The SPAO Centre is home to the SPAO Centre Gallery, the Ottawa region's only independent and critical gallery space dedicated to photographic and video art. Located in the heart of Little Italy, within SPAO, the Gallery is close to Ottawa's new Light Rail Transit system, Dow's Lake, and the Arboretum. The Gallery is a short walk from other arts hubs, small businesses, museums, restaurants, nightlife and entertainment.
The SPAO Centre Gallery produces seven exhibitions per year celebrating the work of regional, national and international artists working in lens-based media. Four of these exhibitions pay CARFAC fees to professional exhibiting artists; the remaining three exhibition opportunities are provided to the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa as an opportunity to celebrate the 3 facets of its mentorship structure: the Photographic Arts and Production Program, Part-Time Studies, and International Artist Residency.
The SPAO Centre Gallery is open Monday to Saturday, 12-5, by appointment, or by chance. Holiday exceptions apply, and hours are subject to change without notice. There is no admission fee and the gallery is wheelchair accessible.
On-View: July 22-September 21, 2019 Closing Event: Friday, September 20, 2019
Panel Discussion: 6:00PM - 8:00pm
Reception: 8:00PM - 10:00pm
The SPAO Centre Gallery is honoured to present Cosmic Surgery by German-born Alma Haser. This is the first exhibition in Ottawa to feature the acclaimed London-based artist. Expanding the dimensions of traditional portrait photography, Haser uses inventive paper-folding techniques, collage and mixed media to create layers of intrigue around her photographic subjects. With Cosmic Surgery she creates portraits of futuristic beings that blur the distinctions between two-dimensional and three-dimensional imagery.
Alma Haser was born in 1989 into an artistic family in the Black Forest, Germany, and is now based in London and on the southeast coast of England. Known for her complex and meticulously constructed portraiture, she has won many awards for her work, including Magenta Foundation's Bright Spark Award in 2013 for her Cosmic Surgery series. Her work has been presented worldwide, with recent exhibitions including From Selfie to Self-Expression at the Saatchi Gallery in London in 2017.
The SPAO Centre gratefully acknowledges the German Embassy in Ottawa’s partnership in the presentation of a panel discussion and a closing reception with the artist in attendance on Friday 20, September 2019.
Opening Reception: 10 May 2019 from 6 pm to 9 pm, Remarks at 7:30pm
On-View: May 10 - July 1, 2019
On May 10, 2019, from 6 pm to 9 pm, join us at the SPAO Centre for the opening reception of the 2019 CANADIANA exhibition, Summer Camp. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada, the exhibition features lens-based artworks produced over the last five decades by LGBTQ+ artists from across the country. The exhibition is co-curated by SPAO Gallery Manager Michael Davidge and Creative Director Jonathan Hobin in consultation with a wide range of Canadian curators and artists.
Hobin states, “The incredible input we got from across Canada guided us as we put together this amazing showcase of established artists like Kent Monkman and Evergon as well as emerging artists like Dayna Danger and B.G-Osborne.” Highlighting camp as both a sensibility and a site in the Canadian landscape, the exhibition also features works by Steven Beckly, David Buchan, Colin Campbell, Shawna Dempsey & Lorri Millan, Michelle Mohabeer, and Paul Wong. A text by art writer and curator Daniella Sanader accompanies the exhibition.
SPAO is partnering with the Qu'ART Queer Arts Collective to present the exhibition as part of the Qu’ART meta-festival, a year-long collaborative program that broadens LGBTQ2+/ queer artistic activity and encourages intergenerational knowledge-sharing within our communities. In conjunction with the exhibition, SPAO is also partnering with Qu’ART and the Ottawa International Writers Festival to host the London-based artist, writer and designer Paul Harfleet and The Pansy Project, an important international anti-homophobia initiative. Harfleet has planted almost 300 individual pansies at sites of homophobic abuse around the world. The Ottawa component of the project will premiere in SPAO’s Photo-Synthesis Garden on May 10.
SPAO is an Official Event Partner with the Canadian Tulip Festival in recognition of the fact that the festival was created by the photographer Malak Karsh. Summer Camp continues until Canada Day, Monday July 1.
