CULTURE: The Birdman Chronicles explores success, obscurity, and passion (according to John Westhaver)

By DAYANTI KARUNARATNE

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From time to time, Ottawa Magazine gets approached with projects that are so unique, or creatively challenging, or represent some interesting and important aspect of the city, that we can’t turn them away. So what if they don’t fit into a specific department of the magazine or website! This website can be a time-sucking beast, but it lets us have fun sometimes — like when Ottawa-based filmmaker Alex Griffith reached out about his short doc on  John Westhaver of Birdman Sound, host of CKCU “Morning Cartunes”, and drummer for The Band Whose Name is a Symbol (TBWNIAS).

Full disclosure: my husband is a big fan of this band. (Me? Seems I’m always stuck at home with our kid on concert nights.) Either way, at first glance I thought this film would simply be something for the two of us to enjoy.

But as I watched it, I realized it spoke to a question I have long asked about musicians: why join a band? Not being a musician myself I can see how this question might come off as completely ignorant, but really — when work, family, and other obligations start to clutter the schedule, what motivates musicians to come together and practice, fine-tune songs, plan concerts, the whole bit? Looks like a lot of work.

But The Birdman Chronicles gave me some insight. Whether or not you’re in a band, it’s worth checking out.

Below the vid, a Q&A with the filmmaker about his decision to focus on Westhaver and  what he learned by making film.

Ottawa Mag: How did you decide to create a doc that focused on John Westhaver?

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ARTFUL BLOGGER: Two Aboriginal Artists from Manitoulin Island & Sizzling Erotica in Chelsea

BY PAUL GESSELL

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Universe, (1970), Daphne Odjig, acrylic

 

Both new and old works from one of the biggest names in the Canadian art world – Daphne Odjig – are to have a rare, two-month-long run at Cube Gallery starting Feb. 3.

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SOUND SEEKERS: Tara Holloway Nails It with Little Ghosts

BY FATEEMA SAYANI

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Tara Holloway, the powerhouse vocalist with the perfectly raspy voice, has put together an album that showcases her many dimensions. On Little Ghosts she sounds pained, mischievous, whimsical, awesomely raging, sage, and saucy. The new album — recorded at Ottawa’s Bova Sound and to be released in late February on Vancouver label Light Organ Records — has a bit of blues, a bit of folk noir, and a ton of charm with plenty of top-drawer offerings.

Holloway, 34, has toured and couch surfed for years (she once claimed “the iPhone is my home”), frequenting B.C., Tennessee, and California. She has spent most of her adult life on the stage and as a result is a natural with the chatty stage banter. It’s fascinating to watch her go from being potty-mouthed and gregarious to plaintive and pained, as she starts into another tune with those killer pipes. At times she brings to mind another redhead who put the capital on the map. Holloway’s album has all the hallmarks to blow up big. Could it be another Failer?

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WEEKENDER: Five things to do on Super Bowl weekend (other than watch the game)

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A man who needs no introduction


Winter-feud? (Mostly FREE)
As controversy continues to dog the upcoming FIFA Women’s soccer tourney this summer in Canada regarding turf, one wonders how this will play out during Winterlude? I mean, will snow sculptors feature soccer players playing on grass or the artificial stuff? And how does one distinguish that critical difference in snow? I guess we’ll see as FIFA’s “joys of winter” exhibit gets carved during Winterlude, which officially kicks off on Friday, Jan. 30.

This exhibit is but one of many events over three weeks. Lansdowne Park is the newest notable venue — it will feature an outdoor skating rink (refrigerated just in case the soul-destroying winter temps as of late magically disappear), as well as the Winter Design Festival, Design & Build Competition.

A few other things of interest — The opening ceremonies take place on Friday at 7 p.m., typically at Confederation Park… but I’ll admit, information regarding the location appears vague. Introduce your kiddies to downhill skiing (ages 5 to 8) at Snowflake Kingdom everyday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s also the Explore 150 Youth Photography Showcase, which highlights places around the country that have most influenced our identity. Curious to see what locales made the cut? Check out the exhibit at Confederation Park. Explore150.ca. Thirsty (and 18+)? Festibiere beer festival will be held inside Canada’s Museum of History (held this Friday and Saturday, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.) featuring a wide range of beers to imbibe. Tickets and more info here.
Winterlude runs until Monday, Feb. 16. More info, visit here.

