Monday, August 8, 2011

House of PainT Connects Funk with the City of Ottawa

Mike Gall and Sabra Ripley, along with an army of volunteers and community partners, put together an amazing invitation to anyone curious about the urban art and music scene this weekend.

Preceding Montreal's Under Pressure, House of PainT is an urban art celebration that may be smaller (for now) but is distinct in many ways.

Sunday: Piece Park Graffiti
I am sure there are many photos popping on-line so you can SEE how awesome it was quite easily; Ming Wu , for example, got some great action shots. I am going to punctuate my shots with thoughts about why this festival is important to Ottawa in particular.

 The theme this year was 'connect' and it was left open to artist interpretation. From the gala fund-raiser event early in the week on Thursday at the Fall Down Gallery, it became clear to me that connection is a core value in this community of young artists and performers.
Sabra Ripley addresses crowd at Gala Event, before we sang Happy Birthday to her Mom.
Perhaps this would also be a good time to remind people kind enough to read this blog that I stick out like a sore thumb in this crowd. I am a 41 year old mom of four kids who is also a university Professor in a criminology department. I am always humbled when 20 year olds patiently raise their fists to give me 'props', as I awkwardly try to reciprocate with varying degrees of coolness. This speaks to the idea of connection...something that House of PainT 2011 translated easily onto concrete walls and linoleum dance floors.

Saturday's main event was a HUGE success. The market area was grooving with three times as many vendors as years past, indicating that local businesses such as The Milk Shop see the growing value of urban art to our city.

Throw Back Threads sets up at the beginning of the day
The festival hosted a series of work shops directed at almost every age and skill group.  There was a special tent set up for kids workshops on everything from Break dancing to Spinning like a master DJ.

Nick Robinson from Groundwork Sessions Crew
The food included many vegetarian options (Yay Jen!). Considering that this event takes place near almost nothing (business wise), the HoP crew did an amazing job to keep hungry peeps fed. 

So here is what the City of Ottawa counsellors need to hear: this event was run primarily by twenty-somethings who do this above and beyond regular full time jobs.  They worked just as hard as the folks who run festivals like Bluesfest and Westfest but with less money. I have a fair amount of administrative experience in retail and academia (where red tape is King); I can say with some authority that these young men and women deserve your respect, not your limitations.

Finally, I have to give a shout out to the woman of this festival. It is not news to say that the urban art and music scene is dominated by men. Seeing tags thrown up on the corner of a small graffiti board saying "SKC loves Sluts" is an indicator of this macho element, which is a part of the larger culture we ALL live in. Art reflects life, after all.

HOWEVER, this festival is run in large part by many strong independent and confident women such as Sabra Ripley. One of the best performances of the day was by Eternia, a socially aware female rapper. Many women participated in the Bboy/girl battles and graffiti writing. How sexy is that?! It's downright inspiring, frankly.
Eternia performs in the packed stands
Look, I'm not interested in playing boys vs. girls in this scene. This festival provides evidence, though, that the Ottawa Urban Arts scene is unique and deserves the continued support of the City of Ottawa and its citizens. Culture moves - be a part of the change, I say!

If anyone asked me what I would like to see changed about this festival, it would be its visibility. I am thankful the City lends some support to this show every year. But they can do more to make it easier for the organizers. Let the writers use the OTHER side of this wall that faces Riverside Drive.
Crazy Apes (Montreal) Connect in Ottawa
I would also like to see the jam move from under the bridge to more public areas. Or maybe keep some parts under the bridge and allow for live art to unfold throughout the city (as Under Pressure does around and behind Foufounes). City Counsellors have the power to make an exemption to the "mural" bylaws for the festival. Unfortunately, given the most recent outrageous knee jerk reaction to a community centre mural, I suspect the urban art community will continue to have an uphill battle in a city which seems to be driven by suburbanite concerns (I will be responding to this story soon).

Nevertheless, to those artists and performers who helped put on House of PainT this year I say this: keep showing the City of Ottawa how amazingly talented and energetic you are. Given how this festival has grown, you KNOW there is support for the things you do.
Keep it growin!

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