Artist, teacher and activist, EVERGON is a cultural icon. Throughout his prestigious fifty-year career, he has always been recognized to be at the front edge of avant-garde experimentation in the field of photography and related mediums. An important precursor of homo-erotic contemporary art and an iconic figure of the homosexual communities, his works were at the heart of numerous major exhibitions worldwide. They are part of a large number of private and institutional collections among which are the Musée national des beaux‑arts du Québec and the National Gallery of Canada.
DAYNA DANGER is a 2Spirit, Metis - Anishinaabe (Saulteaux) - Polish visual artist raised in so called Winnipeg, MB. Utilizing photography, sculpture, performance and video, Dayna Danger‘s practice questions the line between empowerment and objectification by claiming space with their larger than life scale work. Danger explores the complicated dynamics of sexuality, gender, and power in a consensual and empowering manner. Danger is currently based in Tio'tia:ke or so-called Montreal. Danger holds a MFA in Photography from Concordia University. Danger currently serves as a board member for the Aboriginal Curatorial Collective (ACC/CCA) and is an Artist in Residence through Initiative for Indigenous Futures at AbTeC.
CARA TIERNEY is a performance artist, activist and part-time History and theory of art professor at the University of Ottawa. Cara holds a MA in Canadian Art History from Carleton University, an MFA from the University of Ottawa and is a Phd student in Cultural Mediations (Carleton University). Their work triangulates pedagogy, art and queer/trans studies and they are the current Artist in Residence in the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine.
BILL STAUBI is an Ottawa based art collector primarily interested in the support of living local artists in both the queer and non-queer communities. He is a graduate of Queen’s University’s MBA program, a retired Public Service senior manager, part-time Financial Administrator at Enriched Bread Artists, volunteer, event organizer, and arts patron.
Join us on June 22 for the next installation of our lecture series, PARFOCAL LENS: SUMMER CAMP, from 5-7pm at the SPAO Centre (77 Pamilla). Enjoy refreshments, gather with the SPAO community, and gain a deeper appreciation of the art on display in our current exhibition, SUMMER CAMP.
SUMMER CAMP commemorates the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada, the exhibition features lens-based artworks produced over the last five decades by LGBTQ+ artists from across the country.
Opening | Friday, April 26, 2019 from 16:00-22:00
On-View | April 26 – May 5, 2019
The School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa proudly presents Exhibition No. 14, our end-of-year exhibition at the new SPAO Centre. This fourteenth portfolio exhibition celebrates the work of our diploma students and highlights the work of the 2019 graduating class.
Over the past year, our full-time students have been working tirelessly to create innovative installations and portfolios to display their photographic craft. This diverse group of emerging talent is pushing the boundaries of the photographic medium, working with silver gelatin, alternative processes, digital collage, scanography, and digital pigment prints.
The SPAO Centre opened its doors to the public on November 10, 2017 to a record 1,000+ attendees. We are humbled by the continued support of our new neighbours, patrons, and the SPAO community. With Exhibition No. 14, we will share how the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa is shaping the next generation of photo-based artists.
GALLERY HOURS DURING EXHIBITION NO. 14:
April 26 - May 5, 12PM - 5PM
& by chance or by appointment
There is no admission fee and the first floor is wheelchair accessible.
Join us for our annual celebration of SPAO's part-time community!
We will be awarding 9 prize packages, including 7 selected by our Jury as well as a raffle prize and Peoples Choice Award.
Our jury will select 7 winners from three submission categories: DIGITAL PRINT, PHOTO BOOK, and SILVER GELATIN/ALTERNATIVE PROCESSES.
The Peoples Choice Award is an opportunity for guests to select their favourite piece and a raffle prize will also be awarded to one lucky A+ guest just for submitting! The winner must be present to claim their prize, or another name will be drawn.
The winners will be announced and prizes awarded at 8PM at the A+ Exhibition Reception, taking place from 6-9PM on March 15, 2019!
