If you live in the Mile-End you’ve probably heard of the artist Patsy Van Roost a.k.a. the Mile-End fairy. If not, there’s a fair chance you’ve unknowingly witnessed some of her magic somewhere in Montreal. She’s fun, down to earth, likes to laugh. She’s not your typical artist. Her medium is the Mile-End, and she creates some of the most thoughtful and inspiring art projects I’ve seen. Her workshop, located in the heart of the Mile-End, is filled with fragments from old and current art projects. I stopped by to photograph a project she was working on for Valentine’s Day.
I initially met Patsy while photographing one of the workshops for 100in1day Montreal. The project she had contributed was Ici, un souvenir. Participants were invited to write a significant memory of theirs that happened in the Mile-End or Plateau and were asked to include the address or intersection where it had occurred.
Weeks of collecting memories passed. Then, overnight, she displayed over 400 of these hand-written memories all over the neighbourhood at the location where they had happened, effectively transforming the streets into a giant crowd-sourced storybook.
Over Christmas, I had the pleasure of photographing another one of her projects, Un Dessin à la Fenêtre. In collaboration with other artists, she created an advent calendar, in which an address, rather than chocolate, was hidden behind each day of December. If you were to go to that address, you’d find a fragment of a love story, lit throughout the night, hanging in the window. Each day, as you would open up the next tab and find the next address, you’d find yourself walking alongside your neighbours, merging together to the window where the next piece of the story would be discovered. Day after day, a new window would light up the neighbourhood. When all windows were revealed, Patsy hosted a little tour throughout the neighbourhood, hopping from one house to the next on a cold January night.
Patsy thanked me for photographing this cold adventure by mailing me a card. PHYSICAL MAIL! It made my day. And “card” is probably a conservative term here for what she creates, check out her boutique for hand-made letters, invitations, cards, etc., at papernurse.com).
Receiving this thank you card, seeing her workshop filled with hand-made letters, and experiencing her community-driven projects inspired me to do a little personal project. I’ve been diving into photo archives and printing out photographs to reconnect with people using physical mail rather than Facebook messages.
I’ve also been re-discovering the joys of licking envelopes and stamps.
Click here to check out the gallery with the other Montreal Artists I've photographed!