Canada’s capital is about to rechart its future. This fall, the National Capital Commission
(NCC) — the steward of federal lands and buildings in the National Capital Region, which
includes Ottawa, Gatineau and 11 other municipalities in eastern Ontario and western
Quebec — is consulting Canadians across the country about the future of Canada’s capital.
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is collaborating with the NCC on this ambitious
public consultation, called Horizon 2067 (in anticipation of Canada’s bicentennial), and all
Canadians are being invited to offer their opinions about how Canada’s capital should look
in years to come. To get this conversation started, we’ve asked four writers who live in the
capital for personal essays offering their own ideas on directions the capital is or could be
taking. We hope they inspire you to join the conversation and let your voice be heard.
Ottawa has no shortage of local artists. Photo: MarkSpowart, iStockphoto
Taking a closer look at local artists in the Capital Region By Sarah Brown
How cultural diversity and bilingualism became mainstream By Daniel Poliquin Read more »
Green space and wild places
What the Capital Region needs to shine By Moira Farr Read more »
As the National Capital Commission embarks on a program to chart the future of Canada’s Capital Region, chief executive officer Marie
Lemay sits down for a conversation with Canadian Geographic. Read more »
Share your vision
Be part of the planning for the future of Canada’s capital. The National Capital Commission is collecting ideas on the future of the capital. Share your ideas!
Taking a closer look at local artists in the Capital Region By Sarah Brown
Tour the world’s great capitals, and it
becomes apparent that they share two key traits.
First, their residents are unselfconsciously proud
of their culture. Second, these capitals are bold in
showcasing art and ideas, in supporting artists who celebrate
their nation and in allowing them the stage when they wish
to question the “sacred tenets” of what that nationhood
means. Great capitals engage their artists and citizens,
celebrating the diversity of their creations.
In the past 20 years, the population of Canada’s capital has
reached a critical mass that makes it possible for cultural
entrepreneurs to develop world-class blues, jazz and chamber
music festivals; the National Gallery of Canada and the
Canadian Museum of Civilization can count on crowd support
for blockbuster international exhibitions; the National
Arts Centre has outdone itself with its ongoing “Scene”
series of regional artistic exhibitions; and our key cultural
buildings are architectural showpieces. Yet, in 2011, our
capital city still lacks a certain zing.
Since its creation in 1959, the National Capital
Commission (NCC) has worked with other federal agencies
as well as municipal, provincial and other counterparts to handle
signature events in a solidly proficient way. I think of this
as the “macro” level of our capital’s culture. Remembrance
Day is sombre and moving; February’s winter festival Winterlude is a blast of fun in an otherwise miserable month;
and Canada Day gathers everyone on Parliament Hill to
celebrate together. “Christmas Lights Across Canada” showcases
the city’s beauty, and the “Mosaika” sound and light
show on the Hill provides visitors with a visually stunning
Coles Notes version of our history.
But to take culture to the next level, it’s the “micro” that
needs some attention as the NCC works up its next game
plan. Let’s call it a 100-mile cultural diet: local artists and
art at street level. The big stuff has its place, of course, but
if Ottawa is to become a more vibrant capital, art at the local
level must get its due. You want dynamism? Think local.
Capital cities are the seat and the showpiece of the
powerful. Ottawans know this. They understand Ottawa,
and they make great art based on their experiences at the
centre of power. Our artists are smart and cosmopolitan.
They should be blowing you away with their insights,
juxtaposing the reliable grandness of the museums and
festivals with whiplash insight and exposé — insights about
the politics that make this city tick, but also insights about
what it is to be Canadian. The NCC must work with the
city more to make it easier for these artists to be unselfconscious,
bold and, most important, visible. Visitors to
Ottawa should be wowed by its cultural legacy and then
hooked on its hip, irreverent arts scene.
Here are three quick snapshots of that scene: three photographic
artists whose work has impressed me recently.
I’m focusing on one genre as a way of demonstrating just
how deep the local talent pool is — and to point out how
challenging it can be to access local art.
What’s your vision for the capital’s future?
