How did Sterling Downey go from being a graffiti artist sued by the city for $250,000... to being the deputy mayor of Montreal? By positioning himself as a force for change in Montreal's underground culture. After co-founding the UnderPressure Urban Arts Festival in 1996, he opened collaborative spaces created for and by the emerging street art community. Sterling often appears in the media to explain how Montreal can support graffiti artists rather than repress them, and as a result, he gained the attention of Projet Montréal and was elected city councillor for the Desmarchais-Crawford district in his native Verdun in 2013.
Sterling still sometimes wonders why a party would want to recruit a man full of tattoos, who only has a DES and draws on walls... His colleagues are quick to remind him of his qualities as a strong spokesperson for his community, a role model for young people and an internationally respected promoter of the urban arts, which more than make up for his lacking any degree. Sterling believes that in order to have a real dialogue, people need to identify with their municipal councillor: his eclectic background and recognizable look make him approachable, which is important to this social, curious and sincere man.
Since his twenties, Sterling has been speaking at conferences to suggest more effective and positive interventions to counter the lure of crime among youth. Promoting mentorship and self-esteem, he also teaches teens not to use social media as a measure of their worth or as a place where bullying is acceptable. For the overgrown, awkward and unpopular teenager that Sterling was, bullying was what led him to forge his own, more marginal identity through punk, skate and street art cultures.
Sterling still lives in the house where he was born, where two generations came before him, and where his son is now growing up. His work with veterans is a tribute to his father, who served in World War II. Indelibly human, Sterling is an avowed feminist. He is proud to represent the English-speaking community, but also to be a defender of the French language: he wears his bilingualism as a badge. It's also a useful tool in his role as Deputy Mayor, which involves meeting with many international dignitaries.
Two examples of Sterling's perseverance? The UnderPressure Festival has reachedthe 25-year mark, making it the longest-running event of its kind. And the development of the skatepark in Verdun in 2015 took place in the presence of a young Verdun skateboarder who, in 1988, had forwarded a request to the city of Verdun with friends for a skateboard park... city councilman Sterling Downey! Proof that speaking out, even when you are young and have an atypical path, is worth it.
We seek a mixed and inclusive living environment, with housing and jobs for all, and neighbourhoods with local shops and services as well as a rich and vibrant community life. We want to democratize culture and support citizen initiatives. Our priority is maintenance of municipal facilities: streets, parks, buildings, etc. We are committed to offering quality services to all social groups in an environment that favours the reduction of GHGs and our ecological footprint, to ensure our resilience to climate change.See more