Civics Boot Camp alum establishes Ottawa Art Society Fund

Our conversation with Julie Hodgson reveals her love of art and its lifelong motivational impact on her.

Julie Hodgson came to the Fall Civics Boot Camp session in 2014 bringing her lifelong love affair with art to the table. She has supported her passion through various capacities as a project manager, writer, editor, arts officer, curator, and gallery guide at numerous cultural institutions like the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Architecture and the Coalition of New Canadians for Arts and Culture.

It came as no surprise to hear that she has recently established the Ottawa Art Society Fund. We caught up with Julie to learn more about this initiative.

What is the Ottawa Art Society Fund?

Established in 2015 the Ottawa Art Society Fund was conceived in the belief in the transformative power of the arts to effect social change and to encourage the development of arts projects within the National Capital Region. The objective is to create a sustainable fund and to provide a simple and easy way to support the visual arts in Ottawa.

I have worked in the visual arts field for much of my career and, in 2015, I heard about a philanthropic group in Toronto who support the visual arts and thought this was something we could also do in Ottawa. After consulting with a number of people with experience in philanthropy, I approached the Community Foundation of Ottawa and, through them, set up the Ottawa Art Society Fund in the Fall 2015.

In May 2016, we gave our first grant to the Ottawa Art Gallery Expansion Fund and, in May 2017, we will give a grant to the Carleton University Art Gallery towards the cost of producing an illustrated catalogue highlighting the work of the late Inuit artist, Alootook Ipellie (1951-2007). Everyone who makes a donation will be invited to a special event at the arts organization we have supported.

What motivated you to set up this initiative?

The simple answer is that I love art! This love affair began when I was nine. Our family was living in Paris for a year for my dad’s work and he and I would go for walks on Sundays, exploring the City of Light, often ending up at le Musée du Louvre. I got to know the museum and the collection pretty well, and whenever we had visitors, I would be their tour guide, showing our guests my favourite works. We spent just over a year in Europe and travelled to several countries around the continent, visiting galleries, museums, cathedrals and cultural sites. I was enthralled!

The work that had the most impact on me that year was Sandro Botticelli’s, The Birth of Venus (c. 1486), at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It was so fresh and life-like and I remember reaching out to touch it, thinking the figures were somehow real. I found it enchanting and so breathlessly beautiful, and when I revisited it a few years ago I was filled with the same sense of wonder.

The Birth of Venus

This sense of wonder followed me into my adolescence when I started to visit the National Gallery of Canada, which was then on Elgin Street. I went to lectures and tours, and saw a lot of exhibitions. I remember running into the building every time I passed just to look at my favourite work. I felt very at home and learned which art I was most drawn to.

Not all art resonates with me, however, when it does, the effect can be profound. It is as if a truth has been revealed.

One of the purposes of the Ottawa Art Society is to share this sense of connection and wonder with the many visitors to our museums and galleries. Another purpose is as a thank you to the many visual arts organizations that have helped me experience something beyond myself, which has influenced my life in so many extraordinary and positive ways.

How can others get involved?

I am looking for collaborators who have an interest in the visual arts and experience in fundraising to assist me in raising the profile of the Ottawa Art Society.

There’s a series beginning in October – can you tell us a bit about that?

When I worked at La Petite Mort Gallery, I initiated and ran the LPM Collectors’ Group. I organized tours each month of public and private art collections and invited guest speakers to talk about art and collecting. I am very excited to launch a new series in October called “Art & Architecture / Talks & Tours,” again with tours of public and private art collections as well as tours of public and private spaces. Members will pay an annual fee, which will go towards our grants program.

Finally, is there a space in your Ottawa more people should know about?

I would recommend the wonderful new Adàwe pedestrian and cyclist crossing which spans the Rideau River at Strathcona Park and connects Donald Street and Somerset Street East, and the terrific public artwork, “View from Two Sides,” by Kenneth Emig, which has been installed on the crossing.

This fabulous initiative encourages walking and bicycling in the City in our green spaces and the artwork, created as an integral part of the bridge design, features two reflective stainless steel spheres suspended at eye level, which present the viewer with an ever-changing panoramic view that includes the sky, river, shores, bridge, pedestrians, and cyclists. It’s beautiful in every season and is fully accessible.

Photo by Roger Lalonde, City of Ottawa.

Photo by Roger Lalonde, City of Ottawa.


Donations to the Ottawa Art Society Fund can be made online. For those interested in collaborating with the Ottawa Art Society, Julie can be reached by email (julie@ottawaartsociety.ca) or phone (613-447-1354).