If the Maritimes planted the seeds of my character and instilled in me a values hierarchy that places people, nature and the environment above all else, then Ottawa watered those seeds with education and culture.
Canada’s capital, Ottawa is a government town, and home to Carleton University and the University of Ottawa where I completed my theatre degree. It’s also home to Algonquin College (where I did a screenwriting course) and the Ottawa School of Art (where I studied photography and darkroom).
It’s an educated community with plenty of artists who enjoy the city’s vibrant arts scene. From artisans who sell their wares in the Byward Market to progressive artists who show their creations at Gallery 101 and Saw, Ottawa has it all. It’s also home to Ottawa’s Fall Festival of the Arts, Arts Court, the Museum of Civilization and the National Gallery.
I was incredibly lucky in Ottawa and immediately got a job when I first moved there with Fines Flowers and worked with them till I went to university and then again after university. While at U. of O., I worked at the campus community radio station, and after graduating, freelanced arts and human interest documentaries and commentaries to CBC radio. I was also an active performance poet, regularly presenting at Tree Poetry, Rosie Lea’s TeaRoom, Gallery 101, Saw Gallery/Video, and the Fall Festival of the Arts. Nurtured by that community, I regularly joined in workshops with performance artists from around the world – getting a taste of everything from Japanese Butoh to post modernism – and emerged as a performance artist who was fortunate enough to receive precious funding from Canada Council for the Arts.
I wasn’t kidding when I said Ottawa watered the seeds of my values hierarchy. In Ottawa, I learned how to swim competitively, achieved lifeguard and swimming instructor qualifications, and wrote lots of poetry inspired by swimming and water. That poetry evolved into performance art, art video and hand-made books, while the swimming became a 17-year hobby that won me medals in masters competitions and gave me a good start as a triathlete.
Water also plays an important role for the city. Home to the Rideau Canal– in summer a waterway from the Ottawa River to Lake Ontario and, in the winter, the world’s longest ice-skating rink!
The famous canal system adds man-made beauty to a city built in the lush Ottawa River Valley at the foot of the Gatineau hills.
Of course, I had a bicycle in Ottawa – and loved cycling along the canal cycle route, or out of the city to the Gatineau, where I could dive off cliffs to swim in pristine lakes.