ARB2014 Keynote Speech

Thanks to all that made it down to the Ottawa Art Gallery last night for the launch of ARB2014, presented by the Downtown Rideau BIA. The room was buzzing with anticipation for our "Why I Left Ottawa" panel moderated by Galerie SAW Gallery's curator Jason St-Laurent. We'll be posting the full panel discussion which was kindly captured by SAW Video's Tyler Reekie. The panel was by far the highlight of the night, and really set the tone for what should be an absolutely thrilling week of music, food and art in Ottawa. We can't thank you enough for making the night so special. For those of you that are at all interested, we've transcribed our Artistic Director, Rolf Klausener's keynote speech here. It's schmalzy, but you know, that's why we keep him around...for now.


Artistic Director, Rolf Klausener, addressing ARB2014's launch audience at the Ottawa Art Gallery.

Artistic Director, Rolf Klausener, addressing ARB2014's launch audience at the Ottawa Art Gallery.

Welcome to the 3rd edition of Arboretum Music Festival. This year, the festival expands to 6 days, and takes place in 14 venues all over the city, and across the river in Vieux Hull! In partnership with dozens of local and national curators, we're presenting over 40 artists including: local and national musical acts, visual and media artists, chefs and food "cartists", a couple hard-hitting panel discussions, a slew of dance parties, and incredible architectural installations.


Arboretum was founded two and half years ago, as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to showcasing Ottawa's best kept secrets and our thriving music and arts scenes, to galvanize regional collaboration, and to help re-shape our municipal identity, not only to ourselves, but far beyond our borders.

I was brought to this city against my will. As an overly-energetic 12 year old, Ottawa seemed to bear little difference to my birth home of Montreal. In the decade that followed, I grew to learn just how small Ottawa can feel.

By my mid-twenties, and despite feeling a greater sense of community than I'd ever felt, Ottawa was the city I wanted to run away from. It held a disparate arts community where my favourite musicians and artists -- my local mentors and heroes -- often moved 5 hours west, or 2 hours east of here.

But life has a way of taking charge; when I least expected it, I had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time away from the quiet city

I spent the better part of 5 years on the road, from 2006 to 2011, far from Ottawa, touring abroad, being exposed to vibrant European centres, boutique festivals, and the broad scope of global, independent arts and culture.

When I returned in the Spring of 2011, there was a new and palpable energy in the city. The change was subtle, and it seemed visible only to the city's local population. There was a fertile culinary scene, both welcoming and radical. Underground dance parties were thriving all over the city, not only in clubs, but unusual spaces like Eritrean restaurants and former jails. Vibrant, niche festivals were growing beyond their communities, and as I looked around, you could no longer count the number of bands touring on one hand: there were dozens.

The older here among us would argue that the city has always a wealth artists of either national repute or potential, and that's absolutely true. But in my short 15 years as a working artist, I can say that never before has the city's cultural community reflected that of an international city. Why is that even important? It's not really, but it seems to be our new reality.

We founded Arboretum with the notion that our artists, musicians and chefs were not only worthy of our praise, but of the whole country's, if not the whole world's.

In 3 short years, we've watched the city's cultural fields become rich and fertile, supporting the growth of a whole new generation of ambitious, curious and inspired artists and makers, no longer satisfied by entertainment, but driven to create.

Now, as the festival enters its third year, we'd like the city to continue to up the ante, not only in terms of the quality of art we produce, but of the systems in place to support it, because we can only root for ourselves for so long.

This year, a dedicated team of over 20 friends and colleagues have worked diligently for a year to create an event that not only celebrates us as a community, but begs us to try harder: to see connections where we thought there weren't any; to set aside our misgivings and see our common goals; and, to create inspired work in the face of our own self-made obstacles.

With us are almost 100 volunteers, dozens of community-centred businesses, national cultural organizations, progressive regional promoters and curators, hard-working chefs, and thought-provoking musicians and artists. When my co-director Stéfanie and I look around at the group of people that have come together to make this event possible, we are beyond humbled, and unequivocally inspired.

We ask that you use Arboretum as a stepping stone to your own front door, to a city you didn't know existed.

Thank you.

- Rolf Klausener, Artistic Director

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