…  This is me, in 1992.

Oh My, I look blissful, don’t I?

In 20 years, many artists were there…

Gilles Arteau, Anita Petitclerc, Reine Boutat, Marie Fraser, Isabelle Bernier, Denis Dallaire, Francesca Penserini, Carole Brouillette, Claire Paquet, Suzanne Paquet, Guylaine Gariépy, Luce Pelletier, Bastien Gilbert, Brigitte Levasseur, Lucie Robert, Lesley Johnstone, Francine Périnet, Angela Grauerholz, Anne Ramsden, Marcel Blouin, François Lachapelle, Linda Bellemare, Bernard Bilodeau, Su Schnee, Cheryl Sim, Pierre Robitaille, Marie Perrault, Lyne Robichaud, Claire Gravel, Sylvie Fortin, Lisanne Nadeau, Marie-Josée Coulombe, François Vallée, Gilles Tibodeau, Dominique Guillaumant, Réjean Perron, Sylvie Raymond, Maria Masino, Pascale Lussier, Micheline Joemets, Céline Lapointe, Danyèle Alain, Yves Gendreau, Julie C. Paradis, Carole Painchaud, Michel Lefebvre, Eva Quintas, François Dion, Catherine Bodmer, Catherine Cahill, Jessica MacCormack, Maria Chronopoulos, Yolaine Lefebvre, Suzanne Cloutier, Lucie Beaulieu, Laurent Bélanger, Christiane Desjardins, Sophie Morin, Pierre Allard, Annie Roy, Marie-France Thérien, Jocelyn Robert, Diane Génier, Jean-Pierre Latour, Robert Cloutier, Jeane Fabb, Daniel Poulin, Marianne Coineau, Suzanne St-Denis, Aneessa Hashmi, Roxanne Arsenault, Christine Redfern, Mathieu Beauséjour, Isabelle Riendeau, Catherine Bolduc, Benoit Bourdeau, Yan Giguère, Kym Brennan, Valérie St-Pierre, Céline Allard, Guylaine Langlois, Anne Bertrand, Louis Fortier, Johanne Huot, Daniel Roy, Sylvie Cotton, Ghislaine Charest, Thomas Grondin, Marie-France Beaudoin, Benoint Pontbriand, Maurice Achard, Normand Yergeau, Élisabeth Picard, Virginie Daigle, Jean Mailloux, Marie Lavorel, Normand Rivest, François Bélanger, Marianne Thibeault, Jean-Pierre Caissie, Manon Quintal, France Choinière, Marie-Orphée Duval, Jennifer Campbell, Christine Boudreau, Stéphanie l’Heureux, Sophie Casson, Christine Martel, Arianne Gélinas, Véronique Doucet, Mathieu Dumont, Bill Vincent, Louise Sansfaçon, Geneviève Desmeules, François Wells, Alice Létourneau, Jimmy Boudreault, Jean-Marc Roy, Franck Michel, Nathalie Lafortune, Marthe Carrier, Jean-Émile Verdier, Mathilde Géromin, Chantal Poirier, Martin Champagne, Édith Martin, Chantale Brulotte, Jocelyne Fortin, Alayn Ouellet, Agnes Tremblay, Richard Martel, Nathalie Perreault, Christine Gauthier, Daniel Dion, Lili Michaud, Caroline Flibotte, Alain Fortier, Claude Bélanger, Carlos Ste-Marie, Marie-Josée Lafortune, Dagmara Stephan, Marc Dulude, Claude Forget, Claude Fortin, Jason Arsenault, Geneviève Matteau, Émile Morin, Caroline Ross, Shirley Ouellet, Viviane Paradis, Ginette Saint-Amant, Nicolas Pitre, Gilles Sénéchal. Caroline Martel, Marie-Christiane Mathieu, Stéphanie Lagueux, Martine Beaurivage, Marie-Dominique Bonmariage, Bernard Claret, Sylvie Roy, Michel Des Jardins, Marie-Josée Jean, Pierre Blache, Carl Johnson, Claudine Roger, André Gilbert, Ève Cadieux, André Barrette, Rodrigue Bélanger, Anne-Marie Ninacs, Gilles Prince, Claire Lemay, Gaëtan Gosselin, Jean-Yves Vigneau, Annie Gauthier, Hélène Pelletier, Josée Bernard, Pierre Beaudoin, Alice Létourneau, Hélène Doyon, Jean-Pierre Demers, Sylvain Miousse, Cécile Bouchard, Diane Maltais, Carole Baillargeon, Jean-Pierre Bédard, Fabienne Bilodeau, Raymonde April, André Martin, Mona Desgagné, Jocelyn Fiset, Philippe Côté, Roger Marchand, Robert Proulx, Sylvie Savard, Yves O’Reilly, Danielle Léger, Marie Côté, Claude Brault, Jean-Philippe Bolduc, Pierre-François Ouellet, Jean-Pierre Aubé. Skawenatti Tricia Fragnito, Andrew Forster, Lise Boileau, Bernard Schaller, Louise Trépanier, Luc St-Jacques, Joanne Bérubé, Nathalie Garneau, Lucie Baillargeon, Lucien Frenette, Gérald Ouellet, Madeleine Doré, Manon Guérin, Doreen Lindsay, Karen Wong, Lise Gagnon, Robert Faguy, Marie-Lucie Crépeau, Alain Bélanger, Daniel Campeau, Emmanuel Galland, Daniel Béland, Louis Jacob, Johanne Gagnon, Elaine Frigon, Manon B. Thibault, Katherine Bouchard, Anne-Marie Belley, Alain Vaugier, Annie Thibault, Cécile Bouchard, Yvan Pageau, Richard Baillargeon, Yves Doyon, Line Bellavance, Réjean Côté, Marie-Josée Dauphinais, Rosalie Graveline, Diane Charland, Sylvie Tourangeau, Hélène Bellemare, Sonia Pelletier, Lise Boileau, Jacques Charbonneau, Lucie Gagnon, Manon Guérin, Brigitte Lacasse, Joanne Balcean, Nell Tenhaff, Carole Beaulieu, Patrick Mailloux, Carl Trahan, Manon De Pauw, Tanya Mars, Jean-Pierre Harvey, André Barrette, Gilbert Langlois, Jean Laliberté, Michel Gaboury, Lise Marcoux, Carl Bouchard, Martin Dufrasne, Jacques Marchand, Dena Davida, Lise Gagnon, Pierre Thibodeau, Suzanne Joly, Suzanne Valotaire, Jean-Pierre Kohler … and a few others…

