On arrival, the gallery’s Director and Curator Rosalind Breen walks over to me and welcomes me warmly. Having met her a month ago at a vernissage, and having heard some cryptic remarks about her new role in Ottawa, I was intrigued to speak with her about The Sussex Contemporary and how its mandate and programming will expand upon the Ottawa arts scene.
Breen says, “Our mandate is a bit fluid. We are exceptionally dedicated to bringing forward the practice and process – almost as performance – into the gallery, transcending the archetype of the white walls of the institution showing a finished product. We want to bring artists in here and say, ‘Hey, that crazy idea that you are thinking about? Do it here.’”
“We want to bring to the studio to the forefront and show the labour that goes into a work of art. They call it a ‘work of art’ for a reason.”
What Breen is referring to is an in-gallery artist residency program that is an integral part of the gallery’s mandate, marking The Sussex Contemporary as a unique commercial gallery in Ottawa. Resident artists will occupy the gallery as their studio, allowing them to transform the space and use it as “a catalyst to make their best work under these circumstances.”
“We want to bring to the studio to the forefront and show the labour that goes into a work of art. They call it a ‘work of art’ for a reason,” she says. “We want people to develop their empathy for artists and show that artists have toiled over a work… that art making can be passionate, but like most things that are passionate, it can also be torrid.”
Breen’s overall approach to the gallery seems to be heavily informed by her other life as an artist. She recently completed an MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design and will be exhibiting her work later this year at Studio Sixty Six.
Under her direction, The Sussex Contemporary will be committed to offering opportunities for artists to expand their practice – from exhibitions, artist talks, a residency program, and aspirations for a scholarship to support young artists going through school. The gallery will also offer special events tailored to collectors, such as a Young Collectors Club.
So what can we expect from The Sussex Contemporary’s first exhibition?
A lot of painting, a lot of colour, and a lot of passion.
With three levels to the gallery, there will be lots of art on display by the 14 emerging artists based in Canada and the United States that Breen has been in dialogue with over the past several years.
“It’s a lot of artists that I have known for ages,” she says. “I’ve been following their work, seeing the risks that they’ve been taking, seeing how different cities receive them and how they do at art fairs…
“I am tremendously excited to bring them to Ottawa.”
The Inaugural Group Show will have a line-up featuring painting, ceramics, and video by artists like Jason Deary, Sarah Letovsky, Erin Loree, Corri-Lynn Tetz, Claire Scherzinger, Manon Labrosse, Tessar Lo, Wendy Nichols, Tyler Armstrong, Stella Cade, Callen Schaub, Hannah Subotnick, Dominique Fung (the gallery’s first artist-in-residence later this Fall) and Ness Lee.
“I want people to be moved. I want people to feel and love the art as much as I do…”
Overall, Breen says that we can expect challenging group and residency-based exhibitions, consistency in pricing (with a range of work in various media priced from $300 up to $6,000) and some surprises down the line (again with the cryptic teasers!). With the artwork being available solely in-gallery, Breen’s approach is all about developing dialogues and relationships with visitor, in person. “I want people to be moved. I want people to feel and love the art as much as I do… I want to help people find art that will grow with them throughout their lives.”
Breen’s enthusiasm for art is contagious, so I am very excited to see how The Sussex Contemporary will add to Ottawa’s already vibrant arts community. So join Apt613 this Thursday in welcoming Ottawa’s newest gallery to the community!
The Inaugural Group Show will open at The Sussex Contemporary (531 Sussex Drive) from 6–9pm on Thursday August 24 and will run until September 15. Visit thesussexcontemporary.com for more information or follow @thesussexcontemporary on Instagram.