Upcoming Arts and Culture Events

Downtown cultural events are lighting up the fall in Ottawa. Find out first-hand about the creative events coming up in September and October.

Talking ’toons at the Ottawa International Animation Festival

Nature museum hosts novel parties

Culture Days invites you ‘behind the scenes’

Ottawa’s small press fair showcases indie publishing

Talking ’toons at the Ottawa International Animation Festival September 18 to 22

By Willem Dunham

This fall marks the 37th edition of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), which began in 1976 and has become North America’s biggest animation festival. Worldwide, it’s one of the oldest animation festivals still held annually, along with the Annecy Festival in France and Animafest Zagreb in Croatia. Poster

The OIAF is considered by many to be an immensely prestigious venue. World premieres for future award-winning works and big studio productions are held right here in Ottawa, alongside special exhibits on celebrated works in the industry. To say it’s a local even is quite the understatement. It’s a festival comprised of many forms of animation: features, shorts, promotional vignettes, music videos and television programs for adults and children. World-renowned figures in the animation industry are invited to speak and showcase their favourite works. Last year’s festival held a tribute to Ralph Bakshi (Fritz The Cat, Lord Of The Rings) and hosted screenings of his work, attended by the man himself. Animation fans, aspiring animators and the general public; there is literally something for everyone.

This year is looking to be a memorable one; a total of 108 films have been selected for competition, with an additional 44 in out-of-competition showcases. The number of “best feature” candidates has doubled compared to last year, with a total of eight titles, and several have already generated quite a buzz. Award-winning animator, Phil Mulloy, will return to Ottawa with his third and final installment of the Christie family trilogy, The Pain and The Pity. The two prior Christie films (Goodbye Mr. Christie and Dead But Not Buried) each won the Grand Prix award in past OIAF festivals, making this latest entry auspicious and a potential record-breaker, should it round out the trilogy’s victories. Combining a trilogy of impressive short films has put Oscar-nominated Don Hertzfeldt in the spotlight: Everything is Okay, I Am So Proud Of You, and It’s Such a Beautiful Day are integrated in the animator’s first feature film. Sharing the same name as the final installment, It’s Such a Beautiful Day follows stick figure, Bill, through the ups and downs of human existence. Hertzfeldt’s work is important in the animation industry and has been shown or nominated in competitions such as Cannes and Sundance.
Science fiction and mystery fans will no doubt fall in love with Cycle, Hungarian director Zoltan Sostai’s first full-length feature is currently touring several festivals around the globe and has impressed many. From early promotional stills and trailers, Zoltan appears to have utilized shadows and light to his advantage in creating the illusion of non-animated action sequences. Cycle has the potential to become a notable entry in the genre on a par with Blade Runner or Outland.

Some refer to A Liar’s Autobiography as a spiritual sixth film from the Monty Python troupe. Released almost 30 years after their last film, The Meaning Of Life, this 3D animated romp is an adaptation of Graham Chapman’s 1980 book of the same title and features all members’ voices, including that of Chapman, who died in the late 80s. It joins together 17 different animation styles and brings Chapman’s presence through newly discovered audio recordings of the late Python.

Of all the countries in competition this year, the curious eye must focus on Japan: its total of 15 films is now a festival record and has made an impression on OIAF artistic director Chris Robinson. “Their quality was outstanding, which made the selection process extremely difficult. The Japanese (and feature) films were particularly refreshing due to their boldness and originality.”

More information on festival programming will be released in the following weeks. The five-day festival runs from September 18 to 22. Tickets and pass information can be found at www.animationfestival.ca. (Daypasses $55, weekend passes $105).

Willem Dunham, a frequent contributor to the Glebe Report, is currently working with the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

Nature museum hosts novel parties

By Patrick Darvasi

Some people like museums more than others, but how often do adults get styled up and sexy to dance and mingle in the company of 70-million-year-old dinosaur skeletons, stuffed wildlife, insects, rocks, crystals and more? The correct answer is one Friday per month! Nature Nocturne is the Museum of Nature’s interactive and informative monthly dance party where partygoers seeking a novel experience in Ottawa can eat, drink and be merry while learning about our natural world.

