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Public art

About

Public art commissions accompany major capital projects such as the O-Train Confederation Line. Using a percent of the capital project's total budget, new art commissions are planned for public sites and are awarded to an artist based on a peer assessment committee's recommendation. When complete, public art commissions enter into the City of Ottawa Art Collection

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By signing up for our newsletter, you will receive calls and announcements regarding the City of Ottawa Art Collection, public art commissions, and exhibitions at Karsh-Masson Gallery, City Hall Art Gallery and Corridor 45|75 all in one place.

Announcements

Public Art Online Consultation – Rideau Street and William Street Renewal Public Art Project

Published April 9, 2021

Image of ‘The Navigators: Bees, Birds and Butterflies’ by Anna Frlan

The Navigators: Bees, Birds and Butterflies by Anna Frlan

Image of ‘This Land, Our Land’ by Priscila De Carvalho

This Land, Our Land by Priscila De Carvalho

Image of ‘Constellations’ by Randall Anderson

Constellations by Randall Anderson

Image of ‘Ripples’ by Studio F Minus

Ripples by Studio F Minus

Image of ‘Transitions’ by Tawab Hlimi

Transitions by Tawab Hlimi

Complete the survey!

The public is invited to partake in an online survey, to view the five final proposals and to provide feedback. The Peer Assessment Committee will take the public’s comments into consideration when they meet to evaluate the proposals and select the winning design.

The survey will be available to the public from April 9 to 19, 2021.

Five artists have been shortlisted to submit proposals to design, fabricate and install permanent artworks at the rear of three bus transit shelters along Rideau Street and William Street in Ottawa, Ontario.

After 22 artists and artist teams enthusiastically responded to a Request for Qualifications, the Peer Assessment Committee shortlisted five artists:

  • Anna Frlan – The Navigators: Bees, Birds and Butterflies
  • Priscila De Carvalho – This Land, Our Land
  • Randall Anderson - Constellations
  • Studio F Minus – (((Ripples)))
  • Tawab Hlimi – Transitions

The City of Ottawa commissions professional artists’ works for display in public spaces. A percent of funds for municipal development projects is set aside for public art in order to beautify the space and make art accessible to everyone. For more information email publicartprogram@ottawa.ca

Public Art Online Consultation - Monahan Wetlands Complex Public Art Project

Published November 23, 2020

Top right: artwork proposal by Grimm Pictures Inc., top left: artwork proposal by Brandon Vickerd, bottom right: artwork proposal by Bluff Studio, bottom left: artwork proposal by Simon Frank

Complete the survey!

The public is invited to partake in an online survey, to view the four final proposals and to provide feedback. The Art Selection Committee will take the public’s comments into consideration when they meet to evaluate the proposals and select the winning design.

The survey will be available to the public from November 20 to November 29.

Four artists have been shortlisted to submit proposals to design, fabricate and install permanent artwork(s) along Monahan Wetlands in Kanata, Ontario.

After 51 artists and artist teams enthusiastically responded to a Request for Qualifications, the jury shortlisted four artists

  • Bluff Studio - Fossil Observatory
  • Brandon Vickerd - Domestic Wetlands
  • Grimm Pictures Inc. - Monahan
  • Simon Frank - Gathering

The City of Ottawa commissions professional artists’ works for display in public spaces. A percent of funds for municipal development projects is set aside for public art in order to beautify the space and make art accessible to everyone.For more information email publicartprogram@ottawa.ca

Microcosm

Published July 31, 2020

ghost-like images with hanging material create a blue-green atmospheric room.

Image: Tiffany April, untitled installation for Microcosm, 2020, Ward 14 (Somerset), courtesy of the artist, follow @tiffanyaprilart

During this unprecedented time, the world is connecting more than ever, communities are forming in solidarity and around special interests all over the globe. In response to this, the City of Ottawa's Public Art Program is launching Microcosm this summer, as part of their COVID-19 pivot initiatives designed to meet the needs of the community and to support local professional artists. Microcosm supports the local creative community by engaging artists to produce work in their respective wards.

23 artist projects will be presented in non-traditional spaces for art across the city. Follow @publicartottawa and #microcosm #publicartottawa #artpublicottawa on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

New public art selected for Chapel Hill Park and Ride

Published July 31, 2020

'Pathways/Reseaux’ artwork by Jennifer Macklem, rendering by Devansh Shah

Image: Pathways, Jennifer Macklem, rendering by Devansh Shah

Local artist Jennifer Macklem was awarded the public art commission for the Chapel Hill Park and Ride project. Her public art installation, Pathways, will be visible near the platform of the new OC Transpo transit station.

Pathways is founded on the idea that all networks – organic, neural, urban, planned and spontaneous – are overlapping and entwined. The installation is a 12 foot intricately designed dragonfly wing, mingling with a road map of Ottawa - situated on the Rivière des Outaouais, in unceded Algonquin Anishinabe territory – punctuated by a wind-spinning model of a neuron and depictions of leaf structures and a flowerhead.

The aluminum composition is suspended 9 ft above eye level, allowing for clear views of the sculpture from a distance and from within passing vehicles while also casting unique shadows on the nearby footpaths.

In keeping with the City’s Public Art Policy, the City’s Public Art Program initiated a two-stage public art competition for the Chapel Hill Park and Ride project. Proposals were reviewed by a Peer Assessment committee, who selected Jennifer Macklem’s proposal based on evaluation criteria that included such considerations as artistic excellence, experience of the artist, site integration, reflection of the profile and character of the community, and sustainability.

For more information about the new public art, email publicartprogram@ottawa.ca

New public art installed at Rideau Canal Crossing

Published November 21, 2019

An image of Algonquin artist Claude Latour's bench artwork. An image of artist Sally Lee Sheeks' bench artwork

Two new artist-designed public art benches installed as part of the Flora Footbridge construction project:

  1. Sally Lee Sheeks' artwork Alone is located on the east side of the Rideau Canal at the foot of the staircase ramp.
  2. Algonquin artist Claude Latour's artwork Mōnz is located on the west side facing the Lily Pond among native flora.