Prizes will come from SPAO's partners National Gallery of Canada and National Arts Centre, as well as our sponsors Wallack's, Patrick Gordon Framing, Best Buy Merivale, and Black Squirrel Books. Every winner will also receive a gift certificate for SPAO part-time classes, and SPAO merchandise from our new store!
Catherine Sinclair, Senior Curator at the Ottawa Art Gallery
Joanne Stober, historian of War and Visual Culture at the Canadian War Museum
Guillermo Trejo, artist and co-curator at Studio Sixty Six Contemporary Art Gallery.
On January 18, 2019, from 6 pm to 9 pm, join us at the SPAO Centre (77 Pamilla St.) for an artist talk and the opening reception of #oreo_liveitwhite, featuring the work of Rah, an Iranian-Canadian artist from the Ottawa/Gatineau region.
A media and performance artist, Rah developed the character of Oreo to address contemporary political issues and to stimulate dialogue surrounding racism and white privilege. In this exhibition, Oreo performs as an Iranian nationalist who erroneously identifies as Aryan. In Iran and among its related diaspora, it is a part of the national discourse of identity that Iranians are Aryans, and this myth is permeated in present-day visual cultural and political discourses. In her new work, Rah uses social apps as a “relational sketchbook” where she performs as Oreo to critically examine nationalism in the digital age by appropriating hashtags, visuals and symbols used by nationalists from around the world. With this exhibition, Rah inspires an urgent consideration of the ethics of engagement on network technologies.
Rah’s exhibition is presented in partnership with the Qu’ART Collective as the first event of their 2019 meta-festival series. As 2019 marks both the 50th anniversary of the first federal legislation to decriminalize gay sex in Canada, and also the 30th Anniversary of a summer of targeted homophobic violence in Ottawa-Gatineau, Qu'ART's year-long collaborative programming aims to broaden LGBTQ2+/ queer artistic activity and to encourage intergenerational knowledge-sharing within our communities.
Rah will present an artist talk at 6 pm, in collaboration with Capital Rainbow Refuge, an organization that works with LGBTQ communities to sponsor sexual minority refugees. Following Rah’s presentation, there will be a reception at 7 pm, with remarks at 7:30 pm.
#oreo_liveitwhite continues until Saturday March 9. It is free and open to the public Wednesdays through Saturdays between 12 and 5 pm, or by appointment. The SPAO Centre Gallery is fully accessible.
Rah is an Iranian-Canadian media and performance artist who left her native Iran as a refugee before settling in Canada and growing up in Gatineau, Quebec. Rah’s work has been exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally and she has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Chalmers Arts Fellowship and the Conseil Des Arts et Des Lettres Du Quebec Research/Production grant for Digital Arts and Film. She has participated in several international residencies in Koumaria (Greece), Helsinki, Vienna and Paris.
On November 2, 2018, from 5 to 11 pm, join us at the SPAO Centre (77 Pamilla St.) for SPAO’s Annual Open House and the opening reception of the 2018 Lineage Exhibition, Ontogeny, featuring the work of the Canadian photo-based artist Whitney Lewis-Smith. We are opening our doors to the public to celebrate the expansion and ongoing evolution of Ottawa’s only arts facility dedicated to photo-based art and video work.
SPAO’s Annual Open House is our largest event of the year. Visitors to the SPAO Centre can tour the facility and learn more about our space, a purpose-designed arts facility and Ottawa’s innovative photo hub. Meet faculty and students, see the work of current diploma students, tour the gallery, studio, and darkroom facilities, and get a sneak peek at the 2nd floor expansion that will house the Media Lab and Library. Speeches and special announcements will take place at 7 pm.
The SPAO Centre Gallery’s annual Lineage Exhibition showcases work by members of the immediate and extended SPAO family and celebrates artistic achievement while highlighting its connection to our community. The 2018 exhibition presents work by Whitney Lewis-Smith, an alumna of the SPAO diploma program who has gone on to become an instructor at the School. Her new work uses heliogravure printing to translate photographic images into copper plate etchings. During a recent residency in Mexico City, she has just completed what may be the largest heliogravure photographic etchings to date worldwide. One of these etchings will be on display in the exhibition, along with glass plate negatives and prints, to give a full sense of the processes involved in Lewis-Smith’s artistic production.
