By Paul Gessell
Moments after Ottawa City Council approved the $36.1 million expansion and renovation of Arts Court, Alexandra Badzak said she was “dizzy with excitement.” Badzak is the director of the Ottawa Art Gallery, that cramped art hideout in Arts Court that is about to balloon in size, staff and influence. In an email interview with the Artful Blogger, Badzak discusses the future of art in Ottawa.
What are the benefits for Ottawa-area artists in increasing the size of the Ottawa Art Gallery?
Fundamentally, our artists require and deserve a state-of the-art gallery to exhibit their work. This will allow our artists to stand shoulder to shoulder with other artists across Canada who have benefited from large and significant municipal art galleries in cities like Vancouver, Winnipeg and Saskatoon.
With a larger space, the OAG will be able to feature the work of artists throughout all phases of their career from emerging to senior. We will be able to exhibit and tour our regional artists alongside their national and international colleagues so that they get greater exposure. Some people may ask: Why does Ottawa need a municipal art gallery when it has the National Gallery of Canada? The answer is that the National Gallery simply doesn’t function without a strong network of senior municipal and regional art galleries. The NGC would not have any senior Canadian artists to exhibit or collect without these same artists having been supported and fostered by city art galleries as well as artist-run centres. Daphne Odjig was highly exhibited at the Art Gallery of Sudbury and Kamloops throughout the years, David Hoffos by the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Joe Fafard by the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. These artists, who all had significant solo exhibitions at the National Gallery recently, would never have reached this pinnacle (or received the exhibition experience, attention and notoriety) if their careers hadn’t first been supported by their municipal art galleries. We are an essential link in that chain. Our artists deserve to be exhibited at and collected by a world class facility so that they can be on par with other world class municipal art galleries that were and are being built throughout Canada.