In Spring 2018, emerging artists were invited to submit an Expression of Interest to a public art commission opportunity to design two public benches, helping to create a unique sense of place as part of the Rideau Canal Crossing project. One bench was specifically commissioned to an Algonquin artist or artist team, and targeted outreach activities took place during the initial stages of the competition to engage Algonquin artists. This commission offered emerging artists an opportunity to work under the mentorship of the third-party fabricator, Fluxworx, to refine their design, and see their bench designs come to fruition through fabrication and installation on site. This commission offered emerging artists an opportunity to work under the mentorship of third-party fabricator, Fluxworx, to refine their bench design, and see it come to fruition through fabrication and installation on site.

This work and others are commissioned by the Public Art Program. In keeping with Public Art Policy one percent of funds for municipal development projects is set aside for public art to enhance the space and make art accessible to everyone.

The City’s Public Art Program initiated a two-stage public art competition for the Rideau Canal Crossing Public Art Project. Proposals were reviewed by an Art Selection Committee who selected the proposals of artists Claude Latour and Sally Lee Sheeks. Evaluation criteria included such considerations as artistic excellence and sensitivity of environment.

Images (left to right): Claude Latour, Mōnz (Moose), 2019. Sally Lee Sheeks, Alone, 2019. Photos: City of Ottawa.

Artist on Design Team selected for OPL-LAC Joint Facility Project  

Published July 24, 2019 

two images together, example of artist's light work

UK-artist, Jason Bruges Studio has been awarded the “Artist on Design Team” commission for the Ottawa Public Library-Library and Archives Canada Joint Facility (OPL-LAC Joint Facility).

With over 17 years’ experience, Jason Bruges is an internationally acclaimed artist who creates stunning interactive art installations that blend art, architecture and technology. A master story-teller, Jason Bruges is excited to create an iconic artwork in the nation’s capital that will draw on local narratives while positioning the site as a national centre of design excellence.

His work has been commissioned by high profile institutions such as the V&A, the Natural History Museum in London, the Tate Modern and Tate Britain museums. In addition, the studio has built installations all over the world including Canada, the US, France, Germany, and China.

As “Artist on the Design Team”, Jason Bruges will work collaboratively with the architectural team of Diamond Schmitt Architects and KWC Architects to seamlessly integrate public art and artistic enhancements into the project design and construction.

In addition, the studio will collaborate on the Indigenous Art and Placemaking Program, a separate art opportunity for the facility.

The public will be given an opportunity to meet artists from Jason Bruges Studio, view initial artwork approaches for the new joint facility, and give feedback at an upcoming Inspire555 public consultation in August!

For each major project at the City of Ottawa, its Public Art Program commissions artists’ works for display in public spaces. One percent of funds for municipal development projects are mandated for public art to enhance communal spaces and make art accessible to everyone.

For more information about the new public art, visit ottawa.ca/publicart or email publicartprogram@ottawa.ca.

Images: Jason Bruges Studio, previous work (details). All images courtesy of the artist.
Left to right: Dichroic Blossom (2014) Bejing, China, Pentagonal Portal (2018) London, UK.

These links will redirect you to an external website with content available in English only for the purposes of highlighting examples of the artist’s’ previous works.

New public art selected for Rosemount Library

Published June 13, 2019

hand-painted birdhouses and puzzle pieces

Images:
Daniel Martelock, previous work (details). All images courtesy of the artist.
Images (left to right): Flock Together (2014), Paintitup (2017)

In April 2019, an invitational Expression of Interest was circulated to Kitchissippi artists for an Artist in Residence opportunity to create a new public art installation as part of the Rosemount Library Revitalisation project. Through a one-stage peer-assessment competition, an Art Selection Committee awarded Hintonburg artist Daniel Martelock the commission project for Rosemount Library.

He is an established artist in the neighbourhood and has an ongoing passion for working with this vibrant community. He will be gathering creative ideas from Hintonburg residents through a series of community workshops and drop-in sessions, and participants will have the opportunity to contribute to the creative process. Daniel is keen that the artwork reflects the neighbourhood, and that children and adults alike will be able to engage with the artwork each time they visit the library. The ideas will be refined towards the end of the year, and a final artwork design will be determined in consultation with the revitalisation project team and key community stakeholders. The artwork installation will take place in spring 2020, in time for the reopening of Rosemount Library to the public.

Look out for Daniel at community events in the Hintonburg neighbourhood this summer!

The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) Rosemount Branch is a well-loved, extremely busy community hub, which currently has the highest circulation of materials per square foot of all OPL branches. The revitalization of Rosemount Library will extensively renovate and refresh the branch, addressing the building condition and accessibility issues, improve efficiencies and modestly increase public floor space. Rosemount Library is the oldest Ottawa Public Library branch still operating in its original building and is the only remaining Carnegie Library in Ottawa.

This public art project and others are commissioned by the Public Art Program. In keeping with Public Art Policy one percent of funds for municipal development projects is set aside for public art to enhance the space and make art accessible to everyone.

For more information about the new public art visit ottawa.ca/publicart or email publicartprogram@ottawa.ca.

Elgin Street Renewal Public Art Project Update

Published May 10, 2019

Expressive candidate selected by the artist for casting.

Images
(top left to top right): Roger Bruce (volunteer), Francis Montillaud (artist) and Marisa Gallemit (participant). Photo : Christopher Snow.

In November 2018, Montréal-based artist Francis Montillaud was awarded the Elgin Street Artist in Residence opportunity as part of the Elgin Street Renewal project. Francis has been working hard developing at artwork for Elgin Street based on the residency process that involved participation from local community members. Still in its early stages of development, Francis Montillaud has designed a series of sculptures that will capture a multitude of expressions of the people who live, work or play around the Elgin Street community. Francis seeks to democratize the tradition of sculptural portraits and monuments by elevating local figures and by championing everyday gestures or social interactions.

As part of the residency, members of the Elgin Street community were invited to take part in the artist’s creative process, as he explored themes of body language and social interaction through a series of video production workshops and casting sessions.

Forty community volunteers joined Francis at SAW Video where the residency workshops were held. A series of non-verbal interactions were conducted to explore facial expressions, body language and to express physical and emotional states. These interactions were recorded using multiple cameras from multiple perspectives. Expressive candidates were selected by the artist for casting in early April at the Jack Purcell Community Centre. These imprints will be used as the raw materials to create a series of striking sculptures installed along Elgin Street in spring 2020.

casting imprints on a table

This work and others are commissioned by the Public Art Program, in keeping with Public Art Policy. One percent of the funds earmarked for municipal development projects is set aside for public art to enhance the space and make art accessible to all.