According to the “Certificate of conformity”, under the provisional administrators section, can be found the names of Peter Thibodeau, Bastien Gilbert, Dominique Guillaumant and Gilles Arteau, with the mission to “Promote the dissemination of knowledge and artistic production which are among the latest research and originate primarily of regional communities of Quebec”. Thus was legally born RCAAQ, the Regroupement des centres d’artistes autogérés du Québec, in September 29, 1986.

RCAAQ, has a reputation based on expertise of more than 20 years in contemporary art and actual art. It has become, over the years, the meeting point of a network of centers sixty artists and cultural organizations located throughout the province of Quebec, representing a community of interest of over 2250 professional artists and cultural workers. The network annually produces more than 800 activities including exhibitions, performances, publications, symposia and has a continuing education program for both cultural workers and professional artists.

The combat between AADRAV and RAAV (Regroupement des centres d’artistes du Québec), took place under Bill 78 on the Status of the Artist, while RCAAQ was lobbying to obtain a cultural policy and the creation of CALQ (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec).

The combat has been described as “a cloud of intolerance in a puree of politeness” by Lise Lamarche (in ETC, n° 23, 1993 (ref

At the time I arrived in this community, the battle for recognition of an association of artists according to the law on the status of the artist had begun several years ago. I contacted the network of artists in 1992, when one of my artworks was censored by the Women’s Center of Concordia University. I was beleaguered by journalists throughout the country, who tried to understand if my artwork was “politically correct” or not. Bastien Gilbert, the general manager of RCAAQ, gave me some advice.

Bastien Gilbert

Shortly after I met Bastien Gilbert, I was asked to pay a very high business tax by the City of Montreal, for my tiny artist’s studio, which I was using both as workshop and residence. All Montreal artists have been taxed at the same time as me. It is precisely for this reason that I got involved with the RCAAQ and AADRAV, and I quickly found myself elected president of the association of artists.

