WEST is a pleasant walking, biking or driving tour of artist’s studios in the “near” West End of downtown Ottawa, in a neighbourhood known both as Ottawa’s “Arts District” and “Gastro Alley”. The last two weekends in September, participating artists open their studios free to the public so you can spy “behind closed doors” and discover the hidden world of their creative process. Admission and Maps are free and most of the art is for sale.
Hailing back to 1996, the W.E.S.T. has always been a free tour that is cooperatively organized and juried by the artists themselves. The W.E.S.T. artist collective has evolved into a dynamic group who love their trade and warmly invite you to experience their latest creations and the unique environments that they create them in. The tour is a rare opportunity for art-lovers to leave the echo of the gallery and enter the warm and welcoming spaces where artists use their inspiration to form various media into rich visual displays for your pleasure. With an ever-growing roster of talent in our community, you might be surprised to discover some of the creativity happening in your own backyard.
Pick up a tour map at our Sponsors and at businesses throughout the West end, art stores and libraries across Ottawa. An electronic map is also available on our Map page. We look forward to seeing you soon!
* If you can’t make this weekend or these hours, most of our artists would be happy to extend their hours or set up private viewings with you – just call them and ask! Call ahead also if you are mobility challenged: the majority of studios are not wheelchair accessible.
“In The Beginning”
a History from Don Monet, 2011
W.E.S.T. really started in 1994 when it proved very difficult to join a local established arts tour. I was told by this group that it was a closed shop, “a private dinner party.” When I questioned this, one of the artists in the existing tour told me, “if you don’t like it, start your own!”
I got in touch with another artist, Krystyna Goluch, who had also been refused. We had our first meeting over tea in her kitchen, and set about organizing the first West End Studio Tour. We created a poster inviting all and sundry into the fold. No jury. We agreed that the tour should be informal, open to all, and non-bureaucratic. At first it was too big – I think there were 28 artists of varying ability and degrees of seriousness over opening their doors and showing their work. However, among the artists who supported us and took part in the first tours were such notables as Dennis Tourbin, Eliza Griffiths, Daniel Sharp, Barb Brown and Richard Nigro.
After the second year we pared the show down to the 15 most serious artists. We decided that all the decisions should be made by vote as a collective and that each year there would be a few openings for new artists to join. From there we hovered at about 17 artists. We were adamant that our tour would not have the air of a closed, private “dinner party.” In the third year Krystyna left for the West Coast. I kept the tour going, using the collective and our informal pizza and wine meetings to make key decisions. The meetings were not held often, were informal and always fun. Why go to a meeting if it is not a good time?
Initially, we asked artists to put cash into helping promote the event, but then I suggested we fundraise from local businesses who could then appear on our very cool, annual posters. Lynette Chubb took over the fundraising job and thanks to her hard work we soon had enough money that we no longer needed to collect a cent from the artists. We carried on in this fashion for the next ten years – having fun and continuing our informal and open tour without fees. Every year, a hard push on media and effective poster distribution helped us steadily grow patrons, visitor numbers and media attention.
Six years ago Becky Rynor and I started the Cube Gallery. It was a logical step for me, having organized art shows my entire professional life. I tried to continue with the tour from our new gallery, which was fun and engaging but it was not a perfect fit for the season of scheduled shows we were featuring at the Cube. I am happy to see that W.E.S.T. still flourishes and encourages new artists; may it always be a loose and fun organization – and may it always allow room for new artists at the dinner table!
“Before the Beginning”
a History from Barbara Zuchowicz, 2015
In 1994, the Westboro Studio Tour was initiated to mark an important moment in the artistic life of a small group of artists who had shared studio and gallery space at Studios St-François. The building was being sold and we would no longer be able to work together. The idea of a “tour” came up; none of us had done anything like this before. Christine Leadman of the Westboro BIA offered some assistance and we were off and running. A few Westboro shop owners featured our works in their windows, a huge boost. We decided early on to make it as simple as possible. We limited the geography to locations immediately around the corner of Richmond and Churchill: Peter Germotte’s Framing Studio, and a few studio spaces newly rented by St- François artists in buildings along Richmond Road. This group included Maggie Glossop, Susan Rennick-Jolliffe, Arthur Piggott, David Fels, Romanie, Mary Nunn, Maja Nedeljikovic, myself, and a few others.
We were new at this game; this was an exciting initiative. Adding others to the tour was, with limited time and experience, beyond our capacity. Had the “tour” continued in it’s same form, I’m sure we would have been delighted to add more artists; as it happened, studios diffused further afield and a new group (W.E.S.T.) evolved. Westboro Tour artists later joined W.E.S.T. – we have a healthy growing artistic community. I am so proud that our Westboro Studio Tour initiative in 1994 has evolved into an artistic staple (W.E.S.T.) of our West End community, and is still healthy, creative and thriving after 20 successful years.