New ‘apocalyptic’ date (FREE)
Mark it on your calendar: 2050. That’s when approximately 80 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities — mega-cities. These gargantuan ‘hives’ can, however, be a place that is hospitable, according to Danish architect and professor Jan Gehl — the star of the 2012 doc, The Human Scale. The documentary is being screened, for free, on Thursday, Jan. 29 at Bytown Cinema. Afterwards, a local panel of experts (guest speakers include Catherine McKenney, Somerset Ward Coun.; Alain Miguelez, City of Ottawa planner; David Sweanor, uOttawa adjunct prof. of law; and Inge Roosendaal, development officer of Ottawa Public Health) will discuss what the City of Ottawa has done well and what it can do better with regards to urban planning, sustainable transportation, and creating a more liveable space. Capacity is 650. Event starts at 6 p.m. More info, visit here.
Bytowne Cinema is at 325 Rideau St.

Trick or Treaty? (FREE)
In Canada, one photograph in particular helped define the year 1990 — it featured a Private Patrick Cloutier and a masked Brad “Freddy Krueger” Larocque Mohawk warrior standing face-to-face. That shot — taken by Canadian Press photographer, Shaney Komulainen — helped define for many the Oka Crisis in the fall of that year.

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A still from the film by Kanehsatake, 270 Years of Resistance, by Alanis Obomsawin

However, this other photograph (above) — a still from Alanis Obomsawin’s film Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance — also shot during the Crisis, perhaps better captures the reality of the tragedy that First Nations people continue to struggle against.

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Canadian filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin

Fifteen years later, acclaimed Canadian filmmaker, Obomsawin once more turns her camera towards issues facing Aboriginals. Her latest, Trick or Treaty?, will be shown on Friday, January 30 at River Building Theatre at Carleton University as part of The Canadian Film Institute’s ongoing guest series, The Enlightened Screen. Obomsawin will be present at the event, which begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free. More info, visit here.
Carleton University is at 1125 Colonel By Drive

Freshly Chopped
There are some who believe that your of taste should align with the other four senses. And those that do, have created an event that combines photography, music, and food into a unique sensory experience — The Freshly Chopped Supper Club. Not necessarily new, the event on Saturday, January 30, will be the first event of the New Year. It will feature 8 courses from “around the globe” along with music by DJ Sash and photography by Theak Chhuom. It happens at Grounded Kitchen & Coffee from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets from $48. More info on ticket prices, visit here.
Grounded Kitchen & Coffee is at 100 Gloucester St.

Mercer, the Snowman…
Want to see Rick Mercer break a world record? On Sunday, February 1 CBC funny man, Mercer, will be in Ottawa to tape — and break — the record to build the most snowmen in one hour. According to Guinness, the record stands at 1, 279 snowmen built in one hour, which took place on January, 2011 in Salt Lake City. Over 350 people took part; each snowman had two eyes and a carrot nose. C’mon Ottawa, we can do better than that!

And so, Mercer needs your help — bring gently used mittens, scarves, and hats to decorate your snowmen; after the event, these will be donated to the Salvation Army. The event begins at 10 a.m. at Lansdowne Park; the actual recording-breaking occurs at 11 a.m. There will be a post-event reception as well.
TD Place (Lansdowne) is at 1015 Bank St.

