Carleton’s School for Studies in Art and Culture Contributes to Ottawa’s Cultural Life

Carleton is spreading its wealth of talent. Carleton University’s School for Studies in Art and Culture (SSAC) has been reaching out to Ottawa’s artistic community and contributing to the development of its cultural offerings through programs involving individual student placements, recitals, performances and individual faculty projects.

“I receive emails every week from community groups looking for student musicians to perform at their events,” said Music Prof. James Wright, “whether it is for an actual performance or just background music for a reception. The music we provide varies from string quartets to African drum ensembles.”

At Light and Line, a program run in partnership with the National Arts Centre and Ottawa’s School of Dance, SSAC students compose and perform music around which the dance school’s choreographers and dancers arrange their performances.

Students are often placed out in the community as part of their practicum, providing them with hands-on experience while contributing directly to a wide variety of cultural initiatives.

“I connect students with different Ottawa institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Ottawa Art Gallery, Library and Archives Canada and Ottawa’s Public Art Program,” said Stéphane Roy, coordinator of the practicum program in SSAC Art History. “Every year I send 12 to 15 students to institutions like these, where they each spend over 100 hours working on community projects. While our students are often working behind the scenes, they are definitely making a difference.”

At the Ottawa Art Gallery, students work with an education officer on a variety of children’s programs and developing a database of founding gallery members. Students working at SAW Gallery contribute to the Nuit Blanche festival of art. Working with Ottawa City Hall, other students participate on artwork commission juries.

“There isn’t really a typical work day when we have students working with the public art collection,” said Jonathan Browns, 
development officer with Ottawa’s Public Art Program. “We do a lot of work around the city and we introduce interesting projects to the interns who work with us. Interns who are open-minded, curious and spontaneous add to the enjoyment of working in the cultural sector and especially in public art. The kind of enthusiasm and eagerness that students from Carleton bring with them is infectious and we are always glad to have bright students who are passionate about working in the arts.”

Film Studies likewise offers a practicum course that each year places some 15 to 20 students in film-related jobs. Sponsoring institutions include the Ottawa International Animation Festival, the world’s largest animation festival, where practicum students program films, assist visiting filmmakers with public presentations and serve on the jury. Our students also work for the Canadian Film Institute, where they design, program, research and promote film series; the National Film Archive, the Science and Technology Museum and other local archives and museums, where they research, catalogue and write publicity for collections; the SAW Video Gallery, where they assist professional filmmakers in the editing suite; and the Independent Filmmakers Co-operative of Ottawa, where, among other projects, students have organized and catalogued the co-operative’s large film and video collection.

In addition to practicum placements, the school also invites the community onto campus for its annual summer jazz camp, hosting more than 100 participants. While some of the participants are Carleton students, many are from the surrounding communities and are of all ages.

SSAC faculty members appreciate the value and importance of community engagement and are involved on a number of levels with local organizations. They contribute to music festivals including the Chamberfest Ottawa and TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, and they deliver educational lectures and conferences to community groups.

One music professor, Jesse Stewart, has been doing something unique to raise money for children’s charities and involving the local community a few members at a time.

“I did a number of fundraising concerts last summer and I will continue to do them once the weather gets warm,” said Stewart. “I have been doing concerts in a treehouse in my backyard for audiences of three people or less. I don’t charge admission, but I do ask that they make a donation to a children’s charity of their choice.  I did about 30 concerts last summer and raised about $3,000. A lot of people donated to CHEO, but there is a wide range of charities involved.”

In addition, Stewart has constructed a structure out of recycled percussion instruments for kids to make music at the invitation of the National Capital Commission. The Junk Funk Sound Cube made out of scaffolding, buckets and various kinds of containers, is erected in Ottawa on Canada Day and around the city at various other festivals.

“On Canada Day, for the last four years, nearly 5,000 people came through and jammed on the cube,” said Stewart. “It is like a magnet. I am now trying to make a virtual version of it that is totally accessible. Regardless of limitations, I want everyone to be able to interact and make music with us.”


For more information
Steven Reid
Media Relations Officer
Carleton University
(613) 520-2600, ext. 8718
(613) 240-3305

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