Ottawa photo show - urban reality

We're planning a photo exhibit as part of the annual House of PainT hip-hop festival here in Ottawa. The exhibit will be at Fall Down Gallery, 288 Bank, opening August 4th.

The concept behind the exhibit is 'Ottawa as an Urban City'.

We're constantly shown images of Ottawa produced by the NCC or Tourism Canada, featuring sunset bike rides along the river or skating along the canal, but for most of the people who live in Ottawa - and love the city - the reality is much more urban. We're looking for images that show Ottawa as a CITY - a place where people live, work, travel, shop, party, chill, play, on streets, sidewalks, back alleys, yards and parking lots. We want to show that Ottawa is beautiful not only for our tourist attractions, but also for those things we experience day to day.

So in keeping with the 2011 festival theme - CONNECT - we're looking for work that, in some way, connects the viewer to Ottawa (the architecture, the landscape, the people, etc...) in that way. We want to connect Ottawans with the urban reality of the city.

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Graffiti as art - and more

A friend of mine, Yvette, is writing a book about the history of Toronto 's graffiti scene, how it began, how it evolved, what has been happening. She is getting opinions and viewpoints from across the board including business owners, artists and supporters of the cause - such as yours truly.

There is an "artist profile" section where contributing artists write their own bios, provide their own photos and say whatever is important for them to get out.  These are primarily the old school writers who've been around the longest and have seen graffiti evolve as well as the communities that surround it.
There is also a "tales" section with interesting stories and anecdotes, as well as a photographic exposition showcasing some of the amazing graffiti in Toronto.

She has most of her input, but is still collecting more if you act quickly. You can email her via tgcbproject  at gmail dot com . 

The following is the text that sent to her:

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House of Paint - 2009

Yet another successful HoP - big ups to Sabra and all the rest of the volunteers. Seems every year we add a few more features, but we still manage to keep that community feeling.

We had about 50 graffiti artists, so added more scaffolding this year. Ended up with three levels on the main wall, two on the south wall.  Stage for the bboy/bgirl was larger, with bleachers added to two sides. Red Bull provided a sound truck, that was boosted by some amps and speakers from Timekode.

It was good to see a lot of artists there from previous years, and to hear appreciation of the work I've been doing to promote graffiti art, especially as part of a mural program. It's nice when a teenager comes up to me, asks if I'm Ravensview,then  thanks me for our mural work, and even expresses interest in joining Keepsix. Some are worried they aren't good enough, I explain it's not just a group for the top writers in Ottawa, it's also a way for aspiring artists to focus more on this and develop their skills. We try to mix up the artist levels on large mirals, just for that reason.

I've a lot of photos from the day, will get them up in Flickr over the next few days and add a link here.

 Lots of time for editing lately, with all this rain. We're hoping to get the Ravine Wall mural finished out here in Orleans, then it's on to one for behind Boushey's on Elgin. And then on to others - a few  contact us and then suddenly drop all interest, not sure why, but many stick with us And they then  really like the work we do, think the rate is fair, and compliment the artists on not just their skill but their pleasant demeanor. And pass on the word to others - we rely on not just our site and positive articles in the media, but also referrals by reputation and word of mouth.

Urban arts forum

I was pleased to be a guest at an Urban Arts Forum last Wednesday evening (Nov 7), at the SAW Gallery, one of several such forums across Canada that the Governor General's office has coordinated. I was also pleased to be able to add to the ambiance with an exhibition of 28 photos (mine and others) I'd collected on graffiti and our local HoP festival. There were about 200 people there, mostly youth, with some good dialogue on the issues, and some good ideas on solutions. There was a good review of the evening in today's Ottawa Citizen Arts Section.

So - now what? I put in some feedback on the forum blog, sent a note to a number of my local contacts to get their input, and submitted a letter to the editor (Ottawa Citizen). They published it, with a large photo of Her Excellency getting down with Oni the Haitian Sensation. Here's my letter:

Let's channel the energy Governor General sparked - The Ottawa Citizen - Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Re: Jean steps out with street cred, Nov. 10.

Many thanks to Gov. Gen. Michaƫlle Jean for organizing one of a series of urban arts summits across Canada. I was glad to see so much enthusiasm, and hear so many youth and adults speak up on the issues surrounding urban arts in the Ottawa area.

One of the issues raised at the forum that I attended was that the youth do talk, but the adults don't listen.

Former senator Laurier Lapierre spoke of those who live in an "adult ghetto," comfortable within the walls of their own culture and somewhat confused and uncomfortable if they venture outside and encounter things like "hip-hopping."

I admit I was one of those, until eight years ago my eye was caught by a bright spray of graffiti in a back alley.

I started photographing this new (to me) art form, both to preserve and promote these murals to my peers, whether they were neighbours in suburbia or co-workers in office cubicles.

My passion for this led to an expanded interest in other elements of this culture, so that now my circle of peers and friends has been enriched and expanded to include bboys/bgirls (breakdancers), DJs, MCs, and graffiti artists.

I'm glad I ventured out; there are different and interesting ideas outside those walls, and there is also some great art painted on them.

So we had an enthusiastic and well-attended forum in Ottawa. People talked, people listened, there were many valid issues, some creative suggestions -- now what? It's not enough to say that "we" talked, and "they" listened, now "they" fix it. The challenge for everyone is now to build on the momentum, put in some hours, and start making things happen.

Some of the issues raised included poor publicity, Ottawa's conservative risk-averse culture; a lack of communication and disorganization. Perhaps some of those who were calling for action at the forum could start an Ottawa area urban arts committee, with a mission to co-ordinate and guide the development of urban arts here, especially hip-hop culture. Nothing very formal for now, something independent rather than another city committee. This group could channel and encourage enthusiasm and ideas, and add some structure, some funding, some tools, some planning and goals, and pick some objectives for the year.

I'd love to see us all gather next year to celebrate a list of accomplishments, and even be a role model for other cities trying to effect these changes.

If you're interested in more information on urban arts issues, or in taking action, you can contact the Governor General's forum at, or e-mail me via my blog at

We'll see what happens - I'm not interested in this being a one-man show, or a committee of just adults, "official representatives" that are there just to be seen but don't add any real value, that are too busy to commit to some time and deliverables. That may sound cynical, but it happens too often. As I said in my letter, some of us can add structure, help find funding, sort out red tape, but the action needs to be primarily from the urban arts community and youth.