On Wednesday, April 25, Chris and I had the opportunity to get a sneak-preview of the new Ottawa Art Gallery building with the Instagrammers of Ottawa! I work for the Canadian Museums Association, so the opening of the new gallery space was definitely on my radar, and from all of the articles anticipating it, I was pretty excited to check it out.
The new building did not disappoint! This space has done everything that spokespeople for the gallery have been describing. It is an incredibly bright, modern, and fully accessible space, but contains lots of subtle nods to its history, which I thought were executed extremely well.
One of those nods was the integration of the original staircase from Firestone family home. The Ottawa Art Gallery houses and presents the Firestone collection, and this staircase was repurposed into the new building in order to help preserve it and maintain this connection to the origins of the Ottawa Art Gallery.
Perhaps my favourite aspect of the new building was the multitude of windows everywhere. Windows are normally something that galleries and museums avoid because of the risk that natural light poses to the preservation of art and artifacts, however the Ottawa Art Gallery has embraced it in nearly every room and gallery. This makes the space feel bright, light, and modern. Despite the fact that when we visited, it was a particularly cloudy day, and the early hours of the evening, the space still felt bright and open without being stark.
Another aspect of the windows that I loved was that it meant that visitors are constantly reminded that they are in Ottawa. For a gallery that is local in its scope and vision, this was a particularly special touch in my opinion.
The gallery spaces are predominantly divided up by themes, which means that more traditional art can mingle side-by-side with contemporary pieces and speak to each other and the visitor. One of the aspects of the galleries that I was the most impressed with was the fact that all of the text panels, wherever possible, provided information in Algonquin first, followed by French, and lastly English. This is another deliberate reminder that the space is first and foremost on Indigenous land, and that takes priority.
I was also very impressed with the gift shop. Anyone who regularly visits museums is aware that the gifts shops usually have a lot of the same items from one museum to another. The Ottawa Art Gallery features pieces from local artists, and in general has done a great job of filling their gift shop with unique items in a range of prices, many of which would make lovely gifts. I certainly intend to stop in specifically for future birthday and Christmas shopping for my loved ones.
The Ottawa Art Gallery officially opens today, April 28th, 2018. You can check it out everyday of the week, from 9am to 9pm, and it is completely free to enter. You can find out more about the new space and their exhibits at their website: http://oaggao.ca