Gilles Arteau, a multidisciplinary artist, was president of RCAAQ from 1991 to 1994.

I was president of AADRAV from 1993 to 1995. My stay was very short, in the cannevas of the history of Quebec visual artists.

The Commission for recognition of associations artists is an organization created in December 1989 by the Loi sur le statut professionnel des artistes des arts visuels, des métiers d’art et de la littérature et sur leurs contrats avec les diffuseurs  L.R.Q., chapitre S-32.01 to designate which association or group will represent the artists in each area covered by the this Law.

In the field covered, the recognized association or group has the following functions:

1 ° to ensure the maintenance of the honor of the artistic profession and freedom of its exercise;

2 ° promote the achievement of conditions conducive to the creation and dissemination of works;

3 ° to defend and promote the economic, social, moral and professional artists;

4 ° representing professional artists whenever it is of general interest to do so.

At the arrival of the new bill, in 1989, besides RCAAQ, there was five disciplinary councils: the Council of Painting of Quebec, the Council of Sculpture of Quebec, the Council of Textile arts of Quebec, the Council of Printmaking of Quebec  and the Association of Illustrators of Quebec.

In 1990, to apply for accreditation to the Commission for the recognition of artists’ associations, the artists involved in the network of artist-run centers RCAAQ created AADRAV.

Meanwhile, the five disciplinary councils created RAAV (Regroupement des centres d’artistes autogérés du Québec).

Both groups presented an application for recognition under S-32.01.

In 1991, RAAV became an association of individuals and adopted its current name.

The Labour Relations Commission is the competent court to decide on applications for recognition under Act. The law establishes that only one association can be designated by the Commission to represent artists of Quebec. The association with the largest number of members wins the designation.

The association or group asking for recognition must apply to the Commission by writing with:

- a resolution signed by authorized representatives of the association or group;

- a certified copy of its regulations;

the list of its members.

Here was the heart of the problem, article 11 of the Act:

11. La Commission accorde la reconnaissance à l'association ou au regroupement qui est le plus représentatif de l'ensemble des artistes professionnels oeuvrant dans un domaine.
L'association la plus représentative est celle qui, de l'avis de la Commission, groupe le plus grand nombre d'artistes professionnels du domaine visé et dont les membres sont le mieux répartis parmi le plus grand nombre de pratiques artistiques et sur la plus grande partie du territoire du Québec.
Le regroupement le plus représentatif est celui qui de l'avis de la Commission regroupe les associations les plus représentatives du plus grand nombre de pratiques artistiques du domaine.

The 5 disciplinary councils paid for an automatic subscription of their members to RAAV, while RCAAQ was asking each artist to become a member of AADRAV of its own free will. RCAAQ was not able to gather as many artists as RAAV. Not many were missing to match the number of RAAV members, but still, AADRAV had less. But it was more dynamic, since almost all innovators — the wild creators — were very actively engaged in the artist-run center’s network, as they were creating contemporary and actual art. But they had less members than RAAV. So, no matter their value, all that matter in the face of the law, were numbers. The legislator did not care at all about the value of cultural production when it proposed Bill 78.

In 1993, the Commission granted the status to RAAV as the recognized body.

AADRAV appealed to Superior court. The application was dismissed.

The lawyer representing AADRAV died shortly after.

Two defeats in the courts. And a deceased lawyer. There was no further option other than to change the Act on the status of the artist, who had recently been adopted. Artists capitulated and had no other choice but to accept the demands of the Minister of Culture.

We ended up two rival factions that had two very different conceptions of community life, in a context where community life in the visual arts was very dynamic, extremely active.  For instance, I think about the presence of the disciplinary councils and art centers, with different views and activities. We had very different positions, but yet, we were aware that we had the desire to find solutions to improve the socioeconomic conditions of artists. The Act on the status of the artist had put us in a position of opposition. Finally, our divergence was settled in court. The Commission ruled recognition in favor of RAAV, but still we benefited from an accommodation from the Minister of Culture of the time, who wanted an environment that was supportive of all factions. Therefore, the Minister arranged for openings in the board of administrators, in order for AADRAV leaders to be integrated at RAAV.” (Gaetan Gosselin, video

Members of AADRAV gradually adhered to RAAV before dissolving their association in 1995.

