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Photo by Connor Tadao.

House of PainT festival returns to the streets and on screens

By Erika Ibrahim and Jasmine van Schouwen on August 6, 2021




Outdoor hip hop festival House of PainT is back for its 18th year this summer with a full slate of activities to celebrate urban arts and culture in Ottawa. Attendees can look forward to activities like graffiti, breakdancing, DJ sessions, and sets for MCs.

But while the festival’s mandate is the same, its organizers have found new ways to bring it about while prioritizing safety during the pandemic. While the festival is typically held under the Dunbar Bridge, this year’s programming will not be confined to one specific location but rather on city streets across Ottawa, as well as online.

“We made the decision early on to stick this out as if we’re still deep in the pandemic,” festival executive director Veronica Roy said in a statement. “In a time like this, we all really need art and we need to be able to connect with each other in the ways that we still can.”

The “decentralized format” of the festival includes digital concerts and public art installations throughout the city. House of PainT will also extend beyond the summer into fall with radio events, more public art, and physically distanced in-person events.


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Kimberley Dawkins, the festival’s marketing and communications officer, says that this year, “We have been taking more of a focus on the enormous breadth of talent that our local artists have to offer, and we are currently working on shining a light on the brilliance that a lot of emerging artists have been contributing to hip hop culture recently.”

The theme of this year’s festival is “Take it to the streets.” Dawkins says of the theme, “While we’re not under the bridge this year … we are disseminating the festival. It’s everywhere. It’s online, it’s across buildings in the form of installations. We’re literally taking the festival to the streets.”

This year, House of PainT has also launched a program to connect building owners with artists to create beautiful murals in public spaces.

Returning to the festival is The OG500 Poetry Slam, one of Ottawa’s largest annual spoken word events. The winner of this year’s virtual competition will receive a $500 prize, with votes tallied via live polling of the audience during the event.

For the first time ever, House of PainT has also accepted submissions of short films, music videos, and video poems.


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“What we want to do is facilitate a sense of belonging,” says Dawkins. “That’s what I hope audiences feel when they’re engaging with the festival.”

House of PainT will run from August 16 to 22. Those interested can find out more at the festival’s website.