Elaina Martin

#Council Spotlight – Elaina Martin

Jennifer Clark

Photo credit: Cara Tierney 

Elaina Martin: Changing the Musical Landscape

The Ottawa Arts Council supports artists and arts organizations through leadership, guidance and the provision of opportunities to advance our local creative potential.

Our series #CouncilSpotlight presents stories and experiences of Arts Council members and art award recipients.

Elaina received the Victor Tolgesy Arts Award in 2012.

Elaina Martin Westfest

Photo credit: Brian Goldschmied

Where are you from? Are you from the Ottawa area?

I am originally from Sudbury. I have called Ottawa home since 1996. Currently, I live in L'ange Gardien, Quebec, 30 mins outside of Ottawa.

How did you get involved in the Ottawa arts community?

I was a performing artist for 20 years, singer/songwriter and I released one CD. Being a singer is what brought me to Ottawa. I performed as a lounge act singer in a small piano lounge on Somerset at Bank for three years as a duo with a piano man.

We had a regular Thursday to Sunday night shows, 10-2 am each night with many regulars/followers. This was also the most historical gay men’s bar in the city. Of course, that all changed when I started to perform there.

From there, I started a full band and toured with Elaina & the Chain. Our final tour was opening for the Indigo Girls for a three-show tour and for Jan Arden for a festival tour.

When my piano man died of AIDS in 2002, I put my mic down for good and began promoting my first festival, The Rock City Women's Festival, which took place in Wakefield, Quebec for two years. Then I started Westfest!

How would you describe your artistic practice/discipline?

I am a singer and musician playing multiple instruments. Now, I am an Impresario, Stage Director, Producer and Consultant. I own and run my own production company based out of Ottawa, called EC PRODUCTION.  

What impact has your involvement with the arts/the Ottawa arts community had on your life?

Well, it's a small community, everyone knows each other. In this regard, it has been a very supportive community. It has also been easy to support other artists because we all know each other, and we all work towards similar goals.

The impact on my life has been a very magical one. I've made friends, colleagues and mentors for life from this arts community. I think everyone who has lived in Ottawa has benefited from the Big City, but really-small-city that Ottawa is and has been for years. It's starting to grow now, but this arts community has been like a big extended family for the last two decades. I'm sure I'm not alone in this sentiment.

Elaina Martin Westfest

Photo credit: Brian Goldschmied

Is there a specific moment/situation in your art career that you remember fondly?

The Westfest 5 year anniversary. I produced the first Celebration of Aboriginal Women in Music. The lineup was spectacular! No one had ever heard of these artists. Buffy Sainte Marie headlined, it was her first performance in Canada in over a decade, and her first festival performance in over 20 years. From that single show, Buffy started her cross Canada tour that still runs today. It was a special show that occurred two days on the heels of the Canadian Prime Minister’s Apology to Indigenous People in Canada … It was a powerful weekend.

Do you have any advice for artists in the Ottawa community or artists in general?

Get out of your house! Step away from your computer. Relationships are what make things happen in this world. For this you must engage, and be ever present in the arts community attempting to meet as many people as possible. You never know where the next opportunity hides!

What are you currently working on?

I am currently planning Westfest 2018 "We are all equal." I am working on the 2018 Indspire Soaring Youth Conference and Awards, the March 4th Westfest ALL STAR Fundraiser, and I'm producing a big show for the Trans Canada Trail with my company EC PRODUCTION in Toronto in March with Jim Cuddy. There is more … but, really … I keep busy!

What was it like to receive an award from the Ottawa Arts Council? How did it impact your career?

I was honoured to be given the Victor Tolgesy Award for long standing achievement to the arts in Ottawa. It has impacted my career because I feel great pride in having received the award. I put it on my CV, it means something, very much to me. It means that all the work I've put into this community, actually meant something, my meaningful work has been acknowledged, for that I am very grateful.

Want to learn more about Elaina and her work? Visit ecproduction.ca or Westfest.


The Victor Tolgesy Arts Award is open for applications until March 15, 2018.

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