Come for the art, and stay for a coffee and a great view. The Ottawa Art Gallery has a new home in downtown Ottawa, and it’s worth a visit. One of the things that museums seem to keep getting better and better at is creating spaces that all ages can enjoy, and the Ottawa Art Gallery is a great example of this with it’s modern design, beautiful café, and photo worthy patio views. The program and events calendar includes everything from creative sessions to rooftop yoga, so you will definitely find a reason to visit.
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Come Inside the new Ottawa Art Gallery!
Artist: Hilde Schreier
Public transit is the easiest way, most cost-effective way to get to the Ottawa Art Gallery. Get off at stops Rideau Centre (Mackenzie King Bridge) or Laurier Station at the University of Ottawa. Whichever stop you get off at, you will be about 50 steps from the Mackenzie King entrance to the gallery. If you decide to drive, you can park at Rideau Centre (max $20/ day) or in the Byward Market. Make sure you get set up with the Ottawa Pay By Phone app so you can top of parking remotely if you need to!
Hours & Admission
The Ottawa Art Gallery is open from 9AM to 9PM, with café hours starting earlier and extending later. Admission to the Ottawa Art Gallery is always free, unless otherwise noted for a special event. Yes, you read that right. It’s totally free. Just walk in and enjoy!
Design and Space
Walking in to the Ottawa Art Gallery is like letting out a deep breath. Many museums and galleries are tight, dark spaces. The Ottawa Art Gallery, on the other hand, is warm, spacious, and full of light. The minimalist design of the building, floor to ceiling windows, and personal elements make the gallery inviting.
The architecture and layout of the gallery creates a welcoming feel as soon as you walk in. An element that really impressed me was the staircase, which used to be in a family home. The Firestones are a local family, that once curated an extensive art collection that now belongs to the people of Ottawa. Many pieces are on display in the Ottawa Art Gallery, the collection’s permanent home. The beautiful staircase that leads up to the Firestone collection used to be in the family house in Rockcliffe.
Artist: Zainab Hussain
Ottawa Art Gallery Collection
There are permanent collections and temporary exhibits at the Ottawa Art Gallery. The gallery is the permanent home to pieces by many Canadian artists including members of the group of seven like A.Y. Jackson. There are even items on display that used to belong to him, that he used while painting.
The art in the gallery covers a wide range of styles. There are more traditional oil painting and impressionist styles, many capturing Canadian landscapes and scenes. Other pieces make you wonder if you even understand art, like a self-portrait that includes a tree, a mattress, and hundreds of toy cars arranged to look like a person. This had to be pointed out to me, otherwise I never would have seen it. It’s a good thing the guided tours are free, I highly recommend going on one if you want to leave feeling like you truly appreciated the art.
My favourite piece was one by an artist named Zainab Hussain. When I walked in, I saw all of the beautiful fabrics hanging from the ceiling. I then found out the fabrics were hijabs, and portraits of the women who wore them were on the back wall. The women were photographed without their hijabs, and the artist then painted elaborate designs where their hijabs would have been, covering their hair in the photos. I felt my perception shift a little when I learned the beautiful fabrics were hijabs, as they suddenly took on a different meaning in my mind. Art can really get you thinking if you let it!
Artist: Yvonne McKague Housser
Programs + Community
I loved seeing how students were making use of the café to work on group projects, and dozens of people had filled out cards that said “If my life were a story, the title would be…” and added them to the community wall (shown below). The Ottawa Art Gallery is actively working to create a sense of community through it’s features and special programming, including events that are just for adults.
- Guided Tours: a guided tour is a fantastic way to experience the Ottawa Art Gallery. There is so much that I would not have known if I had explored on my own! Tours are always free.
- Sketchy Thursdays: On the last Thursday of every month, attend a workshop and learn observational sketching techniques. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. I have not been yet, but when I do go I’ll report back, and share everything on my Instagram account.
- Happy Hour! Coming Fall 2018, the second Wednesday of every month will feature an age 19+ only happy hour + discussion around art and techniques.
I’m really excited about the addition of Happy Hour, and plan on going this fall. I love when museums, galleries, and other venues create special programming for adults to come in and enjoy the space. There’s been a big shift in Ottawa in this way over the last few years. Places that were once thought of us being mostly for kids are now attracting young adults with events made for us to create, learn, and have fun. Much as I love children, it’s really exciting to be able to enjoy a space like the OAG with other adults (and a glass of wine).
There are many other programs and events, check out the OAG website for more.
There are two patios at the Ottawa Art Gallery. The South Patio overlooks the University of Ottawa campus, and on the other side of the gallery the CIBC Terrace has a view of Ottawa’s downtown skyline. If you want to check out the patios, I recommend going later in the day to see the view at sunset. Remember the gallery is open until 9PM!
The patio is even being used for yoga on Friday’s at noon! The class is free, just bring your own mat and wear sunscreen.
I’ve seen the Ottawa Art Gallery patio and staircase in so many Instagram photos now, and I think it’s fantastic. Capturing awesome photos for your social media accounts is (in my opinion) an absolutely valid reason to somewhere, and you can check out the galleries while you’re there.
The Jackson Café
Another fantastic addition to the Ottawa Art Gallery’s new location is the Jackson Café. The café can be accessed through the gallery or from Daly Avenue, and it opens before the galleries and closes after. Come by for your morning coffee as earlier as 8AM, or stay late with a drink. The café transforms in to a bar in the evening, and is open until 11PM.
People are already making great use of this space. The big tables and comfy seating make it great workspace. There were students working on a project together, a business meeting in the works, and friends stopping in for drinks while I was there.
This post was written in partnership with the Ottawa Art Gallery. Thanks for having me in to see your new location! All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own.