Whitney Lewis-Smith completed her photographic education at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa and her work is in many prominent private and public collections, including the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the City of Ottawa Art Collection, and the private collection of Sophie and Justin Trudeau. She is represented by Galerie St-Laurent+Hill in Ottawa, Canada, and Subject Gallery NYC in New York.
Whitney Lewis-Smith is a Canadian photo-based artist. Her work uses a combination of historic and modern photographic processes as a means to speak on contemporary topics, most recently discussing consumerism, commodity accessibility, and globalization’s impact on the environment. By referencing dutch golden era floral tableaus, Whitney highlights the evolution of humanity’s relationship with the planet. A painting from the 17th century displaying various flora and fauna that could never have existed together has now become a reality to almost anyone at the tap of a button. Her seemingly living moving scenes are made predominantly using insects, animals, and plants that have died, but this only becomes apparent upon close inspection. The result is a subtle tension, engaging the viewer’s fascinations and fears. Lewis-Smith challenges viewers’ distance from the ecological; her pieces evoke childlike curiosity while simultaneously directing us to consider the profound environmental changes we are giving rise to.
Lewis-Smith works predominantly in Canada. She attended the Studio Arts program at Concordia University where her focus was in painting, drawing, and sculpture. She completed her photographic education at the School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa where she is currently a full time college instructor in Studio and darkroom techniques. In 2014, Lewis-Smith was awarded a one-month production residency at the Arquetopia Foundation for the Arts in Mexico in tandem with the museum of natural history there. Her work sits in prominent private collections in Canada, the United States, England, Spain, Mexico, and Chile, as well as in the private collection of Sophie and Justin Trudeau, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery of New Brunswick, Maison Simons collection, SUMMA Contemporary Art Fair's permanent acquisitions, and in the Ottawa City’s Public Art collections of 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015.
She is represented by Galerie St-Laurent+Hill in Ottawa, Canada, and Subject Gallery NYC in New York.
Join us on Friday November 16th at the SPAO Centre (77 Pamilla St.) at 7 pm for Fabricated Visions, the latest event in our Parfocal Lens series. This panel discussion, moderated by Jonathan Hobin (Creative Director at SPAO), will include renowned photographers and photo-based artists Dina Goldstein, Diana Thorneycroft and Whitney Lewis-Smith. They will present on art practices that use props, sets, and carefully constructed environments to reflect on our everyday world.
All three panelists create dreamlike tableaux in their photographs that comment on aspects of contemporary culture. In Thorneycroft’s “Group of Seven Awkward Moments,” she fabricated sets that contrast with iconic Group of Seven paintings in order to point out complex issues confronting Canadian society. Goldstein’s “Fallen Princesses” created tableaux featuring Disney heroines in realistic situations that underscore the negative consequences of the perpetuation of illusory goals. Lewis-Smith’s still-lifes, on view in the exhibition Ontogeny at SPAO, explore the impact of consumerism on the environment. An experienced set designer, Jonathan Hobin will moderate a discussion which will undoubtedly give attendees insight into the construction of images.
Dina Goldstein is a photographer and Pop Surrealist with a background in editorial and documentary photography. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, she now lives in works in Vancouver and shows internationally. Her work stages narrative compositions that expose the underbelly of modern life, challenging the notions of beauty, gender, sex and religion.
Diana Thorneycroft is a Winnipeg artist who uses photography and drawing to explore the darker side of supposedly innocent objects like dolls, toys and cartoon characters. She received a BFA from the University of Manitoba in 1979 and her MA from the University of Wisconsin in 1980. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally.
Whitney Lewis-Smith is a Canadian photo-based artist. Her work uses a combination of historic and modern photographic processes as a means to speak on contemporary topics. Her work is in many prominent collections, including the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the City of Ottawa Art Collection, and the private collection of Sophie and Justin Trudeau. She is represented by Galerie St-Laurent+Hill.
