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Music.Art.Ppl Co-Founders Pithra and JFUN are providing the soundtrack to the XO Ball with DJ Matt Tamblyn. Photo: Ming Wu.

First-ever XO Ball gets rolling this weekend

By Madeline Paiva on November 7, 2019

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The Ottawa Art Gallery’s first XO Ball takes place on Saturday, November 9. The OAG, an impressive space that has done a lot to make art accessible to the public in Ottawa, offers free admission and organized talks, openings, and events. The ball is a fundraiser that aims to keep the OAG free and accessible to all. I spoke with Taline Jirian, organizer of the XO Ball and OAG Deputy Director, Marketing and Communications, ahead of the event.

We want people to come in and really use it. It’s your OAG! Based on that, we wanted to create a fundraiser—we want to remind people we are a non-profit. We want to keep the OAG free and there are no barriers to access, in that sense. We wanted to activate the space to say hey come on in!—Taline Jirian, organizer of the XO Ball and OAG Deputy Director, Marketing and Communications

This is the OAG’s first ball, and Jirian explained why they are refraining from using the word Gala. “We are calling it a Ball. We didn’t want this to seem too fancy. This came about as a need to move forward on the momentum and pride the new building brought to the city. Finally having a space for Ottawa. This is Ottawa’s place—by our city, for our city, for our region!”

With free admission and organized talks, openings, and events, the OAG thrives in terms of making art public access. Jirian said, “the physicality of this space and accessibility—it’s multi-purpose use. We want people to come in and really use it. It’s your OAG! Based on that, we wanted to create a fundraiser—we want to remind people we are a non-profit. We want to keep the OAG free and there are no barriers to access, in that sense. We wanted to activate the space to say hey come on in!”

A ticket to the ball includes more than just admission. “[It] covers all the drinks and food, and the box will be used for a live fundraiser and art piece. We also had the idea of doing a grouping of four tickets—obviously nobody wants to come alone!” Jirian said. She added that in keeping with the not-too-fancy approach, there is no dress code for the ball. “Dress up, dress down, we want people to come as they are.”

Dress up, dress down, we want people to come as they are.

The ball has been fortunate to secure many local sponsors to whom the OAG is immensely grateful. “We’ve been very lucky to access the help… there is amazing catering. We’ll have some surprises at the end of the night. Drinks are being provided by Dominion City Brewing and Top Shelf Craft Distilleries.” Other partners include Buchipop, Farinella, Jackson, YOW Popcorn Co., Wallack’s, Sushi Me, The Ottawa Mission (and their phenomenal catering), and Pure Kitchen.

The event itself will be chock-full of opportunities and experiences. “We’ve really focused on activating all the main spaces. There are 2 entrances—the Daly entrance will be a pink carpet. There will be a photo opportunity with a ball pit. As soon as you enter the building you’ll be offered a glass of pink bubbly,” she explained. Each of the spaces and floors of the gallery is going to serve a different function.

Inside, each of the spaces and floors of the gallery will serve a different function.

“If you make your way up the stairs to the first level, that’s where the Galerie Annexe is. That’s where all the action will take place, with the fundraiser and art piece we’re asking everyone to take part in. It’s the first night of our holiday kickoff in the shop, as well.”

Immersive decor by the dynamic duo Dems & Doll. Photo: Music.Art.Ppl.

“If you go up to the third floor at Alma Duncan, they are being taken over by the collective Music.Art.Ppl. In there is going to be a 360 photo booth. Just outside that space, in our Skylounge, some of Ottawa’s drag queens will be engaging the audience. If you’ve got a box still in your hand, they’ll tell you what to do with it!” Jirian said.

Jirian’s looking most forward to the people and energy: “I think really [I’m most excited for], having been to the opening, the energy that can build in this space. Seeing all the people here engaging in the space and letting their guard down to experience and enjoy the art. It’s about seeing the bodies and the buzz in the space. I’m really curious to see how people react to seeing how people interact in that live fundraiser.”

Jirian really wanted to emphasize the reason for the OAG and this fundraiser: “I think the most important piece to say is the reason why we’re doing this—to make sure people access the space and to essentially what we want to do is keep the OAG free. It’s something we want to always have but that takes work and support. So we look to the folks who continually say they are impressed and grateful for the space. The OAG belongs to the city of Ottawa and the people.”

The OAG has done so much to open a space that allows people to be comfortable taking in art at their own pace and on their own terms. “You shouldn’t ever feel as if you need to know something before knowing something. It’s a learning experience, a teaching space, a space to figure out what you think and feel about art. I think the OAG is a place people can feel how they feel about art. This space filled a need and we consider it a beacon, especially when it’s lit up at night!” said Jirian.


The Ottawa Art Gallery holds their first XO Ball on Saturday, November 9, from 7pm-1am. Tickets are available online and single tickets can be purchased for $50. Packages of four tickets are also available for $160. Single tickets will also be available at the door on the day of the event for $60.

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