Penny McCann

#CouncilSpotlight – Penny McCann

Jennifer Clark

Photo Credit: Eric Walker

Penny McCann : Connect and Contribute

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.

Penny  received the Corel Endowment Fund for the Arts Award in 1998 and  the Victor Tolgesy Arts Award in 2006.

Gibraltar Point Penny McCann

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

I'm from Kingston, Ontario, but have lived in Ottawa since the 80's.

How did you get involved in the Ottawa arts community?

As long as I've been in Ottawa, I've always been involved in the arts community. I started in theatre - my first full-time job in Ottawa was Front of House of Manager at GCTC in the mid-80's.  I worked for the Festival of the Arts, the Arts Court Theatre, then moved into film, working with companies like Winter Films and GAPC Entertainment. My involvement with SAW Video started with receiving a Jumpstart grant in 1989 for my first video.  That began a long relationship with the centre, first as a board/committee member, then as Director in 2004 until now.

How would you describe your artistic practice/discipline?

As a media artist, my practice encompasses both dramatic and experimental films and videos and also, more recently has expanded to media art installation.

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

My involvement with the arts and the Ottawa arts community IS my life.  I've been Director of SAW Video now for 15 years while also maintaining my practice as a media artist.  And it was through the Ottawa arts community that I met my partner Eric Walker, who is a visual artist, so its impact on my life has been tremendous.

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

Receiving the Victor Tolgesy Award in 2008 is a moment I remember very fondly. It was presented at the Sweetheart Luncheon for the Arts in the Great Hall of the National Gallery, which made it seem all the more surreal and super-glamorous. It's definitely been the highlight of my career so far!

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

My advice for artists in Ottawa is to connect and contribute to the community in whatever way you can.  Join boards, create festivals, start theatre companies- whatever's your thing - but keep growing and contributing to this city. Ottawa's got a great arts community and your contribution will help it to just keep getting better.

What are you currently working on?

I'm in the early stages of development of a new film project that involves a lot of historical research. I'm also working on a media art installation that I developed at a residency at Daimon in Gatineau last year. And finally, I completed a short film in early 2017, Gibraltar Point (transformed), which is being exhibited and screened across Canada and further afield.

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

Receiving the Victor Tolgesy Award was such a huge honour for me.  I wasn't aware that I had been nominated so when Peter Honeywell told me that I'd won, I was thrilled.  In terms of its impact on my career - I received it ten years ago, and I think receiving that award is what has kept me committed to SAW Video, Arts Court and the City's arts community as a whole.  Whenever I see that lovely bronze statue, I'm reminded of what an honour it is to have received it.

Want to learn more about Penny? Visit


The Victor Tolgesy Arts Award is open for nominations until March 15, 2018 and the Ottawa Arts Council's Corel Endowment Fund for the Arts Award is accepting applications until April 6th, 2018.

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