Follow @PublicArtOttawa on social media for updates and announcements on the project.

New public art selected for Maple Island

Published September 25, 2018

The imagery in the piece represents both a Great Blue Heron frozen in flight, and a whale ascending to the surface.

Local artist Amy Thompson has been awarded the public art commission for Maple Island, as part of the redevelopment of the Minto Bridges. Thompson’s artwork RISE / LEVÉE / KÒGAHAMOG is a tranquil, contemplative sculpture created to enhance the natural setting of Maple Island.  The piece invites viewers to contemplate their surroundings, and reflect on the unseen layers of history found here.

The imagery in the piece represents both a Great Blue Heron frozen in flight, and a whale ascending to the surface. These elements reference both the Champlain Sea that covered the area 13,000 years ago, as well as the fauna found here today.

The sculpture will have a white finish that references both the nearby Minto Bridges, the Beluga whale once found here, and the white pond lily found in the Rideau River that surrounds the island. This colour allows the piece to be more visible at night without the aid of lighting.

Along the base of the sculpture is a sound wave pattern engraved into metal. This sound wave will be a collaboration with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Cultural Centre and will be written in Algonquin, signifying the importance of this land to this nation.

RISE / LEVÉE / KÒGAHAMOG will be installed on Maple Island, a small island that sits on the Rideau River and connects two Ottawa neighbourhoods, Lowertown and New Edinburgh (Wards 12, 13). The island is a serene and hidden green space, with a great view of Canada’s Peace Tower to the west. The island has a rich history that includes Algonquin peoples, and railway for industrial use, and was originally part of the ceremonial route which connects Rideau Hall and Parliament. Artwork installation scheduled for Fall 2019.

This work and others are commissioned by the Public Art Program. In keeping with Public Art Policy one percent of funds for municipal development projects is set aside for public art to enhance the space and make art accessible to everyone.

The City’s Public Art Program initiated a two-stage public art competition for the Maple Island Public Art Project. Proposals were reviewed by an Art Selection Committee who selected the proposal of artist Amy Thompson. Evaluation criteria included such considerations as artistic excellence and sensitivity of environment.

For more information about the new public art visit ottawa.ca or email publicartprogram@ottawa.ca.

New public art selected for Fire Station 55

Published September 11, 2018

The artists’ landscape-based piece will be comprised of stone pillars.

Local artist team Alisdair MacRae and Che Wei Lee have been awarded the public art commission for the New 2 Bay Fire Station #55 at 2283 Portobello Boulevard.  

The artists’ landscape-based piece will be comprised of stone pillars. The pillars will pay homage to the firefighters as first responders, commemorating their role within and their service to the community. The stone pillars will also draw attention to local history, including settlement of the area, geology, and the environment.

To involve both firefighters and local young people, the artists will ask what it means to be brave, what does courage mean to me, and how can I be strong. Responses to the questions will be anonymous and topics of bravery, courage, and strength will create a relationship between the firefighters and young people. The responses will be engraved into stainless steel medallions and set into place on the pillars.  

“Very unique to seek children's input and engrave them on medallions!” – Online consultation survey participant

The artwork will be installed on the north side of the Fire Station located at 2283 Portobello Boulevard, where the artwork would be visible from the parking lot of the adjacent François Dupuis Recreation Centre. Artwork installation scheduled for summer 2019.

This work and others are commissioned by the Public Art Program. In keeping with Public Art Policy one percent of funds for municipal development projects is set aside for public art to enhance the space and make art accessible to everyone.

The City’s Public Art Program initiated a two-stage public art competition for the Fire Station 55 Public Art Project. Proposals were reviewed by an Art Selection Committee who selected the proposal of artist team, Alisdair MacRae and Che Wei Lee. Evaluation criteria included such considerations as feasibility, artistic concept, community engagement plan. 

For more information about the new public art visit ottawa.ca or email publicartprogram@ottawa.ca

New public art selected for the OAG Expansion and Arts Court Redevelopment Project

Published August 2, 2018

Large LED screen displaying a video of a pair of eyes installed on stone wall of Arts Court building

Brooklyn based artist, Adam Frank has been awarded the public art commission for the Ottawa Art Gallery Expansion and Arts Court Redevelopment Project for his artwork Spectator.

Spectator is a dynamic, interactive billboard. The art installation will operate as a beacon, attracting people to Arts Court and the Ottawa Art Gallery. A large LED video screen installed on the exterior facade will display the eyes of everyone who has ever participated in the artwork.

Inside the newly renovated Arts Court facility, the public will be invited to look into a viewing portal, which will show a real time view of outside, from the point of view of the video screen. The participants’ eyes will be video captured as they look out to the street below. Spectator will show the viewing history of everyone who has ever engaged with the artwork. This work is truly participatory as it allows the public to become a permanent part of the artwork and see themselves in it.

Spectator celebrates and elevates each viewer by reversing the traditional relationship between viewer and artwork. The installation will be a dynamic, ever-changing portrait of the community that adds subtle human expression to the Ottawa skyline. The artwork is scheduled to be installed by fall 2019.

This work and others are commissioned by the Public Art Program. In keeping with Public Art Policy one percent of funds for municipal development projects is set aside for public art to enhance the space and make art accessible to everyone.

The City’s Public Art Program initiated a two-stage public art competition for the Ottawa Art Gallery Expansion and Art Court Redevelopment Project. Proposals were reviewed by an Art Selection Committee, who selected Adam Frank’s proposal based on evaluation criteria that included such considerations as artistic excellence, experience of the artist, and site integration. 

For more information about the new public art visit ottawa.ca or email publicartprogram@ottawa.ca

Image: Large LED screen displaying a video of a pair of eyes installed on stone wall of Arts Court building

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Terms of use

The City of Ottawa provides public access to its art collection for your personal entertainment, information, education and convenience.

The term “materials” includes all and any information, images, artwork, text, video clips, audio, animation and all other public art content on ottawa.ca. This website contains copyrighted works protected by the Copyright Act, and the regulations there under, and by similar international laws.