A fundamental difference of attitude and expectation regarding meeting the needs of support for the structuring and supporting the profession is currently facing the Council of Sculpture at the Quebec Council of Arts and Letters. CALQ ceased to support the Council of Sculpture of Quebec, which has no more access to aid programs in operation.

In 1995, after I intensely  performed lobbying for two years, the government of Quebec agreed to modify the bill on municipal taxation, which has then enabled all Quebec municipalities to create regulations to exempt artists’ studios of the business taxes.

Moreover, the government also agreed to reimburse retroactively visual artists who paid business taxes between 1993 to 1995. The sum amounted to over half a million dollars.

RAAV had not made ​​any efforts to amend the law on municipal taxation and to recognize the artists’ studios. I spent two full years of my life to this cause. I attended weekly night meetings of the council of the city of Montreal, I intervened in a parliamentary committee of the National Assembly, I wrote hundreds of letters, I even built a model of an artist’s studio for each of the 51 councilors. I met a hundred councilors and members of parliament.

The half million dollars was awarded to RAAV, and I had no role in its management. Totally disgusted, I left the cultural milieu, and I have not done another visual artwork since 1995. I saw no future as a visual artist.


With bill 78 on the status of visual artists, the government of Quebec tried to squarely rule arts practice in Quebec and thus created a real diversion from the real problem. The concerns of the artists are not confined solely to terms of contracts, a market of cultural products or exemplary management career.

The art scene reproduced on another scale, the same phenomenon we often see across political parties or another, a clan or another, where roosters squabble while the other, the voters, or in this case the artists, continue to be indifferent to what goes on (or not).

But the government is not solely responsible for the problems faced by the visual artists. The lack of social involvement and indifference: even artists have a rightful responsibility to take part in democratic life. With the death of AADRAV, the art scene really hit the extreme, the bottom of the bottom. AADRAV died for lack of combatants. And meanwhile, nearly 20 years later, it is still difficult to obtain a deep dialogue between artists and the government about art, or its practice, or its content.

I keep a pretty good memory of the vitality of the team (from 20 years ago). I still remember it with nostalgia, as it is now in a context where it is less easy, with the new means of communication, and the rise of ideological tendencies from the Right, or more individualistic views.

If I had a message for the next generation (not necessarily the youth), I would say that you should take action. Do not think too long before doing something, to defend the issues that are tapered around artistic creation. I believe in the constructive value of collective action because it helps break the loneliness of artists who are sometimes quite alone in their studios, in favor of a concerted effort affecting the future, which helps develop a vision of the future. Sometimes governments think that there are too many artists associations, but there aren’t. These associations have a rightful mission to carry.”, concluded Gaetan Gosselin.

Meanwhile, political parties in Quebec get multiplied like mushrooms: the Liberal party, the Parti Quebecois, the Democratic Action of Quebec, Quebec solidarity, and the Coalition for the future of Quebec, not to mention more minor parties. Citizens should demand that all these parties rally behind a single political ideology, and the one with the most members gets to be in power… just to see what they would do. #justsaying!

“I believe in the constructive value of collective action”

dear Lyne,

This story seems a science fiction movie!

I understand what must have been hard to lose the cause to which you have devoted so much energy and passion for so long.

But I also know that fighting for a cause in which you believe, makes you really beautiful (as you are in the photo)

But what did the canadians? they have supported the fight or they were indifferent?

I’m sorry if I can only read your mission tonight, but I was traveling and I was traveling because I also “believe in the value of collective action construcitive”:  in the last weeks I have taken part in the occupations of theaters in different Italian cities to ask the government to allow knowledge workers to manage and use enclosed public places, the abandoned ones or at risk of being closed. It is asking the government to think about culture as a common and then give up some of its sovereignty to allow citizens to take care of thei spaces. we also propose innovative forms of management and a new type of welfare.

I’m afraid of losing this battle, but I feel I can’t delegate anyone to fight. and I think you thought the same thing in your story.

