When you walk into the main hall of the Rialto Theatre over the next couple of days, with it's enchanting decor, the transformation is meant to get you ready for a new discovery of original art at every turn.

What usually serves as a concert hall now looks like an art gallery.


Creators left to right: Benita Bailey, Kathleen Stavert and Jen Viens collaborate in a new piece called Muttercake - an experimental exploration of mental health and the facets of our society. (Other collaborator, Cristina Cugliandro, not seen here.) (CBC)

It's all for the first-ever edition of Archipelago, where 30 Montreal-based artists from a variety of disciplines are brought together under one roof to collaborate and play.

"Science tells us that play is very important. So as artists — we're really fortunate — because everything we do lends to that," explained director and founder of the four-day festival, Cristina Cugliandro.


Montreal based composer, singer & songwriter Christian Norton presents his musical project Melankolya for the first edition of Archipelago. (CBC)

"But we also get swept away from the play. This is really, really playful. It's got a bunch of different things."

Cugliandro represents the Montreal branch of Odd Stumble, a new theatre company with a branch in London and a Finnish branch on the way.

Aquil Virani

Visual artist Aquil Virani is excited to have Montrealers listen to audioscapes about inspiring women while he paints their portraits live in the Cabaret space of the Rialto building. (Nantali Indongo/CBC)

"It's an opportunity to think about how we use the space, how we collaborate with the spaces with all of the artists in them and create an experience that audiences will feeling invigorated from."

It's all about bringing you another way to experience and engage with theatre, dance, music, visual and installation art and of course, the Rialto.

Aquil Virani

Portrait of Clare Biarugaba queer woman and activist in Uganda, one of the people you can learn about during Sit With Me" live painting with Aquil Virani. (Nantali Indongo/CBC)

The main hall is where your experience at Archipelago will begin, witnessing three actresses in a live performance piece. They're roped-off, like at museum.  

And just before the end of their piece, your attention is drawn toward the stage.

Carlo Pidoro Lopez

Find part of Carlos Pidoro Lopez' installation art in a hidden doorway in the basement of the Rialto Theatre. (Nantali Indongo/CBC)

You, and other audience members will move some 20 feet away to the stage area where a live band will perform.

Up onto the stage and when you look up and around, you'll see more artists presenting original work.

All of them are independent of each other, but somehow linked.

The Dairy Farmer’s Lament

Live performance with actor Gabriel Shultz in The Dairy Farmer’s Lament -- one of the performances in the Piccolo room of the Rialto. (CBC)

You follow the ropes, or the sounds, or the lights, as you move through three floors of the Mile-End Rialto building ending up in the backstage areas where bands usually hang out, stairwells and even washrooms.

Jacqui Van de Geer

Go back to the seventies at a disco in Rotterdam with Jacqui Van de Geer sharing stories and spinning some of her favourite '45s. (Nantali Indongo/CBC)

The Archipelago Festival is on until Jan. 14 at the Rialto Theatre.