Ottawa Visual Arts Environment

The Ottawa Visual Arts Environment:
Infrastructure Services, Artist-Run Culture
and the Business of Art, by Beth Shepherd, September 4, 2020.

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to provide a snapshot of the Ottawa visual arts environment, and to determine whether it provides the infrastructure and resources necessary for individuals to “make it” as professional visual artists living and working in Ottawa. Initial research was conducted through a graduate research project from May through July 2019, which included a survey of Ottawa’s artist-run culture. Despite being home to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa is not reputed as a visual arts centre, like Montreal, Toronto or New York. Nevertheless, Ottawa has a vibrant if underrecognized visual arts community. Emerging and having a successful career as a professional visual artist presents unique challenges. While managing their careers as businesses, visual artists must make choices regarding how to make a living within “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” economies. For Ottawa, I propose a hybrid business-of-art model with overlapping economies. Although its commercial market is weak, Ottawa offers a moderately supportive environment through the City of Ottawa’s arts-and-culture programs, institutions and schools, the availability of government funding, and a diverse artist-run culture. Ottawa’s advantage in retaining a vibrant visual arts community is its strong arts-and-culture employment sector.

Keywords: Ottawa, visual arts, professional artist, business of art, commercial art market, emergence, visual arts environment, arts infrastructure, artist-run culture, artist-run centres.

Full document: Beth Shepherd-The Ottawa Visual Arts Environment-Sept 2020

Please send any correspondence to Beth Shepherd at

Here is my working document that I mention in my paper, last updated June 16, 2021.