Ottawa is a big city. It has evolved artistically over the years. If you are “plugged into” a particular scene — theatre, dance, books, music, art galleries — your calendar is chock full of events. But what if you’re not one of the cultural cognoscenti? Or what if you are a theatre maven but you know nothing about the dance scene? Where do you find out about all this stuff?
Artsfile covers the visual arts, books, dance, music, theatre and arts news in Ottawa.
Well, there’s Apt613, where you are right now. But there’s room for more coverage of Ottawa arts and culture. Enter the new Artsfile.ca blog. Artsfile began with a “soft launch” on March 5. I spoke to the blog’s founder, Peter Robb, a few days later. Until last May, Robb was deputy editor of the Ottawa Citizen and in charge of the paper’s arts/culture/lifestyles section. When The Citizen downsized, Robb decided to cover more local arts and cultural events than he’d been able to do at The Citizen. He wanted to give them more of a voice and to ensure fewer gaps in the coverage. After all, even the National Arts Centre has difficulty reaching its potential audience members for some events.
So Robb talked to James Baxter, the founder and publisher of iPolitics.ca, the successful political news and analysis blog based in the ByWard Market. Baxter was enthusiastic about the Artsfile concept, and offered the services of his webmaster. The result was an attractive, easy to navigate website.
Artsfile’s articles are written by Robb, three more former Citizen journalists (Natasha Gauthier, Patrick Langston and Peter Simpson), and Carleton University journalism students who are recruited via iPolitics’ mentorship program. Artsfile’s freelancers are paid; they are professional journalists with an in-depth understanding of their topics and good connections to the arts community. In the future, Artsfile will become a subscriber-only blog, similar to iPolitics. It will also offer a weekly email recap for subscribers. But for now, Artsfile is free to all readers, and you can find out about their latest posts on Twitter and Facebook.
Artsfile covers the visual arts, books, dance, music, theatre and arts news. They do both previews and reviews, subject to the journalists and funds they have available. These resource limitations limit Artsfile to a subset of professional performances. In the music category, these are mostly about classical music. But in the future, Robb would like to expand coverage to jazz, blues and other music genres, as well as include articles about locally produced live and animated film and Ottawa architecture. If it’s newsworthy, they want to cover it.
There’s also a neat section on Artsfile’s home page called “Of Interest.” It contains links to articles on websites such as the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the New York Times. Thank you, Artsfile! You helped me find a fascinating article by Margaret Atwood titled, “What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump”.
Artsfile is targeting several types of readers. The first are people who are already regular consumers of cultural events, such as folks who subscribe to the email bulletins from the Ottawa Chamber Music Society or the Great Canadian Theatre Company and who join community choirs. The second are younger folks who occasionally go to such events and curious about Ottawa’s arts and culture scene. The third are working artists. So if you’re one of these folks, check out Artsfile.ca. You might be surprised by what you find there.