Public shows off its talent in city artwork display

By Samuel Roberts

Artists from Ottawa and beyond are being encouraged to submit their work for this year’s Community Galleries selection, a City of Ottawa program that displays the artwork of both local and regional artists in public buildings across Ottawa.

Community Galleries run year-round exhibits in spaces where the general public is invited to visit the shows at no cost. Exhibitions are held in public spaces in City of Ottawa buildings such as the Centrepointe Theatre Gallery and Ben Franklin Place.

Penelope Kokkinos, an arts specialist for the City of Ottawa, says the program benefits both the arts community and the public at large.

“The Community Galleries are situated within the clockwork of what is run in a building,” she says. “The work is shown in people-friendly places in municipal buildings so people passing by get to have a look at a big range of art.”

Kokkinos says she thinks that newer artists can gain valuable experience from these public showings. “If accepted they get experience in how to install their exhibition and also in what exhibition work really means,” she says.

As one of last year’s successful entrants, Sharon Thompson, an artist from Kingston, benefited from the experience of showing her work. She exhibited a series of pieces called A Delicate Strength in February of this year at the Centrepointe Theatre Gallery.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to show my work,” says Thompson. “It was a wonderful chance.”

Thompson thinks that Community Galleries offer emerging artists a better opportunity to show their work in comparison to traditional galleries. “Most public spaces are a closed system and they don’t offer opportunities for an open juried situation,” she says.

Thompson says that the program also offers more freedom in artistic expression. “You’re always trying to fit yourself into a curator’s idea because they often want themes,” she says. “That is too constrictive – you need the freedom to grow and to develop yourself from the inside.”

Thompson’s exhibit comprised of a series of large abstract paintings exploring her ideas about being in space and light. “They were structured with shapes and a fine use of colour,” she says. “There was an interest in integration and the use of delicate links to bring energy.”

Showing her work in a Community Gallery held several benefits for Thompson. “There’s always great benefit in putting your work up as a body,” she says. “I did sell some work which is always nice. It’s good for your CV.”

Thompson says that she would encourage any artist to apply to have their pieces exhibited. “It’s marvellous to have these opportunities and it’s fundamental for artists to show their work.”

Someone who would like to repeat Sharon’s success is Ryan Humberstone, an architecture student at Carleton University. Humberstone is submitting his work this year with the hope of being selected.

“If I enter and they like my pieces I think it will really help to motivate me.”

Humberstone is hoping to get exhibition experience as he has never had a showing before. Although he plans to eventually work as an architect, he says he would still like to achieve success in the art world.

Kokkinos says that Community Galleries are ideal for emerging artists like Humberstone. “They get a lot of exposure,” she says, “and they have the opportunity to get feedback from a wide range of individuals.”

The Community Galleries program is open to a wide variety of media, and entries can be made as a solo artist and also as part of a group.

Kokkinos says that if artists have enough images for a show they can enter solo, or can alternatively put forward a proposal for a group show with colleagues or people they share a studio with.

The community-based theme extends to the judging of work entered for inclusion. “The jury is assembled from people in arts groups in Ottawa,” Kokkinos says. “So entries receive peer assessment.”

If successful, entries made by this year’s Nov. 17 deadline will be exhibited for one month in Community Galleries between May 2007 and May 2008. Artists living within a 150-km radius of Ottawa are eligible to apply.