43 days. That's all the time there was to build a new school of photography once the lease was signed in 2005. What happened next has for 12 years defined SPAO as a unique place, one where the School's very history teaches students about their potential to be resourceful, and how they can face even insurmountable challenges. In 2005, with only weeks until the first semester, Michael Tardioli and founding co-director Khalia Scott found a space for SPAO in the Byward Market; the first year of students put down their cameras and helped to build the school, painting and putting up drywall in spaces that would soon be their classrooms. It's this sense of DIY commitment to craft and form that, for more than a decade, has allowed the School to develop a unique identity as that tiny, tenacious place that focuses on photography as art. 

From SPAO's very inception, it has been literally and figuratively built by the community. Now, on the brink of an imposing but irresistible new beginning, we can only continue to flourish with the support of our community. We are thrilled to be facing this challenge, the biggest project in the School's history. To achieve our dream of moulding generations of photographic artists we need the generous support of people who believe in social value of art, who believe in the power of photography, to inform, to enlighten, to change us as individuals, and to help us understand the world around us in many ways. Good things happen when good people work together, and we invite you to become a part of all that we are doing. This is our first public fundraising campaign, and we are inviting you to be part of it.

There is a place for donors at all levels to support SPAO, and to help shape the future of photography locally, nationally, and internationally.



Following the ambitious move to our new home in Little Italy, the remaining costs of furnishing and equipping the SPAO Centre is a minimum of $77,000. We are asking you, our loyal patrons, for your help. Your donations, large or small, will help us to equip our new teaching, technical and exhibition spaces, and to solidify the development of our gallery and educational programs both in the SPAO Centre and in the community. 


1. Online: Complete your donation from the comfort of your own home through our secure partner CanadaHelps:

2. By Mail: Donation cheques made out to “School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa Fund” can be sent to:

77 Pamilla St.
Ottawa ON
K1S 3K7

3. In person: Come by the facilities and see where your support is going. Email admin@spao.ca before coming by to set up a meeting.

If you would like a tax receipt for your donation over $10, please contact admin@spao.ca.



Please don’t throw out your photography gear! Every little bit counts for us. Older equipment is invaluable for teaching and training, and can supply us with hard-to-find replacement parts. Before donating, please contact admin@spao.ca to ensure that we can accommodate your donation.


Help us bolster SPAO scholarships and bursaries to enable students' future success. If you would like to establish or contribute to scholarship or bursary as an individual, group, or organization, or in memory of an individual, please contact our office at admin@spao.ca.



photograph by Jason Michaels

photograph by Jason Michaels

"Though there were only a few of us, the SPAO class of 2010 was a widely diverse one. One aspired to be a conceptual artist, another an editorial and fashion shooter, and yet another a photojournalist. In this group, Jason Michael stood out as a meticulous craftsman. In the darkroom, he was always patient, changing the setting ever so slightly, aware that the smallest change could make a big difference. He could spend hours, bent over the print, paintbrush in hand, water running, bleaching highlights to create photographs that possessed a unique sculptural quality. Jason was equally caring in his relationships. Greeting you with a smile, he was generous of his time, listened intently and offered sincere encouragements. I once posed for him, though I prefer to be behind the camera than in front of it. But with him, photography didn’t feel as if it took from you; you felt like you were receiving a gift. I left empowered. Such was the incomparability of Jason. He prompted each and every one of us to be proud of ourselves. Please join us in celebrating him on Friday, September 9th." - Laurence Butet-Roch, SPAO alumna 2010

We at SPAO are developing a bursary in Jason’s name, which will go to support an artist who intends to complete SPAO’s Artist Residency. Jason had always expressed an interest in completing the Artist Residency; this bursary will provide future students with the ability to participate in the SPAO community. All proceeds will go to the establishment of the bursary, in memory of Jason Michaels.