A drive along Highway 20 in Lachine is looking a little brighter these days.
The sound barrier between 55th Avenue and 32nd Avenue has received a fresh coat of vibrant blue paint.
It’s a $3.2 million birthday gift to Montreal from the National Bank and a slew of private donors.
“It’s a little bit of a crazy idea, but that’s what makes Montreal fun,” said Louis Vachon, president and CEO of the National Bank.
An avid traveller, Vachon said he knows the importance of a person’s first impression of a city.
“You leave the airport and then you drive towards downtown. I don’t want to sound condescending, but it looks like Cleveland on a bad day sometimes,” Vachon said.
The bank put out a call for proposals for an art project to beautify six kilometers of the highway.
“We got four proposals from three different artists, and we selected the proposal from Alain Paiement,” Vachon told Global News.
A Montreal artist and professor, Paiement’s winning concept is called “Bleu de Bleu.”
“Instead of proposing a large scale artwork that one would pass by at a relatively fast speed, I thought one should rather approach the project with the idea that the voyage itself could be the artwork,” said Paiement.
“[The colour blue] can symbolize many things. It’s a northern colour, it’s the colour of Quebec, it recalls water and air, just like the Saint Lawrence River.
“It is also the colour of the markers on the edges of the landing runway, and the colour of the Montreal transport network.”
Paiement admits he was quite shocked to learn his idea had been chosen.
“I presented my idea with confidence, but thinking it could well be refused,” he told Global News.
“I may have been convincing, but at times, I thought it could be received like a too radically minimalist idea.”
The project is far from complete and so far, not all Montrealers are sold on the idea.
“I would probably spend more money just to erase them at this point,” one driver told Global News.
But the blue paint is here stay, at least for a while.
“It’s going to be there, not just this year, but for at least four years,” said Vachon.
He added that continuing the installation beyond the four-year mark will depend on the public’s reaction to the project and the availability of funds.
An inaugural ceremony is planned for the end of the summer, though the work should finish by the end of June.