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Showcase for Ottawa artists opens doors to everyone

The Ottawa Art Gallery had a weekend-long celebration to open the doors on its new 55,000 square-foot space located downtown.

Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) chief executive officer Alexandra Badzak couldn’t hide her nerves or her smiles as she greeted a jam-packed lobby at the official opening of the city gallery’s new home.

The new, six-floor gallery has more than 55,000 square feet of programmable space including galleries, an art studio, two rooftop terraces, a large multi-purpose room and a café in a barrier-free environment.

“For so many years we knew our old home in the former county court house arts court was just too small to really do justice to the incredible talent of artists we have in this city,” Badzak told OttawaMatters.com. “So, we dreamed big and we came up with this incredible space that we are opening today.”

The new gallery is five times the size of the old space. The gallery boasts more than 190 historical and contemporary works of art by 181 artists. The OAG has been responsible for 11 new artwork commissions.

“It’s been a long journey, but completely worthwhile to see everyone enjoying this space,” Badzak said.

“I want visitors to know Ottawa artists, I want them to be able to understand their incredible talent and their contribution they’ve made to this city. The whole space is filled with Ottawa art.”

The OAG celebrated their new space, which they share with a private residential tower, with a weekend-long party. Friday, April 27 the OAG hosted an opening gala. On Saturday the official ribbon-tying ceremony was held with dignitaries and politicians and hundreds of interested visitors. The OAG hosted children events, dance parties and tours the rest of the weekend. The place was packed with curious visitors all weekend long.

“Not only have we grown in this beautiful space, we now have a front door to Ottawa and the rest of the world,” Badzak told the capacity crowd at the official opening ceremony. “And we’ve done so by listening to you, responding to the challenges you have put to us, so in the end, you have all had a hand in shaping this space with us. Our wonderful architects have created a unique space you can feel at home in, full of light and art and deeply connected to its urban space. You will experience the story of art in Ottawa from 6,500 years ago until today, and I can tell you it is a rich, compelling and diverse story.”

Mayor Jim Watson said the project was a long one, but a journey worth taking.

“This has been a labour of love for so many of us, for so many years,” he said at the ceremony. “This has been my dream going back 10 years, I am so pleased today, so many people came today. We have one of the greatest collections of the Group of Seven’s, A.Y. Jackson, and we’re here celebrating that collection thanks to the charity of the Firestone family (O.J. and Isobel). And the best thing about this gallery is it is free and totally accessible.”

The OAG new home is located at 50 Mackenzie King Bridge in downtown Ottawa.

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