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Supporters of SAW gathered at opening speeches. Photos: Colin Noden/Apt613

Artist-run centre SAW reopens and showcases Ottawa’s vibrant arts community

By Colin Noden on July 22, 2019



Curator Jason St-Laurent introducing featured artists.

Ottawa strengthened its artistic spectrum with the re-opening of the artist-run centre Galerie SAW Gallery on July 19. Curator Jason St-Laurent made an interesting comment during his opening remarks, which resonated with Apartment613’s philosophy. It came as he presented the artists featured in the opening of SAW and thanked the supporters whose financial funding made this enviable creative space possible.

Jason passed on Mayor Watson’s congratulations and referred to a comment the mayor made to him. Funding is not a competition, but rather an investment in every part of what it means to be a healthy society. By that, I inferred the mayor was making it clear that this grassroots organization was vital to Ottawa. Which is a pretty brave thing to say, considering that one of the pillars of SAW is politically and socially engaged art.

SAW community embraces a variety of styles and cultures.

I looked around the capacity crowd to see just who these very important people were. Because, as nice as this facility is, it’s going to be the people and product that fills it which will make a difference to our society.

As nice as this facility is, it’s going to be the people and product that fills it which will make a difference to our society.

I saw Ottawa. Tilly hats and cargo shorts; kimonos; rack clothes with sensible shoes; impossibly tight shorts; thrift store treasures; glammed-up party outfits. Everyone grinding past each other with welcoming smiles as they did the food, drink and art circuit through the patio and building. SAW’s value seems to come through its ability to be a nurturing contact with creatives in the community. And an advocate for the needs of a vibrant arts culture. It’s revolutionary, in a very Canadian way.

Erotic interaction with Nature.

The SAW Gallery art exhibit chosen for the opening is interesting. Sex Life is a good title. The homoerotic focus is consistent with the mandate of SAW: it opens the curtains to a part of life which is hidden from us. Even fellow artists and community members will come away enlightened because the diversity of experience expressed in the art is impossible for anyone to have achieved.

That said, there are elements which are common to us all. There is the pain, shame, fantasy, comedy, and banality which is there for anyone who explores their sexual nature. I found it interesting that joy was either lacking or subdued in its representation.

SAW’s value seems to come through its ability to be a nurturing contact with creatives in the community.

But Sex Life is also deep in detail and I could have overlooked the joyous element. The opening event was a good overview, but the variety and depth of the displays demand another visit. Perhaps even several visits, with one artist per visit.

The open-door policy of the SAW Gallery will make this possible. The SAW Gallery will be open during Club SAW events, so guests can add another art dimension to their club experience. I’m told that the Club SAW experience will be determined by the group who has booked the venue for an event. Jason was quick to point out that groups wishing to use the facility must fall under SAW’s mandate. So, no wedding or corporate requests please.

Dance Dance Dance in neon Cree inside Club SAW.

This is where the diversity of the crowd at the opening comes into play. It is a chance to celebrate the various artistic and cultural expressions within Ottawa’s creative community. It is also a chance to open up to others. To include and educate as you celebrate.

There were two areas which were closed off during the opening due to ongoing renovations. One was the screen-printing room, and the other was the circumpolar Nordic Lab artist’s studio. Both fit nicely within the include, educate, and celebrate theme.

My last impression as I left the opening celebrations was that the new glass frontage of SAW, sitting under the limestone, was an architectural allegory. Ottawa’s artistic community has a new foundation of transparency and community interaction.

SAW (Galerie SAW Gallery and Club SAW) is located at 67 Nicholas Street. Please visit the website for updated information as renovations are completed and program scheduling is established. Note that SAW is closed Mondays during the summer.