Partygoers posing with a dinosaur
Socializing with one of the museum’s residents can produce some levity. Photo: Martin Lipman, courtesy of Canadian Museum of Nature

Cynthia Iburg, Nature Nocturne’s program coordinator, explains that after the museum’s reopening in 2010, there was a lot of pride and excitement about what had been achieved, but making the space more appealing to adults was also a challenge. “Adults have always been a tricky one. The majority of visitors come as part of school trips and so the focus tends to be on kids.” As a result, Iburg and her colleagues focused on creative ways of getting grown-ups to really enjoy the museum. The idea was to offer them a safe place to be themselves and explore the exhibits with gusto. Through research they came upon some exciting examples of how this could be done. “Museums in London, New York and L.A. were playing with after-hours for adults and we decided to give it a try in Ottawa,” says Iburg.

In January of this year, the Museum of Nature launched its first monthly installment of Nature Nocturne. It was extremely successful and sold out its 2,000 tickets. Interactive digital projections by The Luminarists, a collaborative art piece by HeARTbeatgal involving ink-covered thumbprints and a dance floor with eclectic tracks by DJ TDot added vibrancy to the museum’s already fascinating exhibits. In the months that have followed, 1,500 to 2,000 people have consistently attended the evenings. “The event is capped at 2,000,” says Iburg. “We don’t want it to get too crowded so that it becomes difficult for people to properly enjoy the museum’s offerings.” The $20 admission to Nature Nocturne gives visitors access to four floors of exhibits, including dance floors, lounges and art installations. Food and liquids are not allowed in the exhibits, so it is common to see people having a beverage or enjoying easy-to-eat meals for both carnivores and vegetarians in the museum’s wide corridors.

I attended April’s Nature Nocturne and it felt like an impressive ball in a large stone castle, where cultured hosts had invited guests to celebrate life and explore their personal collection of carefully selected earth-history specimens. Am I really in Ottawa? The immensity of the place could be easily appreciated, as wide balconies form a rectangular perimeter along the interior of each floor, allowing the visitor to easily look up or down at other levels when standing near the centre. DJ TDot’s dance floor is well worth checking out. It is located in the glass tower above the museum’s entrance. People dance with a vision of the dark sky beyond. You can either move with the mob or enjoy a bird’s eye view from a balcony above.

A large crowd of partygoers
Canadian Museum of Nature after-hours parties attract large numbers of nature-loving partygoers. Photo: Martin Lipman, courtesy of Canadian Museum of Nature
Nature Nocturne was put on hold between May and July, but had a stand-alone Star-Wars–themed event in August and officially returns on Friday, September 20. The theme will be “Welcome Back.” Special performances will include afro/techno music by DJ Ron Lavoi. An African drumming group will accompany his tracks live and invite visitors to participate in the drumming. Meanwhile, Italian folk keyboardist Pierluigi Buonicore will be performing in one of the galleries. There will also be a collective colouring activity involving large-scale prints of frogs, which ties in with a new exhibit on these creatures. “[Nature Nocturne] is about getting your feet wet, exploring and playing, getting out of the box,” explains Iburg. She then points out that the animal puppets in the mammal exhibit have been very popular.

The October 25 edition of Nature Nocturne will have a Halloween theme connected to plants and animals. To add to the allure, Montreal’s indie rock band Plants and Animals has been invited to do a show.

For more information, google Nature Nocturne to get a quick link to its page in the Museum of Nature website. The monthly event runs from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. Parking is available for $5 on the Museum of Nature parking lot. There is a coat check inside.

While Nature Nocturne targets the 19- to 35-year-old age bracket, adults of all ages are welcome.