You can be part of the planning for the future of Canada’s capital. The National Capital Commission, the
federal planning agency for the National Capital Region, is staging a series of conversations across the country as
part of its Horizon 2067 planning initiative to collect ideas on the future of the capital. Share your ideas by
Snapshot number one: Tony Fouhse is a brilliant portrait
photographer whose work was recognized by the city in 2010
with the prestigious Karsh Award. Where was he showing most
recently? On RocketHub, a website that acts as a platform for
artists looking to use crowdfunding to drum up money for
projects they hope to realize. Fouhse’s five-year “User” series,
which chronicles through portraiture the lives of dozens of
drug users who frequent Ottawa’s ByWard Market area, made
a huge impact on the local scene. Pretty? Not necessarily.
Relevant to how we perceive the capital? Definitely.
Snapshot number two: David Trattles is a one-of-a-kind
documentary photographer who, for the past six years, has
split his time between Ottawa, Toronto and India. In May,
he held a show of portraits taken in communities across
Canada as well as in India. Unfortunately, it was a one-night
affair in a studio that packed in around 50 lucky souls.
From the High Arctic to the fishing villages of
Newfoundland, Trattles’ revealing portraits do infinitely
more to reflect what it is to be Canadian than any sound and
light show ever could.
Snapshot number three: Rémi Thériault, a rising star on
the local photography scene, is a transplanted Acadian Prince Edward Islander. At a springtime “One Night Stand”
displaying eight photos at Ottawa’s La Petite Mort Gallery,
Thériault had space to hang just two photos from his ongoing
“Vimy” series. It was a battle that defined Canada as a
nation — and for three years now, Thériault has travelled to
France to visit the Canadian National Vimy Memorial site,
documenting it in summer and winter, at dawn and dusk.
The winter series, in particular, has a haunting beauty, the
site desolate, a dusting of snow on the picturesque ridge that
was once a churning war zone of mud and death.
Three snapshots. Three phenomenal local artists worthy
of greater audience exposure but struggling to be seen
and heard. Now think about all the installation artists,
sculptors, painters, actors, photographers, playwrights,
writers, dancers, choreographers, poets and musicians
who make up the Ottawa scene. They are at the cultural
heart and soul of this city.
So I say the NCC should play to Ottawa’s strengths.
Make it easier for the locals to up the energy factor in my
favourite city. How can NCC buildings and land be used in
creative ways to showcase local talent? What types of cultural
partnerships will allow the less predictable Ottawa to shine?
It’s time to simultaneously think global and go local. Let’s
envision a bold blueprint for the future, then go out and
work like crazy to make it happen.
I recommend that the overall Ottawa River from the north end of Lake Temiskaming to Montreal be registered as a National Historic Site. This River is really the original pioneer pathway to the development of Northwestern Quebec and Northeastern Ontario, plus provided access to the Mattawa River to open a route directly to Western Ontario to eventually open ALL of western Canada.Even prior to that period, this River was was initially explored my Lasalle, Groseilliers, Radisson , etc. in the 1600,s , as well as fur traders , loggers , miners , and eventually farmers to the great Clay Belts of temiskaming and Cochrane Districts of today. This lack of National Historic Site designation for the Ottawa River and its head waters of Lake Temiskaming is a sad error by our Country historians, and should be corrected PRIOR to the bi-centennial of 2067 as being planned now by the NCC.
Rather than looking inward towards Ottawa/Gatineau. I think the NCC and Parks Canada should team up to bring a real taste of the best that our capital has to offer directly to Canadians across this great country.
Over the next 15 to 20 years, I would love to see 2-3 federal parks established in each region of the country.
These parks would be located in major urban centres and would feature: - a museum that displays rotating exhibits from Canada's national institutions for the arts, humanities and sciences - a public square where Canadians can gather to collectively watch and celebrate truly national sporting and cultural events (think Canadians vying for Olympic gold or pan-Canadian Canada Day concerts) and, - a green space of at least 10 hectares criss-crossed with cycling, hiking and skiing trails.
These parks would offer fully bilingual experiences and each would be a bit different, showcasing the contributions of each region to the great endeavour that is Canada.
How can the NCC be worried about 2067 when Ottawa continues to annually dump raw sewage into the Ottawa River. Let's get this priority dealt with before fussing about any other physical attribute.