At Somerset and Bay, there was a boarded up former pizzeria that had not seen the light of day in many years. As much as Centertown could use another pizza shop, I’d given up hope of ever seeing the ovens start again in that beautiful heritage building. Don’t get me wrong, pizza and optimism are kind of my things. But it seems that we’ve lost so many community spaces in Chinatown recently – the Daily Grind, Raw Sugar, Monopolatte, and the future of Pressed is uncertain. How can a community survive without gathering spaces? Ottawa has a rich, if underground, cultural scene that needs support in order to grow.
Enter the Art House Café. Sitting down with co-founder Geneviève Bétournay, she trusts that the time is right. “Since those spaces have gone there’s a little bit of a void, but there is no shortage of people willing to step up. There is something going on around here, around Ottawa… It’s so encouraging. I don’t know if it’s because Ottawa has always been a small, tight-knit community? We’re all fighting the image of Ottawa.”
A Hub for Artists
Since meeting over the summer, Bétournay and her business partner, Joe Beaton, quickly realized they had similar ideas about the importance of community spaces to support creativity. Their vision, soon to be reality, is much more than a café – it’s meant to become a hub for creative people. “There are hubs that exist for other things – Makerspace North, hubs for entrepreneurs, but there is nothing really for artists to help promote themselves and grow, and provide the resources they need to do that”, says Bétournay.
There are a couple different components to their business model. Once the shop opens in January 2017, they will:
First look inside the 140-year old building. Once restored, this will be the gallery / gift shop.
Provide wall space to feature the works of local artists;
Open a gallery and “gift shop” to showcase and sell creations made in Ottawa by artists, musicians, and makers;
Maintain two rooms available to be rented – a studio space and a meeting room; and
Offer services and resources – such as printing, silk-screening, access to software programs, website design, “fancy paper cutters”, button design and more.
While the café is the most obvious source of revenue, each of these components combine to set the stage for a business that can sustain itself. “Neither of us are in it for the money”, says Bétournay. “We want to bring something to the community.”
Both Geneviève and Joe are full of ideas for events. “We want to involve the community as much as possible… We want to host a lot of workshops – as many as we can! Same with the store – [we will showcase] as many artists we can fit into the small space” says Bétournay. There will certainly be art-related events and vernissages, but the café is intended for more than just visual artists. They’ll be well equipped to offer local musicians the tools to take their band (or at least their merch) to the next level. The best punk rock is DIY, but sometimes you don’t know where to start, especially with things like making t-shirts or designing posters. Other events may prove helpful, “Ask the expert” evenings and intimate acoustic sets by local musicians.
An interesting element of the Art House Café is that they intend to remain open 24 hours a day once operations are underway. They creating a space where people can work and collaborate, which includes shifting the focus away from a standard revenue source – alcohol. “We won’t have big bands playing, and we won’t be licensed to begin with”, says Beaton. He added that they will periodically have licensed events, perhaps one night a week. “We are working with a six-month timeframe and we’ll assess the reaction of members and the neighbourhood to figure out what people want in the space”.
Supporting a community
The distinctness of a neighbourhood is precisely the kind of thing that makes this model interesting. There are plenty of ‘hidden gems’ in Ottawa that are starting to shine a little brighter, but we sometimes struggle to support an art community. Geneviève recognizes this: “People leave because the scene is not here – it doesn’t exist. They leave in the hopes of… they go where there is a scene already. But that’s exactly why I want to stay here. It’s uncharted territory, it’s like the Wild West. You get to make it what you think it should be.”
So, what should Ottawa be? That’s a question all of us have a role in answering. At the Art House Café, it will be members, volunteers, and partners that help define the space. In the broader context of the city, there are many people working to build a more vibrant cultural community. It’s an area where we can’t accept Ottawa’s sleepy reputation; let’s shape our city into a place where we want to be – and choose to stay.
Cos-founders Joe Beaton and Geneviève Bétournay outside the Art House Café, opening in January 2017 on Somerset W.
So this Ottawa filmmaker named Luca Fiore gets all his gear stolen. Not only does the thief make away with the things he needs to maintain his livelihood, but also the tools he needs to share his passion and innermost creative musings with the rest of us. While we may never know who did this, we can help alleviate some of the burden on Luca by supporting this campaign to recover some of what was lost.
I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have everything you use to create taken away. Some people don’t play fair in life, but we can show our support and empathy by jumping on board, donating, and spreading the word about this.