Jonathan Hobin is an award winning photo-based artist from Canada. Hobin’s work draws from iconic literary, cinematic and historical references and popular culture to explore the darker aspects of childhood, storytelling and politics. Considered a controversial figure and “one of Canada’s most polarizing visual artists” (CBC’s Q), Hobin’s work is exhibited internationally.
On September 28, 2018, from 6 to 9 pm, join us at the SPAO Centre Gallery for the opening reception of the 2018 SPAO Artist Residency Exhibition, featuring the photo-based work of India d’Scarlett and Neeko Paluzzi. The SPAO Residency is designed for artists who have completed formal training and are ready for an intensive focus on an aspect of their career or a specific project. It is a self-directed residency that affords the time and environment needed to research, experiment, and produce a new body of photo-based work.
This exhibition is the culmination of the 2017-18 Artist Residencies and features work created by the artists during their tenure at the SPAO Centre. d’Scarlett’s photo series Melt looks at the relationship between a queer couple while exploring the photographer’s own queer identity. Using experimental techniques, she blurs the boundaries of the two lovers’ bodies, depicting oneness, intimacy and connection. For "TONES, This Place is a Shelter," Paluzzi has used darkroom equipment as a musical instrument to visualize a minimalist composition by Olafur Arnalds by creating exposures that match the tonality of the music, note for note. Presented together, the works by these two artists represent the range of experimentation and exploration offered by the residency.
India d’Scarlett is a photographic artist from Cairns, Australia. d’Scarlett received a BFA in Photography with High Distinction from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. d’Scarlett’s work uses experimental in-camera techniques to blur the lines between women, their environment, and preconceived notions of their sexuality. Her work has been exhibited throughout Australia and Canada.
Neeko Paluzzi is an Ottawa-based artist and educator whose images blend the possibilities of traditional darkroom processes with contemporary photographic techniques. He is a graduate of the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (2017) and holds a Master of Arts from the University of Ottawa (2013). Neeko is the recipient of the 2017 SPHINX bursary from the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (in support of the residency) and the 2018 Project X Photography Grant from the Ottawa Arts Council.
The SPAO Centre Gallery is honoured to present Roger Ballen: There Is No Outside, the first exhibition in Ottawa of work by the internationally acclaimed South Africa-based photographer. Known for his inspired use of black and white film, Roger Ballen has sparked controversy through his exploration of the shadowy depths of human consciousness. Developing a style he describes as ‘documentary fiction,’ he has collaborated with people living on the margins of South African society to create powerful psychodramas.
Curated by SPAO’s Creative Director Jonathan Hobin, the exhibition presents a selection of photographs and videos that capture Ballen’s signature mix of raw and surreal imagery, inviting viewers to enter into an uncanny dreamworld. Roger Ballen: There Is No Outside is the first in SPAO’s new series of annual exhibitions that feature an international artist. The exhibition is free and open to the public.
Roger Ballen is one of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21st century. Born in the United States in 1950, Ballen has lived and worked in Johannesburg, South Africa since 1980. By integrating drawing into his photographic and video works, Ballen has made a lasting contribution to the field of art and produced a powerful commentary about the human condition and its creative potential.
Jonathan Hobin is an award-winning and internationally noted photo-based artist and art director. He is currently the Creative and Executive Director of the SPAO Centre (School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa).
L-R: panellist Patrick Lynn Rivers; panel moderator Monica Patterson; panellist Charles Reeve; panellist Jennifer Dickson.
Join us on Friday, September 14th at the SPAO Centre (77 Pamilla St.) at 7 pm for Debating Ballen, the next session of our panel series, Parfocal Lens. This panel will focus on the issues and concepts brought forward by the current exhibition on view in the SPAO Gallery, entitled Roger Ballen: There Is No Outside. Based in Johannesburg, the American-born artist Roger Ballen is a controversial figure whose work often depicts people and spaces that exist on the margins of South African society.
SPAO has invited three panelists to respond to Ballen’s work, including the way in which it intersects with their personal histories. The acclaimed photographic artist Jennifer Dickson was born in South Africa but left to pursue an art career that ultimately brought her to North America. The art historian and curator Charles Reeve organized the 2009 exhibition of Ballen’s work at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Roger Ballen: Boarding House. The social scientist Patrick Lynn Rivers, whose design research practice is partly based in Cape Town, will speak to Ballen's work with reference to apartheid South Africa and the present moment.