Patrick Darvasi is a teacher, musical performer and independent writer.

Culture Days invites you ‘behind the scenes’

Glebe Culture posterThe fourth annual Culture Days weekend will take place September 27, 28 and 29, 2013, and will offer free, hands-on, “behind the scenes” activities that invite you to discover the world of local artists, creators, historians, architects, curators, designers and other creative people.

Culture Days has flourished across the country since its beginning in 2009, going from approximately 4,700 activities that year to an astounding 7,000 events last year, with an estimated 1.6 million Canadians participating in 850 cities and towns. Culture Days is founded on the premise that everyone has the right to experience art and culture, and further, that the arts and culture sectors make vital contributions to the economic and social development of the country, unite the country through engagement in culture, and contribute to the overall health of citizens. And it’s free. What better reasons could there be to take part? Here are a few events close to the Glebe that might tempt you.

Blow Your Own Ornament

A hand-blown ornament

This is a safe introduction to the fabulous art of glassblowing for all ages. You pick your colour, and blow through the pipe to inflate the gather of hot glass into a beautiful glass ball. There is no cost to try your hand, and you can purchase the result of your efforts for $10.

Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29, 10 a.m.– 4 p.m. at Flo Glassblowing, Loretta Avenue North.

Flûte de Pan avec Colores Andinos

If you’re up for a fascinating session in French, go to the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library to learn the basics of Pan flute playing with the help of Peruvian flutist Luis Abanto. Working in pairs, participants will learn how to play a song on the Pan flute. For adults 50 years and over. In French. Registration required.

Friday, September 27, 2–3 p.m. at Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, 1049 Bank Street.

Clay Throwing and Hand building Demos

Gladstone Clayworks is a pottery co-operative with 25 ceramic artist members. Take advantage of this chance to see artists at work in this 1,800 square foot space, and view a variety of clay creations in the adjoining gallery. Pots and sculptures are for sale.

Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29, 10 a.m.– 4 p.m. at 940B Gladstone Avenue

Billings Bridge Bike Tour

Cyclists riding the Billings Bridge bike tourHop on your bike and take a guided tour organized by the City of Ottawa of the historic homes and buildings of the Billings Bridge community. Begin at the Billings Estate, then head out to explore a neighbourhood rich in history. The tour route is approximately 7.5 km long and features 10 stops.

Friday, September 27, 5:30–7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29, 10 a.m.–noon at 2100 Cabot Street.

Power of the Arts National Forum

Advancing Social Change

For the activists among us, why not join opera sensation Measha Brueggergosman, actor Paul Gross, Hip Hop dynamo Maestro Fresh Wes, architect Moshe Safdie and others in supporting the first-ever national forum on improving the quality of life through the arts? Canadians from across the country will convene to produce a national agenda identifying ways to use the arts as catalysts for a more inclusive, healthy and prosperous community. Organized by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation and Carleton University Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
Friday, September 27, 5–9 p.m.at Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By.

Culture Days offers a wealth of hands-on arts and culture in and around the neighbourhood, and it’s all free, did we mention that? To find out about the 40 or so Ottawa and Gatineau events, consult the website at culturedays.ca. Key in your postal code to find local activities – anything from going backstage at the NAC or the Ottawa Little Theatre, to poetry workshops, live karaoke, yarn painting at the Bytown Museum, a visit to the Art Bank and much more.

Ottawa’s small press fair showcases indie publishing

By Julie Houle Cezer

If you thirst after a good read, a sweet turn of phrase or language that slip-slides and astounds as it confounds old assumptions, you will feel right at home at the semi-annual Small Press Fair, celebrating its 19th anniversary this year, and taking place October 12 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Jack Purcell Community Centre on Elgin Street. If you are tuning up your senses in feverish anticipation of poetry readings, you will want to check for updates on location and time at www. smallpressbookfair.blogspot.ca for the pre-fair readings that take place the night before.

Among exhibitors, priority is given to small presses publishing the works of others. Table displays range from journals to books, chapbooks to zines, and may include the works of the occasional self-published author. Poetry, fiction, comics and memoir are all well represented but you should not be surprised to see T-shirts, posters, scraps of paper or old-fangled delivery systems like gumball machines for poems. According to co-founder and above/ground press publisher, rob mclennan, with your free admission you can expect to encounter some “30 to 50 exhibitors, each with a wide range of materials for sale, including a table labelled “FREE STUFF” (which the fair has in excess). There might even be cupcakes.”

Photo of the Small Press book fair Ottawa
Small Press book fair Ottawa

Of course, you will have a chance to talk with authors and publishers whose numbers grow every year. They are always absolutely thrilled to be attending the fair, sharing ideas with the public and checking in with their peers. Says Cameron Anstee of apt 9 press: “It’s absolutely vital. Within the community, I love to see what new things everyone has been working on in preparation for the fair. Seeing everyone in one place together is great. Small press publishing work can, at times, be a bit isolating. Seeing everyone is rejuvenating. It is also great to have a public showcase, to meet new readers, to speak to various critical and media outlets about the small press, to meet publishers from other cities, to meet new writers. It is one of the best days of the year, I always look forward to it.”

Both Anstee and mclennan consider the small press community in Ottawa to be incredibly healthy. Although smaller than in other centres like Toronto or Montreal, the community benefits from the small scale because, as Cameron Anstee observes, “the community is tight-knit and supportive, and there is lots of space to create something new that will find support from existing operations.” In his reading of the landscape, there is a lot of good work surfacing from the two university communities that support student-run readings and literary magazines and produce graduates with ample skills to undertake independent projects. Other nodes of literary activity and support in Ottawa are to be found in the network of slam poetry, reading series such as the Tree Reading Series, the Ravenswing Arts and Music Fair and the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

With reference to the Writers Festival, mclennan emphasizes that the organizers have consistently shown an interest over the years. “Even the fact that they’ve held feature events on Pedlar Press and Talonbooks [indie presses] and are hosting a Book Thug event [advancing experimental literature] this year on October 26 are all evidence of very strong support for the small press. The festival has always been great at supporting a wide range of writing and publishing, and not just focusing on the top-end stuff down. Small press is given equal weight, including authors with first books. The support the festival has given the Ottawa literary community has been enormous, and from the very beginnings of their festival, and really can’t be quantified.”

In addition, great potential for growth has come with the Internet and the popularity of self-publishing; on the whole, both have proven to be a boon for the small press community. As mclennan has noted, literary blogs – think Amanda Earl, Pearl Pirie, Michael Dennis, Christian McPherson, Christine McNair, Cameron Anstee and robmclennan – have only served to strengthen writers’ awareness of each other in the community in ways unimaginable “a decade or two ago, including notices, submission calls, publications and reviews. Events and publications are posted, reviewed and forwarded. This can only make for a richer and healthier community.” He adds that “self-publishing has broadened small press, and it allows many more into the process, and that is both good and bad.” Although the involvement of more people is certainly positive, there are limited resources to accommodate them at small press fairs and some writers are somewhat hesitant to support the community. Anstee, on the other hand, is generally optimistic that “with greater access to resources of publishing, more people will take on the joyful task of publishing other people.”

So, if you were dubious about the health of the small book presses, you can be assured that they are thriving. What’s more, should you be enamoured of the book as artifact, you will undoubtedly be in for a surprise on October 12; come sample the proof that the craft of making aesthetically beautiful books is also alive and well in Ottawa. Drop by Jack Purcell Community Centre on Thanksgiving weekend for a joyful exchange with your local poets and publishers. For further questions or to volunteer to poster or help out at the fair, contact rob_mclennan@hotmail.com.

Ottawa Small Press Fair
October 12, noon to 5 p.m.
Jack Purcell Community Centre
320 Jack Purcell Lane (off Elgin)


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