“It Takes a Village”
by 19-Year WEST Veteran, Lynette Chubb, 2015
Being one of many artists who had also been rebuffed by the original “Westboro Studio Tour” (which pre-dated the W.E.S.T. and was a core group of friends who felt overwhelmed by all the artists who were suddenly trying to jump onto their bandwagon), I learned about “the New W.E.S.T.” during it’s inaugural tour in 1996, joined them in ’97 and have participated every year since. Five years into the ‘new’ W.E.S.T., our own “jury of peers” was also trending towards becoming exclusive, and I, having been “on the other end of the stick”, lobbied hard to have us be more open-minded.
Don Monet inaugurated the W.E.S.T. because the existing Tour could not admit more artists, and he was definitely the driving factor behind the genesis of our new Tour. He’s a passionate and hard worker and I’m not sure W.E.S.T. would exist without his initiative and drive. He pounded the pavement, shook the bushes and lobbied hard to get his fellow artists ‘sucked in’ to his vision.
Once we committed, yes, we all contributed, to varying degrees. It takes GREAT effort on MANY people’s parts to keep an event like W.E.S.T. going, a whole “village”, in fact! The Tour is cooperatively organized and operated on a volunteer basis by the participating artists, and it always seems there is never enough (wo)manpower, no matter how many artists sign up! We all take on jobs such as: General Manager (aka Chief Ass Kicker), Treasurer & Budget (aka 2nd-in-command-Ass Kicker), Sponsor Fund-raising (aka Best Beggar), Website design & maintenance (aka Web Whiz), Brochure/map assembly, Advertising & Publicity & promotion (aka Graphics Geek), Printing, Social media, E-mail list & invitations, Event organization, Poster Distribution (aka Pavement Pounders)… etc!
For myself, because I enjoyed talking to my local business owners and had a knack for enlisting their enthusiasm for our neighbourhood event, I took on the role of Sponsor Fund-raising. In some years I spearheaded raising as much as $10K (in the years when the Citizen would give us 10K of printing, advertising & support for $6/7K), putting in ridiculous volunteer hours of pavement pounding myself, so I feel I have also had a great deal to do with the success of the W.E.S.T. We have since cut back on those hours by reinstating artist fees, and utilizing more economical promotional strategies such as social media and cooperative advertising, thereby reducing our overhead costs.
After 20 years, 81 artists and 1,336 “Open Studio Days”, we have many Sponsors and Artists to thank for the success of W.E.S.T. - I won’t even start, because it would be impossible to thank everyone. But most of all, the Artists of W.E.S.T. sincerely THANK our SPONSORS for their immeasurable contributions to our success.
Some WEST Stats & Credits
(a/o our 20th Anniversary, 1996 – 2015):
- Don Monet led 12 Tours until Cube Gallery monopolized his energy.
- David Jones would be the “last man standing” of all the original W.E.S.T., with 18 Tours, including the 1st one, under his belt.
- Lynette Chubb could be described as the “most persistent” member, with 19 Tours and (literally) countless Sponsor $$’s raised.
- Paula Zoubek and Jeff Wiebe have each exhibited 17 times, with Barb Sohn chasing their tails with a ‘mere’ 15.
- W.E.S.T. has presented anywhere from 12 to 22 Artists annually since 1996.
- In total, W.E.S.T. has hosted 81 Artists in this neighbourhood, and between them, they have hosted 334 4-Day Open Studios over 20 years.
- 27 Artists tried the tour only once and never came back, leaving 54 who kept coming back for more punishment, 25 of them coming back 5 or more times each!
- In 2014, Kitchissippi Times produced full-page profiles of each of the 16 Artists who exhibited that year.
- 2 of our Sponsors have been faithful supporters every year since we started asking: The Herb & Spice Shop & The Ottawa BagelShop and Deli - SUPER THANKS to Mike & Vince!
- The Wellington West Business Improvement Association developed their famously successful “Tastes of Wellington West” 1-day event around the first day of our annual Tour, capitalizing on mutual publicity.
- W.E.S.T. Branding: It wasn’t until 2006 that Lynette began to push for signature “Sunset WEST” colours on all our promotional material, and it was Andrew King who developed our distinctive WEST Logo when he joined us in 2009. Though many graphic designer artists came before her, Choleena DiTullio took our brochure and website design in hand when she joined in 2011, applying her sharp eye and talented skill set to polish a classy, distinctive and cohesive visual identity for us.
- There are 100′s more Stats & Credits due, but for now we reiterate:
- THANK YOU TO EVERYONE!