The materials are used by the City of Ottawa with permission and may be subject to other restrictions including copyright and other proprietary rights held by third parties. Public art content on ottawa.ca is provided for browsing, viewing, downloading, listening where such activities are limited to non-commercial, educational and personal use only. By downloading, printing or otherwise using the materials, users agree that they will limit their use of public art content to fair dealing, as defined by the Copyright Act, and will not violate the City of Ottawa or any other party's proprietary or moral rights. Users must acknowledge the source of the materials by including the URL www.ottawa.ca.

Questions regarding content, access to, loan of, or use of any associated images or content should be addressed to the City of Ottawa using the contact information found on the art collection pages on ottawa.ca. 

Public Art Policy

Approved By: City Council
Category: General Administration
Approval Date: October 28, 2015
Effective Date: October 28, 2015

1. Policy Statement

Art can define a city. A city’s character, history, aspirations and challenges are expressed and reflected by its artists, through their work and with strong public engagement. Ottawa is home to myriad diverse neighbourhoods – urban, suburban and rural, as well as active communities of visual artists. The City of Ottawa recognizes culture’s role as the fourth pillar of sustainability and the important contribution artists make to a city. This policy is intended to leverage artists’ talent, vision and experience in order to develop Ottawa as an increasingly vibrant place in which to live and to visit.

Public art brings residents and tourists alike into vital everyday contact with original artworks created by professional artists. It adds to the identity and quality of the civic landscape; enriches our experience of public spaces; pays tribute to particular sites, individuals and events; builds civic pride; fosters community and enhances the city’s cultural heritage. Located in the public domain, public art is the most visible and accessible form of artistic expression supported by the City of Ottawa.

The Public Art Program strives to meet recognized professional standards and to address Ottawa’s full geographic scope. The Program:

  • Fosters public awareness, understanding and interpretation of Ottawa’s rich visual art history, and develops new audiences for artistic practice;
  • Holds the City of Ottawa Art Collection in trust for the people of Ottawa and preserves it for future generations;
  • Provides opportunities for emerging, mid-career and established professional artists across Ottawa’s full diversity and encourages participation by First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Francophone and new Canadian artists;
  • Promotes Ottawa’s artists and celebrates Ottawa’s unique status as a vibrant city and a national capital;
  • Is led, supported and developed by municipal employees who work with a network of internal and external collaborators; and
  • Generates significant quality-of-life and economic benefits for the people of Ottawa, elevating the civic landscape by improving its built and natural environments.

The City of Ottawa Public Art Program aligns with the Renewed Action Plan for Arts, Heritage and Culture in Ottawa, 2013-2018, and is implemented through Section 2.5.1 of the City of Ottawa Official Plan and other related plans, and best practices of other municipalities in Canada.

2. Purpose

Incorporating the strengths of the past 30 years in Ottawa and building on recent North American best practices, the Public Art Program will be governed by and will operate under one cohesive municipal policy. This renewed Public Art Policy articulates the planning, funding, selection, care and maintenance of public art, to provide the best possible program for residents now and in the future. The goals of the Policy are to:

  • Clearly define the Public Art Program’s scope and selection practices;
  • Enhance and expand public engagement, outreach and interpretation;
  • Ensure that municipal visual art assets in the City of Ottawa Art Collection are conserved and maintained, in keeping with professional standards;
  • Clearly delineate the roles and responsibilities for municipal employees, members of City Council and external collaborators;
  • Provide a  framework for a strategic, planned approach to ensure maximum impact and to extend opportunities into underserved urban, suburban and rural areas;
  • Increase professional development opportunities for emerging, mid-career and established professional artists across Ottawa’s full diversity and encourage First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Francophone and new Canadian artists; 
  • Align Public Art Commissions funding with Canadian municipal best practices; and
  • Increase collaboration and partnership with the private sector, internal and external stakeholders, and underserved communities.

The Public Art Policy adheres to the following core values:

  1. Responsible Stewardship: That the City of Ottawa Public Art Program use best practices to select, acquire, exhibit and conserve public art for current and future generations.
  2. Openness and Transparency: That policy, governance, process, selection, exhibition and management practices are founded on openness, competitiveness and transparency. Peer assessed selection is a cornerstone of the program. Selection process results from peer assessments are only subject to appeal on the basis of:
    1. Demonstrated deviation from compliance with the criteria and processes defined in this policy; and/or
    2. Issues raised through the public consultation process for exhibitions outlined in Section 4.2 of this policy.
  3. Engagement and Collaboration: That public art is the result of collaboration between artists, the public, municipal employees, public agencies, local stakeholders and the private sector.
  4. Encourage Excellence: That the policy, process and practice for City of Ottawa Art Collection development and management, commissions and exhibitions adhere to recognized professional standards and promote excellence in artistic practice.
  5. Planned Strategic Management Framework: That a successful Public Art Program is supported by solid planning and an integrated and strategic management framework

3. Policy Application

The Public Art Policy applies to Public Art Program employees and to all other municipal employees and departments that hold roles and responsibilities related to the Public Art Program.

3.1 Scope

The Public Art Program collects, commissions, presents and interprets artworks by professional visual artists. The Program is composed of two main areas of focus and function:

  1. The City of Ottawa Art Collection, and
  2. Exhibitions, Professional Development and  Public Education

Not included in the scope of the Policy are community galleries and display spaces; archaeological, archival and museum collections/exhibitions; the Ottawa Mural Program; signage by-laws; graffiti management; commemorations and monuments.

The scope of the Policy applies to the following Public Art Program activities: 

A) City of Ottawa Art Collection

Visual art, media art, fine craft and cross-disciplinary work with a visual art focus is acquired and accessioned into the City of Ottawa Art Collection through commission, purchase and donation.

The Art Collection, held in trust for residents, is an asset that requires professional stewardship, care, maintenance and conservation. The City of Ottawa Public Art Program follows standard collections management practices to protect the City of Ottawa Art Collection, and employs effective risk management through the provision of insurance coverage and regular appraisals of this municipal asset. Primary collections management functions include: acquisition, documentation, maintenance, conservation, interpretation and de-accessioning.

