House of PainT adds fresh urban colour to Vanier

A two-year partnership between the Vanier BIA and urban arts organization House of PainT is bringing dancing, music and colourful graffiti to the streets of Vanier.

Mozaik project manager Thomas Radford says one of House of PainT’s mandates is to bring the arts to underserved areas.

“There’s a lot of support for the arts here in Vanier, which is great,” he says, adding that affordability has made Vanier home to many of Ottawa’s artists. As well, some interesting zoning laws allow for unique projects that couldn’t happen elsewhere – like Ottawa’s tallest mural at 261 Montreal Rd., which was painted for last year’s Mozaik festival.

Kalkidan Assefa does live graffiti painting at the 2018 Mozaik street festival. Photo by Matt Stewart

Vanier residents and visitors were greeted by the sounds of electronic music and the colours of live street painting throughout the day on Saturday, Aug. 11 for the second annual Mozaik block party, across the road from the mural.

The event, organized by the Vanier BIA and House of PainT, was an example of the urban arts culture House of PainT embodies, says Radford. It took place in a “found space” along Montreal Road, calling back to the early days of hip hop.

“It’s kind of our own little version of that, of finding a space, finding the field … bringing in artists and making something special happen,” he says.

One of the artists involved in the mural, Kalkidan Assefa, was back again this year doing live graffiti painting alongside other local artists.

Performers from House of PainT danced in the hot sun for almost two hours to Juno-nominated DJ Rise Ashen, attracting viewers and photographers. 

Performers from House of PainT danced in the hot sun at the 2018 Mozaik street festival. Photo by Matt Stewart

Nathalie Carrier, the executive director of the Vanier BIA, helped to add some larger-than-life entertainment to this year’s festival – her first as head of the business organization.

Montreal theatrical trio LaboKracBoom entertained at the 2018 Mozaik street festival. Photo by Matt Stewart

Montreal theatrical trio LaboKracBoom appeared several times throughout the day as a group of brightly-dressed construction workers, engaging children and visitors with their antics on stilts as well as a tiny bicycle. They reappeared later in the evening with a spectacular giant puppet that interacted with the crowd and danced to the live music.

Local brewery Dominion City, in the news recently for their Buck-A-Beer campaign raising funds for refugees, was on site hosting the beer tent.

Artist Christopher Griffin was leading community members in the creation of small clay turtles, to be fired and then placed along Montreal Road and Beechwood Avenue as part of a summer-long project. Some 300 turtles have already been hidden, he says, as a way of livening up the neighbourhood and fostering awareness for several issues.

“People respond to it right away,” he says. “Anywhere where there’s people, we’re going.”

Over at the tents, local artists including Alex Barker and Dom Laporte were doing live painting, giving people an insight into their processes.

Organizations from Vanier and beyond were on site, including the Ontario Art Gallery and CSCVanier, who offered free bike tune-ups all day.

Radford says Mozaik embodies what he loves about House of PainT and urban arts in general  – endeavouring to break through the stigmas people might hold about a place. Just as he wants to prove that Ottawa isn’t boring, he says neighbourhoods like Vanier have a lot to offer when it comes to the arts, and looks forward to seeing more.

“It was a really cool opportunity,” he says, adding they hope to organize more frequent events this year as the partnership progresses.

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