It stands out and cannot be missed. With its spectacularly minimalistic box for an entrance, the OAG sits in the heart of downtown Ottawa, crowded with visitors’ curious faces and ready to welcome hundreds of theatre and arts students from the University of Ottawa for the new school year. The new space within the Arts Court that includes an architectural showpiece, which has only been available since this summer, was one of the remaining renovations before the completion of the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) in April of this year.
As part of a wider project to display the infamous Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, it is in fact accomplishing much more than that. The collection itself consists of 1,600 works by Canadian artists, and is estimated to be worth $25 million, and thus befitting to be housed in its own room in the new building dedicated to displaying a range of what the collection has to offer. A large portion of the art pieces is accredited to the Group of Seven; and several sketches by A.Y. Jackson, the founder of the group. The new building also provides a facility specifically focused on local art and displays pieces by English and French speaking Ottawans, as well as Indigenous art from the region.
“Growing five times its previous size, the OAG represents a coming of age for Ottawa and its local arts scene.”
As Alexandra Badzak, Director and CEO of the OAG, described this project, the infrastructural upgrade does in fact represent the modernization of downtown Ottawa’s look. Being situated in a key location – surrounded by Rideau Centre and the Shaw Centre – the OAG contributes to the modern aesthetic these buildings provide through their architecture. The building itself makes an economical use of space, holding two outdoor rooftop terraces, one of which overlooks the Peace Tower. As one of the funders of this project, the University of Ottawa benefits tremendously from the gallery’s new 120-seat Black Box Theatre, designated for its Theatre and Arts students. Four classrooms have additionally been designed and appropriated for the University’s use. Renovations of the building included new loading docks and and other infrastructure upgrades, as well as elevators that connect the new gallery and the Arts Court to the University of Ottawa Theatre Department.
Ottawa’s artists and organizations are benefiting from the new space to host exhibitions and performances, which also allows the OAG to become the hub to discuss art on a local level, and a space for the public to buy or rent art. The gallery provides an area for art production and creation, including a studio for school programs to introduce children to the arts. Overall, the OAG holds a promising opportunity for local art promotion to art enthusiasts all ages.