Public Art Commissions

Professional artists are commissioned to create original artworks that are funded from eligible municipal capital project budgets. Public Art Commissions enliven and add unique character to public gathering places and significant civic sites. Public art as creative place-making can also spark revitalization of and social engagement within a particular community or place. These artworks can vary in scale from art in a neighbourhood park to a major visual and iconic landmark contributing to the establishment of local distinctiveness.

Public Art Commissions are proactively integrated into the planning and implementation of municipal development and may be linked with strategic municipal objectives. Public Art Commissions may take the form of a standalone or architecturally integrated artwork, temporary or ephemeral artwork, digital artwork and other visual art forms. The Public Art Program recognizes that public art is a constantly evolving visual expression.

Purchase and Donation of Artwork

Each year, visual art of interest and importance to the City of Ottawa is acquired both through a purchase program that is funded through a municipal operating budget allocation, and by donation. Centred on the work of local, professional visual artists, purchased and donated artworks in this moveable collection are regularly circulated and displayed throughout 150 civic buildings.

Firestone Collection of Canadian Art

This significant collection of artwork by Canadian artists that spans the modern period (1900-1980), was donated by O.J. and Isobel Firestone to the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 1972. Ownership of this collection was transferred to the City of Ottawa in 1992. Works in the collection are cared for, managed and displayed by the Ottawa Art Gallery, through a legal agreement with the City of Ottawa.

B) Exhibitions, Professional Development and Public Education

Exhibitions, mentoring and internship, artist-in-residence programs, and outreach/public education increase access to visual art, provide development opportunities for artists and related sectors, and foster public engagement. 

Exhibitions

The City exhibits artwork in all media that are of interest and importance to the community, that foster a sense of who we are, and that reflect current artistic practice. These exhibitions are presented in the public domain allowing for an appreciation, understanding and interpretation of our past and present through the gallery program.

Public Art Program exhibitions focus on local emerging, mid-career and established professional artists working in visual arts, media arts, fine craft and cross-disciplinary work with a visual art focus. Exhibitions provide artists with opportunities to display new work, collaborate with their peers and mount retrospectives. Artists benefit from public exposure, a professionally produced exhibition and the opportunity for career development. Exhibitions take place at Karsh-Masson Gallery, City Hall Art Gallery and at other locations offering residents and visitors opportunities to experience an ever-changing and compelling variety of artistic expressions.

A public gallery is a forum for the exploration of diverse ideas. Artists in Canada of all faiths, backgrounds and cultures have the right to artistic expression as granted by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The City of Ottawa Public Art Program upholds the right of all residents to experience and express diverse visions and views in harmony with the City’s Equity and Diversity Policy.

Mentoring and Internship

Professional development for artists is an inherent aspect of all Public Art Program activities. In addition, formal mentorship opportunities are developed and implemented, whereby established artists pair with emerging artists to collaborate on specific commissions as appropriate. Post-secondary students in related disciplines will also be offered opportunities to participate in internship programs. Other mentoring and internship opportunities may be developed in the future.

Artist-in-Residence

Artist-in-residence programs are developed in partnership with municipal departments and interested external organizations and agencies. These collaborations are intended to provide mutual benefit to the artist and to the sponsoring residency provider.

Outreach and Public Education

Outreach and public education activities are designed to increase public understanding, awareness and engagement and to create a stronger presence for and knowledge of Public Art.

4. Policy Requirements

4.1 City of Ottawa Art Collection

The City collects and exhibits artworks to foster a sense of place and of who we are. The collection is comprised of artworks in all media that are of interest, of importance, and that engages the community. These artworks are presented in the public domain allowing for an appreciation, understanding and future interpretation of the City’s visual arts history.

Public Art Commissions

One percent of eligible municipal capital construction budgets of $2 million or more from the Growth, Strategic Initiatives and Renewal capital budget categories of the City of Ottawa and its Boards and Commissions, as well as one percent of eligible P3 projects, are designated for Public Art Commissions.  

The one percent applies to the individual project level of municipal construction budgets, and to the municipal contribution to construction projects funded by other agencies. Non-applicable municipal capital budgets include budget for - new equipment and lifecycle of equipment, studies, briefs and assessments related to a capital project, the soft cost components of eligible capital projects, environmental mitigation measures for an eligible project, unplanned repairs, repairs prolonging the life of an existing asset, land purchases and disposals.

This one percent portion of eligible capital funds will be transferred to a dedicated Public Art Fund specifically created and identified for Public Art projects following annual Council approval of the Capital Budget. This fund will be for the sole use of funding the Public Art projects under the delegated authority of the General Manager of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services. The Public Art Fund covers all aspects of commissions including project management, artists’ fees, the execution, installation, interpretation, maintenance and conservation of Public Art projects.

The Public Art Fund will be allocated to projects in accordance with the following goals:

  • To address Ottawa’s full geographic scope (urban, suburban and rural) and underserved areas in particular;
  • To determine scale of commissions and select appropriate sites with a view to improve access and visibility of public art; and
  • To develop a long term vision and location plan that aligns with the Official Plan, and other related plans.

An Interdepartmental Planning Group will work collaboratively with the Public Art Program and the Public Art Committee to achieve these goals. The General Manager, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, will approve the annual work plan for commissioned art.

Public Art Commissions are managed according to the following practices: 

  • Public Art Commissions may be associated with the capital construction project site or where the funding source allows, may be associated with alternative sites that are more publicly accessible or that address underserved areas and strategic objectives;
  • Projects such as recreation facilities, libraries and other large municipal buildings are ideal locations for public art commissions and priority will continue to link public art installations and budgets directly with these project sites;
  • Where the funding source allows, projects for roadways, sidewalks, sewers, water mains, work yards, and similar infrastructure where public visibility and accessibility to public art is not inherent will see the public art commission budget pooled into a fund for allocation to more appropriate, visible and accessible locations;
  • Public Art Commissions will reflect a thorough and sensitive understanding of place, context and setting and will vary in scope from neighbourhood based projects to temporary projects to larger iconic works;
  • The Public Art Program will engage community stakeholders and consult the Ward Councillor on Public Art Commissions;
  • Calls to artists will range in scope from local to national and international, depending on available resources, project scope and related criteria;
  • Artists will be included on capital project design teams as early as possible, where applicable, to ensure successful integration of artwork;
  • Commissions are selected through competitive, curatorial and/or invitational peer assessed processes that remain open and transparent and can include: Requests for Qualifications; Requests for Proposals; Requests for Expressions of Interest; and limited, invitational, or from a  prequalified roster;
  • Peer assessed selection is recognized as a valid evaluation protocol within City of Ottawa purchasing practice and is the protocol of choice for the Public Art Program;
  • Selection criteria for commissions are project based and advertised through a competition process;
  • Where appropriate, artwork for designated capital projects may be purchased rather than commissioned, providing that the work meets site specific requirements and has been selected through peer assessment; and
  • The City may partner with the private sector, agencies and institutions, e.g. the National Capital Commission, the National Gallery of Canada, or other municipalities, to augment the one percent allocation and/or to implement commissions, providing that the Public Art Policy is upheld.
Purchase and Donation of Artwork

