Register Tuesday | February 20 | 2024

Reflections on Renovating

An introduction to the Blueprint issue

A blueprint—the white-lined design papers traditionally used by architects—is the perfect metaphor for what Maisonneuve has been developing over the past year. Blueprints, in their intricate measurements and chosen materials, are detailed plans of action, models toward a desired outcome. We all live according to blueprints, whether we acknowledge them or not, and non-profit cultural enterprises are no different.

So where is this magazine going? Maisonneuve quietly entered the Canadian publishing scene in spring 2002. Since then, it has been nominated for more National Magazine Awards—thirty-eight—than any other small magazine in Canadian magazine history. It has also published more material online than in print and launched dynamic offshoots, such as MediaScout (Canada’s leading daily news digest) and the Maisonneuve boutique. Plus we’ve held some really great parties.

The magazine has recently moved its office from downtown Montreal back to NDG—a neighbourhood simmering with cultural promise. Most emblematic hereabouts is the push to transform the empty Empress Theatre, with its magnificent 1920s façade of Egyptian motifs, into a community arts hub. Sherbrooke Street West has the makings of a new, native “Plateau.” It’s wonderful to be back in a part of town where the coffee is great, trees and children abound, English and French mix seamlessly and people are never in such a hurry their hearts are not in the right place. The city’s future is growing here. We’re happy to be back, across the street from where the magazine started in a one-room office five years ago.

Over the past year, Maisonneuve has become, perhaps to people’s surprise, a sustainable entity. Surprising because the perception that magazines grow and die quickly—as true a fact of magazines as it is of mushrooms—makes people assume that the odds are stacked insurmountably high against arts and culture magazines. But a funny thing about statistics: there is always room to pole-vault over the top of them.

Unpacking the books, files, and obsessively collected bits of archival material from the past five years, it’s amazing to me how much love and energy have gone into the creation of this magazine. So many people have built this house from the ground up. I found a little hand-scribbled scrap with “Vive la maison libre!” written in green ink. The original printer’s dye for our second set of T-shirts, designed by art director Teena Aujla. A full set of Honourable Mention posters from several years of magazine award shows. A 65-page business plan for 2003 that lists a truly breathtaking number of schemes. The three winning videos from our Digital Curiosity video contest (OK, we only received three entries. Quality, not quantity!). A computer disk with over a hundred rejected cover images. An entire filing cabinet—six feet high—of notes and editorial ideas for our shelved city magazine. So many great ideas, some of them still waiting for their ship to come.

I’m glad most of all for the handwritten notes of appreciation and thanks, zany birthday cards from staff members, and other more formally written letters from readers who’ve discovered, to their immense surprise, some kindred spirit conveyed across a newsstand. Sincere people who just want to connect.

We are now focused on growing this wonderful, quirky magazine into a long-term sustainable vehicle for the arts, opinion and ideas in Canada and the US. Maisonneuve has always been a magazine with ambitions bigger than its britches (do people still wear britches?) but now that we’ve got some experience in our corner, we’re no longer just another upstart publication. Big ideas + experience = watch out world.

So read onward into the Blueprint issue—a metaphor for our renovated maison neuve.