Please support the campaign by making a donation here:
with Ottawa’s Roberta Bondar(cough…. you can read more about this great band in Issue 2 of Herd Magazine released a couple days ago in stores around Ottawa… cough).
Herd Magazine is presenting the show tonight, and in anticipation have released an exclusive first look at new material from their new album Vieux Loup. The song is called ”Rapids (Mère de les chaudières)” and is filmed by the ever so talented Pat Bolduc for the Herd Mag Sessions. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this wonderful present that The Acorn and Herd Mag have dropped on us. Hope to see you tonight in Wakefield to hear some new tracks and celebrate!
Rolf Klausener with vocals and guitar, Adam Saikaley on keys, Pat Johnson on drums, and Jordan Howard on guitar.
The time has come! The awesomely terrific new Herd Magazine is set to release its second issue, and have a massive party in celebration of this. The issue 1 launch party at Fall Down Gallery on Bank St. in October was so unexpectedly massive that most people didn’t even get in… lineups down the street, people freezing… but luckily the party will be continuing at Babylon at midnight. Fall Down is hosting the party again, so be sure to get there early so that you can be drinking beer instead of getting frostbite in line. There will be music, visual arts, comedy… just about everything.
My contribution to the new issue is a feature on an Ottawa band – you’ll have to wait and see who it is. Steph Vicente, Pat Bolduc and the crew have put tons of effort into the issue, and I’m sure it will be unbelievable.
Here are the party deets:
James and Blackburn
Wind & the Wild (formerly On a Bear Hunt)
Beats by Dj Greg Reain
Video set by VJ Ina (veejay eye-nah…like vagina…..)
MC’d by local comedian Greg Houston
Cash & Carry art available from Collective Seen Artists
Admission by donation
We’ve got raffles again. Like the last launch, every 5$ you toss us at the door gets you a ticket into the raffle.
Sponsored by Top of the World, Magpie Jewellery, and Slasyh
There will be appetizers!
If you’re affiliated with the media please email firstname.lastname@example.org to acquire media access to the event.
In the weeks and months leading up to the Herd Mag release party, I had created an idea in my mind of what the magazine itself would be. Having contributed an article to the first issue, I knew what the spirit of this unique new mag would be: raw, provocative, with local intellectuality seething from its pages. But what does that mean? How can a few people throw together some words, photos and art and realistically expect to have a publication that captures the essence of Ottawa’s cultural nuances? Not that I was skeptical, but this was certainly no small feat.
But founders Steph Vicente and Pat Bolduc weren’t fucking around either. I had been in touch with Steph for a few months before I actually got to meet her and Pat at the Arboretum Festival in September. I immediately felt the passion they were putting into this magazine. Excitement and ideas began to unfurl as we talked, and the anticipation that I had for Herd Magazine grew into a need for it. I simply couldn’t wait any longer for what was to be the new and definitive publication for people like us – those who give a shit about Ottawa, it’s artists, it’s creative visionaries, and those who make this city an interesting and desirable place to be.
As the author of the article titled “The Unconventional Playground” in the first issue, I was originally looking forward to having my first published work included in a magazine. I felt proud about what I had written. But this began to change as the first issue of Herd started coming together, with the release date of October 12 getting closer. I can say now that my sense of pride completely revolves around the team that brought this together and the quality of work that went into making this magazine a piece of art in itself. The final product is incredible – not only for its aesthetics and articles, but because the hard work that went into it is so blatantly obvious with every turn of the page.
I have a tremendous respect for Steph and Pat, as well as the other contributors who poured some of their soul into Herd. You don’t always meet people like that. Herd Mag will become a mainstay for Ottawa and the arts community not only because it is relevant and necessary, but also because it is symbolic (and perhaps the product) of an artistic renaissance here in the nation’s capital. Things are happening here that demand to be heard, read, seen and experienced. That’s why it isn’t going anywhere.
I won’t say too much about the release party for Issue 01 held at Fall Down, just that if you weren’t there then you should have been. Lineups down the block, beats filling the gallery and drinks to celebrate the culmination of the work put into this magazine over the last 7 months. DJ INA was in charge of spinning all night, and Amos the Transparent played a great set as always (the cello always gets me). The raffles were lots of fun, although I didn’t win. I was so impressed with the turnout, it really showed how many people are in support of this kind of publication. Awesome night all-around. I still think there should be a release party for every issue… just saying.
Here are some totally unprofessional photos of the night’s events. Enjoy.