The Public Art Program invites local, professional artists to submit artwork in all visual arts media for peer assessment and potential purchase and donation into the City of Ottawa Art Collection. Purchase and donation are governed according to the following practices: 

  • Preference is given to local, professional artists who live, or have lived, in Ottawa or within 150 km from the centre of the City of Ottawa;
  • Work by a non-local, professional artist may also be considered for acquisition if the artist or artwork has a connection to Ottawa that is clearly demonstrated in a proposal or donor submission;
  • Work must adhere to established selection criteria for purchase and donation include artistic merit, regional importance and innovation, and conservation and maintenance requirements;
  • Focused calls to artists related to a particular theme or period of time may be implemented in order to address strategic initiatives;
  • The Public Art Program recognizes exhibition rights and non-commercial reproduction rights for promotional purposes; and
  • Works are circulated and displayed in urban, suburban and rural municipal buildings and facilities and strive to ensure that artwork is fairly distributed across Ottawa’s full geographic scope, with particular attention paid to underserved areas. Accessible places of prominence and community gathering spots are considered to be prime display locations.
Collections Management

Standard professional collections management practice is implemented to manage the City of Ottawa Art Collection as a recognized municipal asset and to adhere to risk management procedures. Policy requirements include the following:

  • Documentation of each artwork is maintained including provenance, legal title, photographic documentation, materials pertaining to accession, electronic records including database, accessioning and cataloguing data, information on the artist, location history and loan records, condition reports and conservation history;
  • Copyright and moral rights of artworks remain the property of the artist or estate;
  • Program staff apply professional standards to the physical management of the City of Ottawa Art Collection, including care and handling, maintenance, monitoring and conservation treatment as required;
  • Artworks in the City of Ottawa Art Collection are eligible for external exhibition loans;
  • The City of Ottawa Art Collection is appraised by an independent qualified appraiser at least once every five years. Funds will be allocated for ongoing conservation and maintenance of commissioned artwork. A percentage of the total annual Purchase operating allocation is reserved for preventative conservation;
  • The City provides insurance for the City of Ottawa Art Collection and sound risk management practice;
  • Any removal, relocation or de-accessioning of commissioned artwork is accomplished in consultation with the Public Art Program, artists and/or artists’ estates, the Public Art Committee, the General Manager of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services and where warranted, City Council; and
  • De-accessioning of purchased and donated works is conducted on a case-by-case basis. The Public Art Program monitors artworks to determine whether specific pieces should be recommended for de-accessioning, in consultation with the Public Art Committee (see Section 5.3) and/or an independent conservator. The determination is evaluated according to collections management practice and includes such considerations as the current condition, security, or cost of rehabilitation of the artwork.

4.2   Exhibitions, Professional Development and Public Education

Exhibitions

An annual open call invites professional artists, artist collectives and curators working in visual arts, media arts and fine craft to propose exhibitions. Proposals for exhibitions, to be presented in a one year cycle, are reviewed by peer assessment jury. The exhibition program, and jury assessment is governed according to the following parameters:

  • Preference is given to local artists, artist collectives and curators who live, or have lived, in Ottawa or within 150 km from the centre of the City of Ottawa;
  • Proposals for other touring and special exhibitions are eligible, providing there is no significant cost to the City;
  • A roster of eligible candidates for peer assessment juries is selected annually through a collaborative review process involving the appointed members of the Public Art Committee;
  • An open Call for Proposals to artists outlines requirements, which include a proposal statement accompanied by supporting images and a résumé; 
  • Selection of proposals for exhibitions presented during one calendar year is made one year in advance by a peer assessment jury  and is based on artistic merit, regional importance, innovation, professionalism, cohesiveness and appropriateness to the public nature of the gallery space;
  • The annual jury selections for exhibitions, including exhibit and artist details and schedule, is broadly communicated to the general public before finalization.  Members of the public are invited, within a 30 day period, to raise any concerns with one or more proposed exhibits and request that a reconsideration should a concern arise that the peer assessment jury’s deliberations and recommendations did not follow publicly announced assessment criteria and procedures;
  • Public Art Program employees direct concerns received during the 30 day public consultation process period to the Public Art Committee to assess and determine policy compliance and the validity of a concern from the public.  The Committee reports its findings to the General Manager of Parks, Recreation and Culture for resolution;
  • At any time, if there is a concern or inquiry about an exhibition, Public Art Program employees may refer the inquiry to the Public Art Committee for consideration and a final decision may be made by the City Manager in consultation with the City Solicitor, who will consider the details of the concern or inquiry about the artwork, the peer assessment, the Public Art Committee’s recommendations, and all other relevant information. 
  • In the event of a determination that an exhibit proceeds, Public Art Program employees will work to create a dialogue with the public to address and mitigate potential areas of concern;
  • Where no public concerns are received within the 30 day consultation period, proposed annual exhibit schedule will be finalized and implemented by staff;
  • Other temporary and permanent sites may be identified for exhibition and installation in order to supplement exhibition programming at Karsh-Masson Gallery and City Hall Art Gallery, and/or to focus on new or underserved areas;
  • Professional artists are paid Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC) fees when their work is exhibited; and
  • Selected artworks from the City of Ottawa Art Collection are displayed in the City’s professional galleries as part of exhibition programming.
Mentoring and Internship

Mentoring and internship opportunities are developed and implemented for artists, post-secondary students and other interested parties, according to the following practices: 

  • Public Art Program mentorship opportunities for artists will be advertised through open calls and selected through peer assessment;
  • Students enrolled in post-secondary institutions may be eligible to participate in an unpaid, curriculum-based work placement;
  • The Public Art Program provides guidance and an exhibition venue to local academic institutions, to assist in the completion of their thesis requirements, where appropriate; and
  • The Public Art Program participates in opportunities arising from cultural exchanges, trade delegations and twin city relationships.
Artist-in-Residence

Artist residencies are sponsored by private partners, communities and/or institutions where there is demonstrated collaborative potential, an opportunity for cross-sectoral innovation, and/or where the residency has the potential to be mutually beneficial.