 

UPDATED! Black History Month brings music, comedy, and cultural celebrations of all kinds to Ottawa

This article first appeared in the Interiors 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

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Pierre Kwenders, a Congolese singer-songwriter, performs a concert on February 12 at the NAC

 

FREE! BLACK HISTORY MONTH LAUNCH & OPENING CEREMONY. Jan. 31.
This year’s theme is “Our Canadian Story: Our Elders. Our Legacy!” Opening celebrations reflect on the contributions older adults have made to the Canadian mosaic. Highlights include the proclamation of the city-wide observance for this year’s Black History Month, the unveiling of commemorative Canada Post stamps, and presentations of the 2015 Black History Ottawa Community Builder Awards.
Centrepointe Theatre, 101 Centrepointe Dr., 613-580-2700, centrepointetheatre.ca

BLACK ARTISTS’ NETWORKS IN DIALOGUE. VARIOUS DATES
BAND is an organization dedicated to supporting, documenting, and showcasing the artistic and cultural contributions of Black Artists in Canada. And wow do they have a line-up! An art exhibit that questions the meaning of “minority” is on view at the GCTC; House of Paint is organizing The Origin of Beat, which explores how Afro, Caribbean, Latin, and Urban Music continue to influence contemporary music; a compendium of young black artists of the diaspora (including Annie Lefebvre, Le R, Yao, and Richard Léger) interpret great black poets of the  past in Prise de Conscience; and on Feb. 23, the Nina Project sees three amazing African-Canadian singers – Jackie Richardson, Kellylee Evans, and Shakura S’Aida – display the depth and range of Nina Simone’s legacy.

FREE! CHILDREN’S STORIES IN THE DIASPORA. Feb. 8.
Readers from the black community share children’s stories written by black authors.
Ottawa Public Library, Nepean Centrepointe Branch, Children’s Program Room, 101 Centrepointe Dr., 613-580-2700, biblioottawalibrary.ca

PIERRE KWENDERS. Feb. 12
In celebration of Black History Month, Pierre Kwenders, a Congolese singer-songwriter, performs a concert on February 12 that blends traditional and modern African rhythms — and is sure to get audiences on their feet. From $20.
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage, 53 Elgin St., 888-991-2787, nac-cna.ca

THE UNDERGROUND COMEDY RAILROAD. Feb. 16
Montreal stand-up comics Andrew Searles and Rodney Ramsey have gathered a crew of equally hilarious black comedians to bring The Underground Comedy Railroad tour to Ottawa. Daniel Woodrow and Keesha Brownie join the when they pull up to Absolute Comedy on Preston Street.

THE SPECTRUM: BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPEAKER SERIES. Feb. 20.
In partnership with the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Black Ottawa Business Network Social Group hosts speakers on topics such as health, nutrition, and exercise. Additional activities include a silent auction, Afro-Caribbean dance and poetry, and an exhibit on medical pioneers of African descent. $15.
The Royal Canadian Legion Montgomery Branch, 330 Kent St., 613-233-7292, montgomerylegion.ca

SAMMY DEAD. Feb. 21.
Written and directed by Fay Jarrett and Lorna Townsend, this play takes a lighthearted Caribbean-style approach to funerals. From $20.
Rideau Park United Church, 2203 Alta Vista Dr., 613-733-3156, rideaupark.ca

GLOBAL COMMUNITY ALLIANCE GALA NIGHT AND AWARD CEREMONY. Feb. 28.
This event celebrates the diversity in the Ottawa community and recognizes the individuals, businesses, associations, and organizations that have made a difference within it. Highlights include a keynote speaker, award presentations, and entertainment. $65.
Sheraton Ottawa Hotel, 150 Albert St., 613-238-1500, sheratonottawa.com

For complete schedule, visit blackhistoryottawa.org.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Mark Bourrie’s Kill the Messengers “one of the most damning books ever written about a sitting prime minister”

By PAUL GESSELL

It’s all about “the base,” that 30 per cent or so of voters who are on the right-leaning flank of the electorate, the people who can be counted on to support Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, as long as the prime minister continues to give them what they want. With that 30 per cent locked up, Harper only has to woo another 10 per cent of voters. In our multi-party, first-past-the-post system, winning 40 per cent of the vote at election time can be enough to form a majority.

The Mike Duffy Senate scandal was supposedly all about “the base,” according to the man at the centre of the expense controversy. Duffy told the Senate that he had a meeting with Harper and his then-chief of staff, Nigel Wright, soon after news reports surfaced alleging the senator had fudged his expense accounts.

