Synapcity recognizes that this event was held on unceded Algonquin territory.
On Tuesday, December 5th, Synapcity hosted their Creative CityMakers event at General Assembly. Posing the question, “Why Ottawa for arts and culture?”, Synapcity filled the room with creatives such as Drew Mosley, Rolf Klausener, Ann Nguyen, and more.
Synapcity is unique in its ability to bridge diverse communities and create a flexible space for collaboration. Their principle of co-ownership was especially evident during this event – as was their playfulness, openness, and genuine love of Ottawa.
Combining all of this with a Beau’s sponsorship and a playlist from Jordan David, a.k.a. JFUN, it wasn’t long before the venue was electric with creativity. Guests included Synapcity friends, alumni, board members, former MP Paul Dewar and Councillor Tobi Nussbaum.
The evening started with an introduction from Synapcity Acting Executive Director Laine Johnson. Ottawa has a legacy reputation of being sleepy. Explaining how this can be transformed through ‘Participatory CityMaking’—the coming-together of diverse folks to take action in their community—Laine explained that the event was a celebration of Ottawa’s CityMakers: both the alumni in the crowd and the guests that were there to support them.
First to be welcomed onto the stage was award-winning actress and international story-teller Jacqui du Toit. With an enchanting openness, Jacqui explained she was from South Africa and that her father had told her, “You are not coloured – you’re colourful!”, encouraging her to think outside the box. Encompassing the collaborative spirit of the event, Jacqui invited guests to set the scene for her tale by singing “many, many moons ago”.
Jacqui’s story was about the first colours that came onto the earth. Each had its own personality: a self-certain green, a cool blue, a jubilant yellow, a passionate red, and a strict, imperial purple. Each also tried to prove itself more important than the others. Jacqui took the audience on a hilarious journey, until “the rain came down”, creating a rainbow. All the colours came together, and to show this, Jacqui encouraged guests to hold hands.
This simple act reminded guests of the openness of childhood, and created a source of trust. The interval between acts was more than just a networking opportunity – it was a space for folks to talk to the artists, to share their inner thoughts, ideas, and what art means to them.
The evening was one of storytelling and the next act was no different. Explaining that she would be teaching guests Persian dance techniques, Elizabeth Winkelaar, dancer and Propeller Dance artistic associate, beckoned guests into a semi-circle. She walked through the steps: the giving of a gift, the rolling of a wave, the holding of cups, and plenty of shoulder-shimmying. Elizabeth, whose own incredible journey has inspired many, showed the richness of cultural diversity, and the freedom that comes with dance.
Later, radio host and Folkzone-founder Chris White and singer-songwriter Danielle Allard performed their music. Danielle, with her beautiful bluesy voice, sang ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley, calling it an “anthem for risk-takers.” Chris, a force of joyous community-spirit, performed several beloved sing-alongs, getting the whole room singing, dancing, and even playing the kazoo.
During the festivities, award-winning photographer Błażej Marczak was asking people: “It’s your final day in Ottawa. How would you spend it? Who would you talk to? Where would you go?” People wrote their answers on sticky-notes and Blazej created a wall filled with ideas. Some were more familiar, such as going to the National Art Centre, running along the canal, and visiting favourite cafes with friends and family. Others were a little less usual: visiting the House of Targ, singing in a choir, and throwing a huge community music jam.
On another wall, Ottawa’s poet laureate, Jamaal Jackson Rogers, a.k.a JustJamaal The Poet, asked people to describe Ottawa’s art and cultural scene in one to three words. Incorporating over 40 different participant voices, Jamaal completed the astonishing task of crafting a poem on-the-spot. As he read out the piece, titled ‘The Bear’ (about a bear’s walk through art and culture), he was met with finger-snaps and cheers from the audience.
Echoed throughout the evening was a genuine gratitude for the coming-together of CityMakers, and the need for more events like this in Ottawa. The evening gave guests the opportunity to find a shared connection and leave with the magic that comes from meeting like-minded and like-hearted people.
Synapcity’s Creative CityMakers event answered the question of “Why Ottawa?” beautifully: because of its people, its vitality, and its openness to more.