The panel will be moderated by Dr. Monica Patterson, an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University. A scholar, curator, and activist, her work explores the intersections of memory, childhood, and violence in postcolonial Africa, and the ways in which they are represented and engaged in contemporary public spheres.
In conjunction with the dark and troubling images of the exhibition, this is a conversation certain to be both challenging and illuminating.
On May 11, 2018, the SPAO Centre will launch the SPAO Centre Gallery with the exhibition CANADIANA - Selections from the Art Bank Collection.
Featuring the work of Ed Burtynsky, David Craig, Denis Farley, Chris Gergley, Lorraine Gilbert, Angela Grauerholz, Mary Longman, Shelley Niro, and Greg Staats, this exhibition will be the SPAO Gallery’s inaugural Canadiana Exhibition, an annual showcase of artists from across the country presented in partnership with the Canadian Tulip Festival.
Where: 77 Pamilla Street, Ottawa (Little Italy)
In recognition of the fact that the Canadian Tulip Festival was created by the photographer Malak Karsh, the SPAO Centre is partnering with the festival for this important exhibition. An official Launch Soirée for the festival will be held in tandem with the Gallery launch at the SPAO Centre. The event is free and open to the public. The exhibition continues until July 1, Canada Day.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the SPAO Centre has commissioned Deborah Margo to create an Artist’s Garden on site, starting on May 11. It will grow and develop over a six month period as a part of Ottawa’s Garden Promenade. Inspired by the gardens in Little Italy, Margo’s installation will change configurations and heights as it is adapted to the growth of her selected palette of plants.
"Often associated with memorabilia or literature, the word Canadiana signifies that something is symbolic of this country and its culture. This term is problematic at best, especially in the current moment of intense debate about how we choose to define ourselves, which stories we choose to tell, as well as determining who speaks for whom.
The photographers in this exhibition have each turned their attention to the land - as a site of interaction, of conflict or of contemplation. They seek to trouble the notion of Canadiana by upending old mythologies and by telling new stories in their place. They invite the viewer to see the ordinary as extraordinary or to think about place as a continuum rather than as a location at a particular time and for a particular purpose. Each in their own way is interested in point of view, rather than a point on a map, or a line from the anthem.
We are extremely grateful to the Canada Council Art Bank for this opportunity to explore their collection. Canadiana is the first in a new series of annual exhibitions at the SPAO Centre." – Johanna Mizgala, Guest Curator
Join us on Saturday, June 16 from 5-7pm at the SPAO Centre for Parfocal Lens: Challenging Canadiana, the second session in our 2018 visiting artists’ lecture series. Enjoy refreshments, good company, and gain a deeper appreciation of the art on display in the exhibition currently on view (until July 1) in the SPAO Centre Gallery, CANADIANA: Selections from the Art Bank Collection.
The curator of the exhibition, Johanna Mizgala, will join exhibiting artists Denis Farley, Lorraine Gilbert and Angela Grauerholz in a far-ranging conversation about contemporary Canadian photography and sense of place. In her curatorial statement, Mizgala claims that the artists in the exhibition have turned their attention to the land “as a site of interaction, of conflict or of contemplation.” The conversation will redefine the terms of what constitutes Canadiana.
Lorraine Gilbert is currently the Graduate Program Director for Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa. Her works have been featured in solo, group and two-person exhibitions such as Global Nature and The Tree: From the Sublime to the Social.
Denis Farley lives and works as a professional artist and photographer in Montreal. His work has been exhibited in Canada, the United States and Europe, and is part of several private and public collections.
Angela Grauerholz is a German-born Canadian photographer, graphic designer and educator living in Montreal. She was won numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2014, and the prestigious Scotiabank Photography Award in 2015.
Johanna Mizgala, curator of the House of Commons Heritage Collection, is an educator and art critic who has lectured and published extensively on contemporary and photo-based art. She is committed to dialogue and interpretation of art and photography to a wide diversity of audiences.