It's Ottawa's first true arts district. Hintonburg's notable history of cultural achievement paired with its relaxed creative atmosphere has spawned the QUAD -- a grass-roots initiative that is unique in Ottawa. The QUAD -- an acronym that stands for Quartier des artistes / Arts District -- blends cultural expression, community spirit and heritage character to create a special neighbourhood that embraces all arts disciplines.
Ottawa has long needed more cultural facilities -- small theatres, art galleries, rehearsal space, live-work studios -- and the Hintonburg Community Association has stepped up to the plate. Since establishing the QUAD in 2003, the neighbourhood has blossomed with galleries, ateliers and theatre spaces.
Discover twenty-two of Hintonburg's arts gems: theatres, galleries and studios, and art-friendly restaurants. The new arts map of Hintonburg is now available online, and throughout the community. Download the full map.
In 2004, the Association launched May's annual ArtsPark ("a very urban village fair") and we haven't looked back. By 2005, a report from Hill and Associates indicated that the K1Y postal area (Ottawa West including Hintonburg) has the second highest percentage of artists in the region and almost three times the national average.
What is an arts district?It's a classic win-win situation. Find a neighbourhood that could use a little revitalization. Make it hospitable to culture. Artists and performers set up households while cultural entrepreneurs set up shop. Locals and tourists alike are attracted to the area by the buzz: gallery happenings, theatrical and musical events. Existing businesses get a shot in the arm. New ones open. Suddenly it's ... a scene.
Arts districts all over North America have infused style, energy and excitement into downtown cores -- and spurred investment. According to the Americans for the Arts organization, a cultural district is "a well-recognized, labeled, mixed-use area of a city in which a high concentration of cultural facilities serves as the anchor of attraction... A wide range of land uses, landscapes and geographic locations within downtowns or at their fringes can reasonably be labeled 'cultural districts.' "
The same organization also points out that "nearly all types of cultural districts incorporate some element of historic preservation... Rehabilitation of historic spaces for housing is another key feature of some cultural districts," often targeted as moderate-income residences.
But the primary motivation for establishing an arts district is urban revitalization.
Creative energySince inaugurating the arts district, the whole city -- and the media -- has come to embrace the QUAD. According to Nicole McGill, writing in Ottawa magazine, "There are so many artists and art lovers living in Hintonburg that if you swing one of their many cats, you're bound to hit one of these boho types."
Ottawa Xpress columnist Allison Collins agrees in a September 2006 article entitled Applauding Hintonburg's burgeoning art scene: "Unbeknownst to me, a serious community of creative types has long been rooted here... [so] go west my friends, go west."
With a cultural workforce estimated at 400 to 500 people, there are bound to be out-of-the-way ateliers smelling of oil paint or developer fluid... the tap of a sculptor's hammer not far away. Well-established artists' co-ops like Enriched Bread Artists, Gladstone Clayworks and the Stables Art Studios have been joined recently by The Engine Room.
Formerly a car repair garage, The Engine Room at 430 Parkdale is Hintonburg's newest arts destination and home to sculptors' studios (including Marc Raymond and Yvonne Wiegers), Podco Podcasting (it's also a Wifi Hot spot), Acacia Consulting and Research, Creative Neighbourhoods Inc, a caterer and Pukka Gallery.
A theatre and film production centreWith the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society a Hintonburg stalwart since the early part of the last century, few other neighbourhoods anywhere can boast of such a long theatrical tradition. Now the Great Canadian Theatre Company -- GCTC as it is popularly known -- is moving into a beautiful new home at the corner of Holland and Wellington. Its two performance spaces will anchor the QUAD and host community events during off-hours.
In 1896, the very first film projected in Canada using Thomas Edison's revolutionary Vitascope technique was part of a tent show in Hintonburg put on by the Holland Brothers. Eighty years later, toward the end of a long and distinguished history in Hintonburg, Crawley Films won a 1976 Academy Award.
Today's award-winners may rely more on computers but they're setting new creative standards and attracting other creative business entrepreneurs in advertising, design, TV production, animation and photography.
Where is the QUAD?Ottawa's Hintonburg community is bordered by Scott Street, the O-Train line, the Queensway (Highway 417) and Holland Avenue. The QUAD encompasses the whole neighbourhood which is already home to a large cultural population. Building on this critical mass, the QUAD's focus is Wellington Street West, the hot Parkdale Market area and parts of Gladstone Avenue -- commercial areas that are already host to a number of creative entrepreneurs and arts facilities. But the QUAD influence transcends our borders -- witness galleries popping up to the east and west.
How our community benefitsIn April 2003, Ottawa City Council adopted the new Arts and Heritage Plan thereby acknowledging the desirability of establishing new arts districts: "The City will spark and sustain urban and neighbourhood revitalization through the partnered development and nurturing of arts and cultural districts." The Plan points out that "one in every seven Ottawa residents belongs to the 'creative class'."
That segment includes actors, dancers, filmmakers, multi-media artists, musicians, painters, performance artists, playwrights, poets, printmakers, sculptors, singers, songwriters, video artists and writers. This arts population expands when one includes educators, entrepreneurs, producers, students, volunteers and administrators.
In a study of 24 cultural districts in the United States, it was found that the arts can revitalize urban cores, help make neighbourhoods safer and more attractive, expand cultural activities for residents and tourists, provide employment and housing for artists, extend the reach of businesses by offering evening activities and even connect the arts more intimately to community development.
As the City of Ottawa pilots its first-ever urban neighbourhood plan in Hintonburg and Mechanicsville, arts and heritage will become a cornerstone of the planning exercise. An associated Community Design Plan tied to Wellington Street renewal could see $250,000 or more set aside for commissioning artwork thanks to the City's "one percent for public art" policy. This fits nicely with one of the Hintonburg Community Association's future projects, an "arts walk" of outdoor sculpture along the community's "main street".
Stay tuned, Ottawa! Or, better yet, get involved.
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