“I said that despite the smear in the papers I had not broken the rules,” Duffy claims he told Harper and Wright. “But the prime minister wasn’t interested in explanations or the truth. It’s not about what you did. It’s the perception of what you did that has been created by the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base.”

Kill the Messengers hits bookstores Jan. 27

Kill the Messengers hits bookstores Jan. 27

In other words, the Conservative “base” would disapprove of Duffy living high on the hog at taxpayers’ expense, even if the senator had broken no rules. The verdict: Duffy had to go.

Now Duffy is hardly an unbiased person in this story. But his version of events plays into widespread attitudes about Stephen Harper — namely that, right or wrong, his main concern is to nurture that 30 per cent of the electorate.

Such sentiments are at the heart of Mark Bourrie’s tough, new book, Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know. The book paints Harper as ruthlessly attacking and even silencing journalists, scientists, judges, environmentalists, and intellectuals in a drive to remake Canada, rewrite our history, and keep the Conservatives in power. It is one of the most damning books ever written about a sitting prime minister.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Paint Nite brings rookie artists, friends, and couples to local pubs

By JENNIFER CAMPBELL

Paint Nite at the Clocktower Pub in Westboro

Instructor Olga Climova talks participants through the process of recreating “Italy” at Paint Nite at the Clocktower Pub in Westboro

It’s a Monday night and the ClockTower Pubin Westboro has had a makeover. Instead of sports fans watching the Sens on mammoth screens, rows of 35 easels and canvases line the back room. It looks more like a kindergarten room than a pub.

At the head of the class, instructor Olga Climova is handing out aprons and paper plates covered with blobs of paint. Red, yellow, blue, black and white. That’s it. Those are all the colours these budding Picassos will need for tonight’s lesson/creation.

Their mission? To recreate a painting from Paint Nite’s (their spelling) gallery. Tonight’s painting is (not-so-creatively) called “Italy.” It’s a silhouette of a big-wheeled bicycle leaning against a sunny yellow brick wall. The budding artists — all but three are women, the average age is 30 — wield paint brushes, wine glasses, and a positive attitude to go with their lack of experience. Only one says she’s had formal training; the others are complete newbies.

Michelle Madill

Michelle Madill

In spite of its questionable spelling and boiler-plate painting designs (local artists such as Climova must choose a painting to teach from a gallery prescribed by Paint Nite), the Boston-headquartered company is now global. It’s been in Ottawa — operating out of bars and restaurants downtown and as far afield as Orleans and Kanata — for a year, but it also has chapters in China, Australia, Ghana, Hong Kong, South Africa, and the U.K. It’s in Canada’s largest cities and even some smaller spots in Ontario (think Peterborough.)

Michelle Madill, a nurse who’s having her first baby in a month, was there with her friends Kristan Wadden and Connie Tuttle, who was six days away from giving birth.

“We’re trying to get lots of girl time in before they deliver,” Wadden says with a laugh.

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WEEKENDER: Four things to do on the weekend of January 22 to 25

BY MATT HARRISON

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Emma Slipp & Graeme McComb in Moss Park at the GCTC. Photo by Mark Halliday

Moss (F******) Park
“I want to write f******-up plays about f****** people in a f******-up world!” — that’s George F. Walker speaking to the Ottawa Citizen back in May about being a playwright. In his latest, dark comedic offering — Moss Park — Walker remains true to his aims by delivering a play about a young couple with a baby who struggle to “make ends meet” though they have “no prospects and no money.” One last stab at “making it” involves a “money-making” scheme by Bobby that collides with Tina’s “dreams of home sweet home.” Moss Park launched earlier this week, and runs until February 8 at the Great Canadian Theatre Co. Show times are Thursday, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets from $15. Special pay-what-you-can matinee on Sunday, January 25 at 2 p.m.
GCTC is at 1233 Wellington St. W.

