UrbSanity: Creative undercurrents

Originally published in the Centretown Buzz
by Jeff Salmon
April 11, 2014

Cities aren’t born with an innate culture. Instead, this is something that evolves over time. It may emerge with the support of, or in opposition to, a number of social, economic, political conditions. It takes years for a cultural identity to form and even longer to break away from one that is already established.

The ideas of innovators and creatives usually develop outside the realm of public consciousness. Beneath the façade of a slow-moving, overly conservative government town, Ottawa has a budding creative undercurrent that has been gaining momentum in recent years.

There are a growing number of individuals and companies choosing to remain in Ottawa and invest in the city rather than migrating to Montreal, Toronto, or elsewhere. This has seen a rise in the number of initiatives and events that bring these like-minded groups together. Many of these local events also tie into international initiatives focused on social innovation and collaboration.

This is a great and exciting place for Ottawa to be in as a city, as it works to reshape its image into that of a prosperous hub for creative energy. This is reinforced by the City’s recent $15 million commitment (in addition to $15 million from the province) to the renovation of the industrial building at the Bayview Yards into an innovation centre.

It is important for the City to continue to support artists and entrepreneurs by providing an environment where they can thrive. These creative communities are already engaged in reshaping the identity of the city. Look no further than the theme of the recent TEDx Elgin St, which was “Rethink + Rebuild,” for proof of this. It is also worth noting that Artengine’s Electric Fields festival was “We Make the City.” It is clear that Ottawa is in transition, and with that in mind, these themes and ideas will likely continue to be explored as we look toward the future.

At the moment the creative communities are gaining support through local initiatives, festivals and events, and companies and businesses. The list below provides a cross section of the things driving Ottawa forward.


Awesome Ottawa
The Ottawa Chapter of the Awesome Foundation awards $1,000 a month, with no strings attached, to projects or ideas that forward the interest of awesomeness. They have supported projects ranging from a dumpster pool party in the Market to pop-up public astronomy nights.

loveOttawa Project
Photographer Dwyane Brown has been taking photos of people around Ottawa while asking the question “What do you love about Ottawa?” and he is getting some great responses.


Nuit Blanche Ottawa+Gatineau
This is a dusk-until-dawn celebration of contemporary art and local culture that takes place across multiple venues and within the cityscape of Ottawa and Gatineau. This is an amazing event showcasing the diversity and creativity of local artists and the arts community.

Electric Fields
This multiday event consists of workshops, performances, and installations. The 2013 projects explored the theme “We Make the City” and how we collectively form the fabric from which the city is woven. There is a very collaborative atmosphere at this festival that fosters idea sharing and a strong sense of community.

Pecha Kucha
For those interested in a behind the scenes glimpse into the minds working on Ottawa’s latest innovative efforts, this is the event. Pecha Kucha events are like concise TED talks due to their trademarked format of 20 images shown for 20 seconds each. It is an event for creative people to showcase their projects as well as to meet and share ideas spontaneously and casually.


HUB Ottawa
Since opening in 2012, this co-working space has become enmeshed with the creative community. It is a place that celebrates collaboration. HUB offers a workspace for innovators, artists, professionals and entrepreneurs while also playing host to a number of events from art shows to mixers and fundraisers to product launches.

Invest Ottawa
This organization is the springboard for most local entrepreneurs. Offering free seminars and workshops on new business and entrepreneur skills, Invest Ottawa is providing the knowledge and support necessary to help Ottawa’s innovators and creatives succeed. Invest Ottawa will also become one of the residents of the new Bayview Yards Innovations Centre.

yowLAB is working to compile a list of helpful resources, events, networks, and opportunities that may be of interest and use to the architecture, design, and broader creative community in Ottawa. Please check out the links in the sidebar for Resources and Community Events. If we missed any you think should be included, please contact us.

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: