History of the Ottawa Arts Council

The Ottawa Arts Council (formerly known as the Council for the Arts in Ottawa) was formed in 1982 on a recommendation by the City of Ottawa Mayor's Advisory Committee on the Arts. From 1982 to 1990 the organization responded to the community’s stated priorities including extensive programming. Programs and services included the production of a 17-day arts festival featuring 65 events showcasing all arts disciplines, producing exhibition catalogues, managing an artist work space for 40 artists and an on-site gallery, publishing a bi-monthly 28 page arts tabloid, convening provincial and regional arts conferences, advocacy, skills workshops and special arts projects

Due to the high financial risk associated with a number of projects, the Ottawa Arts Council experienced a serious deficit. Community consultations were held and as a result the organization refocused its efforts. During the 1980’s Ottawa’s arts production organizations had matured and it was clear that the role of the Council should be to concentrate its efforts on the provision of services not arts production. Since that time the Ottawa Arts Council has successfully pursued a number of initiatives and partnerships with artists, arts organizations, arts funders and corporations in an effort to raise awareness and provide new areas of support for Ottawa's arts community.

Looking Back

2013 - 2014

  • Participation established for the Ottawa Art Gallery Expansion and Arts Court Redevelopment Steering Committee.

  • Development and Special Events Officer, Sharon Diamond was hired. New organizational branding and communications plan was established.

  • The Cultural Capital Exchange, a two-year skills development project was initiated.

2012 – 30th Anniversary – “Creating Arts Opportunities for 30 years”

2010 - 2011

  • Increased corporate sponsorship allowed for expansion of the Council’s arts awards programs.

  • Arts and the Capital City, a two-year research project was completed

  • Art at the Ottawa Arts Council, periodic exhibitions of local artists’ work, was established.

2005 - 2009

  • A three-year Arts Service Agreement was established with the City of Ottawa that enabled an expansion of arts programs and services.

  • The Council participated in the development of a Municipal Arts Investment Strategy adding $2.5 million to the base funding for the arts grants programs.

  • Outreach Director, Stéphane Lauzon was hired.

2001- 2004

  • The Ottawa Arts Council led a successful campaign for the reinstatement of $500,000 in arts funding by the newly formed City Council.

  • Two annual Ottawa arts awareness campaigns, Join the Crowd!, were successfully produced.

  • Advocacy efforts focused on stopping a proposed Municipal Arts Budget cut of 80%


  • In collaboration with other organizations a case was developed to challenge the Amalgamation Transition Board's arts funding cut.

  • Creative Director, Zoë Ashby was hired and a web-site presence was enhanced.

1995 - 2000

  • Developed a leadership role at the provincial level including representation on the Board and Executive of Community Arts Ontario

  • Provincial advocacy actions responded to the Harris government’s arts cuts.

1997 - 1999

  • Renovation of the Ottawa Arts Council spaces at Arts Court provided enhanced meeting space for members and other users.

1996 - 1998

  • Built Corel Endowment for the Arts and established Corel Arts Awards Program in collaboration with Corel Corporation

1992 - 1994

  • Efforts focused on:

    • Rebuilding membership and relationships with funding agencies and donors

    • Establishment of appropriate services and programs

    • Re-introduction of the Victor Tolgesy Arts Award

    • The Business and the Arts Recognition Awards established

    • The first Ottawa ArtsVote campaign established


  • Staffing was re-established

  • Peter Honeywell appointed Executive Director


  • Serious deficit forced program and staff elimination

  • A financial and organizational audit was conducted with view to winding down the organization or setting a new course for the future.


  • Peter Honeywell appointed as Executive Producer, Festival of the Arts.


  • Peter Harris was appointed Executive Producer, Festival of the Arts (formerly Celebration Arts)

  • Wayne Rutherford appointed as Ottawa Arts Council Executive Director

1982 – 1986

  • Establishment of the organization and appointment of Nancy Burgoyne as Executive Director

  • Established Celebration Arts Festival and focused advocacy on the establishment of a Municipal arts centre