Photos Celebrate ‘Beauty’ in DRC
The Democratic Republic of Congo has been decimated by decades-old civil war, with women in particular suffering from widespread sexual violence — in fact, the eastern part of the country has been dubbed the “rape capital of the world.” Amidst all of this brutality — a grassroots movement of Congolese women working in communities to support survivors of sexual violence. This is the subject of the photographic work by celebrated war photographer Pete Muller (TIME, New York Times), which is being launched on Thursday, January 22 at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (SPAO). The exhibit, Beauty in the Middle: Women of Congo Speak Out, features intimate photos and videos that “tell the story of the conflict and how sexual violence has impacted women – both activists and survivors.” The event will feature guest speaker Julienne Lusenge, founder and director of the Fond pour les Femmes Congolaises. It will include music, hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. You will also have a chance to bid on stunning prints from the exhibit during a live auction, and buy handcrafted items made by women in the DRC. Tickets for the event are $45, but only $15 for non-waged and students. The vernissage on Thursday takes place at SAW Gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. More info, visit here. The exhibit is up until February 6.
SAW Gallery is at 67 Nicholas St.

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George Thomson’s “Blue Mountain, May,” 1931, oil on canvas, courtesy of AGO.

Tom Thomson’s ‘Forgotten’ Brother (FREE!)
Must’ve sucked — at least a little — that your younger brother got all the fame and you were largely forgotten … well, not entirely forgotten, because a new exhibit opening Thursday, January 22 at the Ottawa Art Gallery looks at the ‘forgotten’ Thomson: George, Tom Thomson‘s older brother. George’s work in Two Roads Diverged in a Wood is explored through Toronto-based artist Jon Sasaki, whose art pays homage to the ‘other Thomson’ using different lighting techniques.
In Home Away from Home, Aboriginal narratives  — so often neglected or negated — are inserted into moments in Canadian history. This exhibit includes the work of Gerald McMaster, Barry Ace, Rosalie Favell, Ron Noganosh, Jane Ash Poitras, and Jeff Thomas.
Making the familiar seem strange, disorientating, and alien seems to be the intent behind Andrew Wright‘s photographic work in Pretty Lofty and Heavy All At Once. In this exhibit, the artist’s works demonstrate a deliberate re-orientation of the camera in order to alter our normal perceptions of the ordinary.
All three exhibits are are part of the Ottawa Art Gallery’s vernissage on Thursday. It’s free. All three exhibits will be open until May.
The OAG is at 2 Daly Ave.

Rideau Hall Winter Wonderland (FREE!)
Winterlude is still a week away… but in a sort of unofficial lead-up to the annual winter festival, Rideau Hall is hosting a free weekend event that apparently inaugurates the “Year of Sport” in Canada… (Honestly, who’s job is it to determine what this “Year” will be? — oh, it’s the guy who lives at Rideau Hall. Makes sense.). Regardless of Saturday, January 24‘s ‘loftier goals’, the afternoon will involve Nordic-like sports for the entire family: dog sledding, kick sledding (smaller sled where you ‘kick’ back and propel the sled forward — no dogs), a giant ski race (a race between giants on skis or a really big ski race?!?), horse-drawn wagon rides, skating on the historic outdoor rink, pelting a poor snowman with snowballs (fear not, the snowman signed a waiver), snow soccer juggling (okay, now they’re just making stuff up)… plus tours of the residence, and hot beverages & snacks…
The Winter Celebration starts at 12:30 p.m. and goes until 4 p.m. Participants are asked to bring a non-perishable food item and an item of winter clothing for the Ottawa Food Bank and the Snowsuit Fund.
Rideau Hall is at 1 Sussex Dr.

WEEKENDER: Five things to do on the weekend of January 15 to 18

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Sheilagh Tennant (Artruist Ltd) 2008

Robbie Burns Day
Haggis — and that’s all you may associate with Robbie Burns Day. But did you know the following about the much lauded Scottish poet who’s celebrated on January 15? — He wrote the words to Auld Lang Syne, that “song” we all mumble through when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve; six of his nine children died; and he once took a diamond-tipped pen and scratched a poem on the window of an inn, writing that the Royals were an “idiot race.” Nice. Real nice Robbie.
The poet, pioneer of the Romantic Movement, and political activist’s b-day (Robbie Burns Day) will be celebrated in poetry and song at the National Arts Gallery on Thursday, January 15. Writer/performer Gail Anglin, proud Scot Stuart Jardine, baritone Fraser Gordon, and classical guitarist Shawn Peters will be presenting Ottawa Storyteller’s Robbie Burns: A Man’s a Man for A’ That. It starts at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $22.
NAC is at 53 Elgin St.

