For almost 40 years, you have known us as SAW Video Co-op, SAW Video Media Arts Centre, or just SAW Video. You got us mixed up with SAW Gallery, you stopped wondering what “SAW” actually stands for. And if you were not privy to what we actually do, you have mistaken us for a video rental store. You have. Coming out of hiding from our end-of-dark-corridor basement location into bright open space for all the world to see, we think it is time to let the world know what we do: We are now known as Ottawa’s Digital Arts Resource Centre, or DARC. We remain a non-profit, charitable, artist-run space of joyful creativity, inspiration, and collaboration. We will continue to foster the growth and development of artists through access to equipment, training, mentorship, and programming, support a diverse community of media artists empowered by technology, programming and the exchange of ideas.
Art curator, event producer and consultant Rachel Weldon co-founded and runs Debaser, the community arts programming organization that is based on unceded Algonquin territory here in Ottawa/Hull. Their activity in the Ottawa arts community, for over 10 years, their wealth of experience, and vast network was an obvious fit for the SAW Video (now DARC) organizational residency program. The P·art·ners Organizational Residency is a mentoring program for small and emerging arts organizations in the Ottawa region. The intention of the program is to provide the organization in residence with tailored mentorship from DARC staff and their partners.
Debaser became an incorporated nonprofit organization in the beginning of 2020, after its residency with DARC in the winter of 2019. Weldon believes that there are layers of gatekeeping, administrative barriers, and loads of bureaucracy that come with becoming a nonprofit arts organization, and felt that DARC would be able to help knock down those walls.
And knock them down they did: Their collaborative work influenced the organization’s next six months of programming, which was unfortunately shadowed by the global pandemic. All of the financial administrative guidance from the DARC team ultimately positioned the organization to grow stronger, more sustainable financial roots for themselves. It helped to Debaser to go after and secure larger funding opportunities. Finally, Debaser decided to formalize their Board of Directors, which will enable Weldon to receive the support she needs to sustainably continue the wonderful work she does.
Weldon is a storyteller who aims to pay it forward to the community with the work that she does in creating experiences that help both the artists to show; and the viewers to discover something new and innovative. The organization prides themselves on community arts involvement and growth. Debaser’s community ties have helped them to digitize their programming while still adhering to their mandate of providing experimental, inclusive, and accessible art spaces.
Their most recent project, MOOD RING pt2., is the second iteration of their popular mixtape of the same name. This version comes accompanied by an experiential and interactive game interface that they hope will allow for some organic music discovery without the side of algorithmic interference. (I’m looking at you, Instagram.) They are also working with installation artists on producing live stream programming with SAW Gallery that holds as much production value as they offered BC (Before Coronavirus).
All in all, if you are an active member of the Ottawa arts scene, you probably already know about Rachel and Debaser. If you don’t, it’s time to start.