Outreach and Public Education

The City of Ottawa Public Art Program will provide adequate resources to ensure that interpretation, outreach and public education in both official languages is implemented. Other languages, such as Algonquin, may also be used as appropriate. The Public Art Program will use current technology and best practices to promote the Art Collection, local artists, and its exhibitions, activities and events. Outreach, education and social practice activities aimed at engaging and informing the public across Ottawa’s full geographic scope will be carried out with the appropriate resources.

5. Responsibilities

5.1 Public Art Program Employees, Cultural Services Branch

The City of Ottawa Public Art Program employees work with artists, municipal planners, capital project managers, community representatives and private and business sector representatives to plan and integrate art into public settings. The Public Art Program champions, guides and implements all aspects of the program. Public Art Program employees are responsible for acquisitions, collections management, commissioning, co-ordination of the selection process, presentation and interpretation of all artworks within the scope of this Policy. Public Art Program employees are also responsible for developing procedures relating to the City of Ottawa Art Collection and the Public Art Program, and for coordination of the Interdepartmental Planning Group and the Public Art Committee. The Arts and Heritage Development Unit, in consultation with Public Art Program employees and other internal/external stakeholders, is responsible for Public Art Policy development.

5.2 Public Art Interdepartmental Planning Group   

The Public Art Program will establish and implement an Interdepartmental Planning Group, which includes representatives from City Departments and Boards with responsibility or knowledge relating to the planning or implementation of Public Art Commissions.

This internal working group will:

  • Represent departmental perspectives in developing criteria for site selection;
  • Participate in location planning for commissioned public art; and
  • Ensure early integration of commissioning in the planning process and open communication about commissioned artwork.

5.3 Public Art Committee

A Public Art Committee will advise municipal staff on all Public Art Policy directions: Commissions, Purchase, Exhibitions and Outreach. Experts from the community will be selected to serve as members of this Committee, thereby increasing community engagement.

The Public Art Committee is a Departmental Consultative Group attached to the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services (PRCS) and reporting to the General Manager, PRCS

The following applies for the selection and administration of the Public Art Committee:

  • Experts will be invited to apply through an open call process and will be selected through peer assessment;
  • Committee members will demonstrate professional expertise relating to public art and will reflect Ottawa’s official language groups, diversity and geographic scope;
  • Committee members will participate with City staff in high level planning activities led by the City, review policy, and meet annually with the Interdepartmental Public Art Planning Group;
  • Committee members will serve as a collaborative forum for feedback as new ideas are being developed;
  • Committee members will provide high level input on public art initiatives and procedures as required by the Public Art Program, including but not limited to public art site planning, pilot projects, review of prequalified roster of selection committee candidates, recommendations for de-accessioning, and Policy compliance;
  • Committee members will assist to foster community engagement and public support to enhance the value and impact of the Public Art Program;
  • Committee members will review proposals for permanent public art on municipal land (not commissioned through the Public Art Program) for policy compliance and advise the General Manager, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services; and
  • Committee members will review complaints, and exhibition reconsideration request for policy compliance and makes recommendations for resolution to the General Manager, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

5.4 Public Art Development by the Private Sector

On City Lands

Private agencies who commission public art on City lands must comply with the following directions:

  • Permanent Public Art Commissions on City of Ottawa land not commissioned through the Public Art Program must adhere to the City of Ottawa Public Art Policy, including the requirement to commission professional visual artists and to include them in the selection process; and
  • These proposals for public art on City-owned land will be reviewed by the Public Art Committee for policy compliance prior to the granting of development approvals.
On Private Lands

The City actively encourages the private sector to include public art in development projects as an option to elevate and improve the civic landscape. The City will:

  • Work to establish Public Art Commissioning Guidelines (including development of project specifications, selection process, installation) for public art projects on private property in consultation with representatives from the private sector; and
  • Actively provide the private sector and Business Improvement Associations with the Public Art Commissioning Guidelines, and will attach them to the City of Ottawa Development and Review application stage. Public Art Program employees may provide the private sector with consultative services related to public art project specification, selection process and installation, for a fee and according to a developed fee schedule.

Section 37 of the Ontario Planning Act permits the City of Ottawa to authorize increases in the permitted height and/or density of buildings through zoning by-laws in return for specific community benefits. These increases in height and/or density act as incentives for developers to provide these benefits at no cost to the City. Public art is included in the listing of community benefits. Where Section 37 funds are used for Public Art, the Public Art Policy must be adhered to.

5.5 City of Ottawa Urban Design Review Panel

Ottawa’s Urban Design Review Panel is an independent advisory panel of volunteer design professionals who provide an objective peer review of both public and private sector development projects throughout the City’s Design Priority Areas. Established in 2010, this Panel is intended to enhance the City’s capabilities in achieving architectural and urban design excellence. The City of Ottawa Design Objectives include public art (Design Objective 1.3, Create Unique Communities). To increase adherence to the City’s Urban Design Objectives, the Public Art Program will:

  • work with municipal Urban Design employees to further connect public art with design objectives; and
  • where appropriate, one professional visual artist will be added to the Urban Design Review Panel for technical advice

6. Monitoring Conventions

Cultural Services and the Public Art Program and the Public Art Committee will collaborate to monitor Public Art Policy implementation to determine if:

  • The assumptions underpinning the Policy continue to be valid;
  • Policy priorities remain constant;
  • The Policy is being carried out; and
  • The Policy is having the desired outcome.

The Public Art Program may bring forward amendments to this Policy when required. A complete review of the Policy will occur once every ten years.