Pulitzer Prize/Tony Prize-winning Play
A black family seeks to buy a home in a predominantly white neighbourhood of Chicago — flash forward 50 years and that white neighbourhood is now mostly black and gentrifying; a white couple wants to move in and build a much larger home, but they come up against a black couple representing the neighbourhood association. The scene is set for conflict.
Clybourne Park is a Pulitzer Prize/Tony Prize-winning play, which is being put on by Ottawa Little Theatre,  which runs until the end of January. This satirical comedy examines race relations (serendipitously, considering recent racial tensions in the U.S.) and challenges ideas concerning ‘neighbourhoods.’ Tickets from $22. All evening shows are at 7:30 p.m.; all weekend matinees are at 2 p.m. No shows on Monday. More info, visit here.
Ottawa Little Theatre, 400 King Edward Ave.

Black Lit Burlesque
Remember sitting in a darkened room, smoking whatever, listening to something mildly psychedelic, and staring at the gleaming — nah glowing — teeth of the person next to you? That ‘effect’ was probably from a black light — the same that will be used to maximum effect in Lights Out: Black Light Burlesque and Variety Show at Arts Court on Friday, January 16. Produced by Frisque Femmes’ Kitty Kin-Evil and Sassy Muffin, the show is being billed as a “complete black light show from beginning to end.” The performance will feature comedy, drag, boylesque, contortion, and burlesque — plus body painting and prizes. Come early for cocktail hour where complimentary hors d’oeuvres will be served (7:30 to 8:30 p.m.); the performance starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $30. This is a 19+ event. More info, visit here.
Arts Court is at 2 Daly Ave.

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By Henri Michaux

Speaking of Erotic…
“Unbridled” is how master choreographer Marie Chouinard’s Henri Michaux: Mouvements dance performance on Saturday, January 17 is being described. It features 10 dancers forming “stunning silhouettes and sequences to mirror projections of drawings” by the artist, whose works resemble figures in the throes of dance. Following Henri Michaux’s performance, Chouinard immerses the audience in the haunting music of French modernist composer Erik Satie. In Gymnopedies, dancers take turns playing the piano whilst the others perform “sensual, erotic duets” to the music. Note: the performances include strobe effects and some nudity. Tickets, from $40. Show is at 7:30 p.m. in the NAC Theatre. More info, visit here.
The NAC is at 53 Elgin St.

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Photo: Len Ward of arts & architecture inc.

Speaking of Nudity…
As you may know by now, dragon boat racing is kind of a thing in this city — the annual Dragon Boat Festival (June 25-28) at Mooney’s Bay Park is a growing phenomenon. This year, the Psirens — an Ottawa woman’s dragon boat racing team — has decided to go all nude-y for a calendar to raise funds for the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation. Why bare all? The goal of the calendar is to not only raise funds, but also to promote fitness and sport and “portray the confidence and optimism that run through the team” — through some very nude photography, with (of course) paddles strategically placed.
The calendar launch is happening on Sunday, January 18 at the Sir John A. Pub. Calendars will be $20; you can also meet the Psirens, get autographs, and be photographed with the ladies. Event starts at 5 p.m.
Sir John A. Pub is at 248 Elgin St.

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Ottawa body parts shipped to Halifax

BY PAUL GESSELL

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Musketball!, 2012, Howie Tsui, courtesy of the artist. Photo credit: Paul Litherland

There is a distinct Ottawa sensibility to a collection of most unusual human body parts being exhibited in Halifax from Jan. 15 to March 8.

The exhibition at Dalhousie University Art Gallery is called Anatomica and is designed to highlight “the aesthetics, cultural legacies and allure of anatomical imagery.” The exhibition curator is Cindy Stelmackowich, an Ottawa artist best known for her own medically-themed art, often employing centuries-old medical textbook illustrations.

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