AOE Arts Council toasts 2018 at New Year's Levee

Grassroots organization celebrates stellar year of community-engaged arts throughout Ottawa

A holiday season hounded by bitterly cold temperatures didn’t stop dozens of artists and arts supporters from bundling up and heading over to the Annual New Year’s Levee hosted by the AOE Arts Council on Sunday afternoon, at its main office in the east-end Shenkman Arts Centre.

Guests of the casually fun and upbeat reception included Orléans MP Andrew Leslie and Orléans Councillor Bob Monette, along with Sean Crossan, board chair of the Orléans Chamber of Commerce.

Featured was the Faces & Places: Neighbourhood Arts 150 photo exhibit by Ottawa's Andrew Alexander. His images have skillfully captured the 12 arts projects that the AOE Arts Council launched in neighbourhoods across the city last year, from West Carleton to Cumberland to Greely, and everywhere in between.

The Neighbourhood Arts 150 project scored funding from the federal government as part of the 2017 sesquicentennial celebrations, as well as from the province. It saw local artists work with residents of all ages and backgrounds in various forms of theatre, dance and visual arts. 

“It’s been an amazing opportunity to be involved, looking from the outside in on these projects,” said Alexander, who also produced video to help document the positive impact that the activities had on participating communities.

AOE Arts Council New Year's Levee
Ottawa photographer Andrew Alexander with Lisa Cruickshank at the AOE Arts Council's Annual New Year's Levee, held Sunday, January 7, 2018, at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The community-based arts organization has received a three-year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to continue its artistic involvement in local neighbourhoods, building on its success from the Canada 150 celebrations.

“This is very important to the artists of the city and, of course, to us," executive director Victoria Steele told guests. “We’re very committed to community-engaged arts. We strongly believe that arts really help build strong communities. This is very, very exciting.”

Steele said the organization plans to take the Neighbourhood Arts project to another level by scaling it down from 12 to four major activities, with each having a deeper and more profound impact on its respective community. 

AOE Arts Council New Year's Levee
AOE Arts Council board member Donna Roney shows her affectionate appreciation of Orléans MP Andrew Leslie while the arts organization's development manager, Margo Hébert, watches on at the AOE Arts Council's Annual New Year's Levee, held Sunday, January 7, 2018, at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips
AOE Arts Council New Year's Levee
Orléans Councillor Bob Monette gets a tour of the Faces & Places photo exhibit from AOE Arts Council executive director Victoria Steele at the arts organization's Annual New Year's Levee, held Sunday, January 7, 2018, at the Shenkman Arts Centre. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The reception was sponsored by BOS Law, represented by law partners David Bertschi and Debbie Orth, the latter of whom sits on the AOE Arts Council board. Its president is businesswoman Lisa Cruickshank, who told everyone how 2017 exceeded the organization's expectations.

“It’s been an extraordinary year of community-engaged arts,” said Cruickshank, owner of State Farm Insurance in Orléans. “We will continue that.”

Cruickshank also took a moment to laud the AOE Arts Council for its accomplishments. “The magic they do on the staffing and budget they have comes from their passion for the arts,” she said.

AOE Arts Council New Year's Levee
From left, BOS Law partner Debbie Orth with Sean Crossan, board chair of the Orléans Chamber of Commerce, visual artist Virginia Dupuis, BOS Law partner David Bertschi and Crossan's wife, Rachel Crossan, community relations assistant to Orléans MP Andrew Leslie, at the AOE Arts Council's Annual New Year's Levee, held Sunday, January 7, 2018, at the Shenkman Arts Centre

Musical entertainment was provided by Latin jazz singer Claudia Salguero, accompanied by Cuban jazz pianist Miguel De Armas and Juan-Luis Vasquez on percussion.

Salguero was also one of the dozen artists involved with Neighbourhood Arts 150. She led the project to craft a giant mural consisting of 18 independent art pieces. It was recently installed on the Hunt Club-Riverside Park Community Centre. She and more than 40 members of the community spent four months working together on the project. It represents regions of the world from which they emigrated, along with images that reflect the freedom and beauty Canada has to offer.

AOE Arts Council New Year's Levee
Claudia Salguero poses with Andrew Alexander's photograph of the Harmony in Cultures mural installed on the Hunt Club-Riverside Park Community Centre as part of the AOE Arts Council's Neighbourhood Arts 150 project. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The mural will be celebrated during its official unveiling at 1 p.m. this Saturday. It's being hosted by River Ward Councillor Riley Brockington, who, by all accounts, has been a tremendous booster of the project.

caroline@obj.ca