7. References

In 1985, the City of Ottawa developed one of the first visual art policies in Canada. The City of Nepean approved a Public Art Policy in 1989, followed by Kanata (1997) and the City of Gloucester (1998). The Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton approved an Art in Public Spaces Policy in 1990.

During development of the renewed City of Ottawa Public Art Policy (2015), reference was made to:

  1. Public Art policies from pre-amalgamation municipalities and the Regional Municipality; and
  2. Current Public Art policies in other North American cities, including Calgary, Chicago, Edmonton, Moncton, Montreal, Richmond Hill, Surrey, Toronto, Kingston, and Vancouver.

8. Legislative and Administrative Authorities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Bilingualism Policy, City of Ottawa

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Constitution Act, 1982

Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC)

Code of Conduct for Members of Council, City of Ottawa

Comprehensive Asset Management Policy, City of Ottawa, 2012

Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c.C-42), Government of Canada

Cultural Property Export and Import Act, (R.S.C.1985. c.C_51), Government of Canada

Departmental Consultative Groups Framework, City of Ottawa

Employee Code of Conduct, City of Ottawa

Equity and Diversity Policy, City of Ottawa

Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Official Plan, City of Ottawa

Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O.1990, c.0.18

Ontario Human Rights Code

Planning Act, RSO 1990, Province of Ontario

Renewed Action Plan for Arts, Heritage and Culture in Ottawa (2013-2018), City of Ottawa

Status of the Artist Act, CSC 1992, Government of Canada

Tangible Capital Asset Policy, City of Ottawa

Urban Design: A Reference Guide to Creating Great Places and Great Spaces, City of Ottawa

9. Definitions

Accessible: Used in this policy as a term to describe ease of interaction for the public with an artwork

Accession :The act of recording and processing an acquisition to the permanent collection

Acquisition: Obtaining art through commission, purchase, donation, gift or bequest

Artist, Professional:  A visual artist who has completed specialized training in his or her artistic field or is recognized by his/her peers as such; is committed to his/her artistic activity; and has a history of public presentation

  • Emerging artist: A visual artist in the early years of a professional career who may have had previous professional exhibitions, commissions, presentations or installations
  • Mid-career artist: A visual artist who has received basic training in his/her artistic field, has practiced his/her art for four to seven full years and has created at least two presentations, exhibitions or installations in a professional context
  • Established artist: A visual artist who has an extensive body of work, a history of national and/or international presentation and who has achieved wide recognition
  • Local artist: A visual artist who lives, or has lived, in Ottawa, or within 150 km. from the centre of the City of Ottawa

Best Practice: A method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark. In addition, a best practice can evolve to become better as improvements are discovered.  Applying best practice combines the ability to balance the unique qualities of an organization with the practices that it has in common with others.

Creative Place-making: A practice that intentionally leverages the power of the arts, culture and creativity to serve a community’s interest while driving a broader agenda for change, growth and transformation in a way that also builds character and quality of place.

Copyright: Grants the author of an artwork the sole right to reproduce, distribute, display, and alter their artworks. It expires 50 years after the artist’s death. It may be assigned or licensed to another individual or institution and/or it may be assigned exclusively or jointly. Copyright also extends to the use of images of an artwork for promotional or educational purposes.

  • Moral Rights include the right to the integrity of the artwork in regard to associations or modifications. They include the right to be associated with the artwork as its author by name, pseudonym or the right to remain anonymous. Moral Rights are non-transferable and endure even after copyright has been assigned. The rights may be waived by the artist agreeing to not exercise them in whole or in part. Examples of violation of Moral Rights may include:
    • An act or omission performed on the artwork that affects the honour or reputation of the artist; and
    • Changing the colour of the artwork or adorning it with additional elements

Taking steps to restore or preserve the artwork would not be included as long as this work is performed in good faith. Also, changing the location of the work does not generally constitute a violation, but in the case of works of public art, the exact siting may be considered part of the work.

De-accession: (1) An object that has been removed permanently from a collection; (2) Formal removal of accessioned objects from a permanent collection. The act of physically removing object(s) from a collection.

Interpretation: A term used in art galleries and museums to describe educational, explanatory or didactic material or activities

Mentorship: An opportunity for an emerging artist to work with an established artist on a project relevant to his/her area of work and interest

Peer Assessment: All commissioned, purchased and donated artwork, and exhibitions are selected through peer assessment in accordance with the criteria described in this policy. The makeup of peer assessment juries vary according to requirements. Membership includes emerging, mid-career and established professional artists, and may also include external art administrators, art academics, as well as related experts and community stakeholders. Peer diversity is considered, with attention paid to the inclusion of First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Francophone and new Canadian artists. A roster of pre-qualified candidates for peer assessment juries is reviewed annually by the appointed members of the Public Art Committee.

Professionally-Produced Exhibition: Includes catalogue and invitation design and printing, technical assistance, promotions, and opening reception event planning

Public Art: A visual artwork in any media created by an artist(s) that has been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in public space, and is acquired in compliance with the City of Ottawa’s Public Art Policy

  • Integrated public art forms a physical part of a building, structure or landscape. If the site were to be redeveloped, the art would be as well.
  • Stand-alone (non-integrated) public art is not a physical part of a building, structure or landscape
  • Temporary public art is an original work by an artist(s) that is created for a specific occasion, time frame or event and which is situated at a particular site on a temporary basis. The art may cover a range of forms including, but not limited to, visual art, digital art, sound art, and performance-based work.
  • Site-specific art, whether long-term or temporary, functional or aesthetic, stand-alone or integrated and in any media, is an original work that is created in response to the immediate context

Sign: Any visual medium used to convey information by way of words, pictures, graphics, emblems or symbols, or any device used for the purpose of providing direction, information, identification, advertisement business promotion or the promotion of a product, activity, service or idea [Permanent Signs on Private Property, City of Ottawa By-law No.2005-439]

Urban Design: The process of applying desired functional and aesthetic parameters to the design of the city and its parts

10. Keyword Search

City of Ottawa Art Collection
Collections Management
Commissions
Donations
Exhibitions
Purchase
Public Art Committee
Public art

11. Enquiries

For more information on this Policy, contact:

Nicole Zuger
Program Manager, Arts and Heritage Development
613-580-2424 x 23150
nicole.zuger@ottawa.ca