Sterling Downey has a longstanding career in community-based organizations and the arts which spans over two decades. Downey founded the Under Pressure festival 19 years ago. The urban arts festival, which incorporates graffiti, hip-hop, break dancing, skateboarding and more, is North America’s oldest and longest-running urban arts festival. Under Pressure is completely volunteer-based and has given many up-and-coming new artists a platform from which to build their careers. Downey received the Festival of the Year from the Montreal Underground Urban Community of Montreal as founder of the Under Pressure urban music and arts festival in 2004, and received the 2011 City Styles Lifetime Achievement award. In 2011, Under Pressure inaugurated the Fresh Paint gallery, Canada’s first ephemeral / temporary urban art museum. Downey has long been active in terms of defending artists’ rights and has been a guest panelist for McGill University’s R.I.P. Association (Rethinking Intellectual Properties) in their law department.
In addition to his work in the cultural sector, Downey has been active in such community groups as the Black Star Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, an NDG-based organization dedicated to providing positive role models for youth. Downey was also part of the 4-1-1 Initiative for Change, a Toronto-based non-profit organization that provides programming to schools and community groups merging contemporary arts, culture, heritage, education and social development to empower and inspire young people. Downey was successfully elected as Montreal City Councillor in Verdun under the Projet Montreal banner during the 2013 Montreal Municipal Elections. He is the first former graffiti writer to hold a City Council position in Canada and North America. Downey has also worked closely with the City of Montréal and many elected officials as a consultant regarding graffiti and effective graffiti cleanup for many years.