Artist brightens up pandemic-weary Montreal with balcony banners

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Montreal (AFP)

Artist Patsy Van Roost is brightening up Montreal balconies and putting smiles on pandemic-weary passersby with a variety of personalized messages on multicolored banners hung across the city.

"The idea is to spread a little love for people during their solo walks," she told AFP.

The notes "are like whispers in people's ears as they walk past or little kisses strewn across the city," she said, sitting at her sewing table stitching together new banners.

"People give me messages that I turn into banners, and they put them on their balconies so that their balconies can 'sing' to pedestrians during their brief escapes from self-isolation," Van Roost said.

Since she started her project on March 26, Van Roost has created more than 150 banners cut from waterproof foam sheets.

"I only do that, day and night," she said, cutting "one letter at a time by hand" before sewing them together.

Her project doesn't stop there: Once people receive and hang their banners, they send her a photo that she marks on Google Maps "so that people can take a virtual stroll from one banner to another."

She has just received a new order from a woman in Montreal, whose 92-year-old mother in France is dying.

"Obviously, she can't go there. So she wanted a banner that said, 'Bon voyage mommy sweetheart,' which she is going to hang on her balcony here in Montreal to help say goodbye," Van Roost said.

The banners are unfurling on multiple streets across Montreal.

Valerie Menguy is very happy to hang hers, which proclaims: "I live on love and laughter."

For a couple expecting a baby, Van Roost created another one: "Here life multiplies."

"Courage is ageless," Quebec actress Louise Latraverse's banner says.

Latraverse is friends with Van Roost, whom the actress has nicknamed "the fairy of Mile End," referring to the district of Montreal where the artist lives.

"Poetry in the street, in front of each house, you can't find anything more inspiring than that," said Latraverse.