P. S. I wrote to Alberto about the problems you’ve had to post the mission. expect the resolution :slight_smile:

thank you for this hard jump in the past.

Quebeckers split up with ROC

There was anotherstory going on between the Quebec artist-run center network and the Canadian artist-run center network.

The Quebec artist-run center network was created because the Canadian network didn’t want to produce a directory of all artists-run centers. (Can you find something more silly than this!!!)

In ‘Vancouver 1986, the genesis of a network’, Le Devoir tells the story of how RCAAQ was created, VS the Canadian network:

« Nous nous sommes donc dit que si nous voulions un répertoire, il fallait le faire nous-mêmes et créer notre propre association »

"So we said if we wanted a directory, it had to do it ourselves and create our own association."

Representing Quebec for several years within the Regroupement d’artistes de centres alternatifs du Canada (ANNPAC/RACA), Chairman of the Langage Plus artist-run center, Alayn Ouellet said that centralizing operations in Toronto, where was located the headquarters of the organization had created tensions. Toronto dictated almost everything and, of course, it annoyed us. The head office was deciding on all the operation of art centers and regulations. In addition, artists’ centers of Toronto received the largest subsidies, thus leading to discontent with even people of Ontario. Regions were not adequately represented. It was also a misunderstanding due to culture".

The RACA consisted of around 70 artists. The Canadian country is vast, and it was impossible to please everyone. Thus, to have more visibility, we wanted a directory of artist-run centers. However, the RACA said he could not do it, especially because the document would quickly become obsolete. In addition, meetings were conducted in English. So there was frustration regarding both services and terms of providing them.

As you can see, this is a phenomenon that recurs throughout, aculturation (ie being forced to abandon a language - the French language - because the English-speaking people want to dominate and control). It is not only happening in open government spheres, but in all spheres of society. The Francophones do not like being forced to always have to speak English, and have everything in written in English, when they collaborate with the Rest of Canada (called the ‘ROC’ in Quebec).

So they split up! The English-speaking Canadians on one side, and the Quebeckers on the other side.

Fortunately the federal government did not force a bill on these two groups to dictate them to merge into one. But the dynamics between the Canadians and Quebekers has been broken since 1986

Then things got REALLY spoiled with the federal Conservatives came to power. Premier Stephen Harper does not like artists, nor international relations, nor the reduction of greenhouse gases, nor Democracy and Rights, nor a bunch of things.

This was the final blow that sent a huge shock of struggle in the cultural community, from an ocean to another.

This is why, among others, that almost all Quebecers voted for the NDP and Jack Layton, at the last federal general election. But he had the misfortune to die of cancer soon after. And all our hopes for a better life have been flushed down with him.

In August 2011, not long before he died, Layton wrote a letter addressed to all Canadians: “My friends, love is a hundred times better than hatred. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So, love, hope and remain optimistic. And we will change the world.

the past and the present

Dear Lyne, I think that the whole story is emblematic of how could be dangerous a top down approach, especially in cultural policies.

but today what is remained of what you told?

Deeper investigation required

It would require a deeper investigation.

I suspect that the situation has greatly deteriorated, since the (federal) Canadian government has Conservatives in power (they do not appreciate culture and made numerous drastic cuts over the years, which have caused damage in the communities).

From what I understood, listening to a video of Gaetan Gosselin (the artist who became the first president of RAAV, after AADRAV was defeated in Superior court), he mentioned 2 main factors, which did not help the artist community: 1) the Can fed gov; 2) and an individualistic trend (egocentric) among society (which probably killed attempts at mobilizing artists to fight for their rights).

Méduse, in Quebec city.

This week, I was invited to the National Assembly to attend the press conference of the launch of an open government, and I passed in front of the complex Méduse, built because of Gilles Arteau’s determination and efforts, (Gilles was the first president of AADRAV, and president of RCAAQ). Méduse used to be a number of artists run centers grouped together under a single administration, taking up a whole hill, near the Parliament, in Quebec City. My eyes almost filled with tears as I noticed with horror that it was nearly empty, as many artist-run centers seem to have put the key in the door. Oh my. What happened?

Maybe they moved to another location?