Get Happening in Hintonburg

All photos by Andre Gagne

Hintonburg is a neighbourhood that always seems to be changing and accepting of new and fresh ideas. Case in point, did you know that in 1896 it was the first place in Canada to show a newfangled idea called moving pictures when a film was projected in a tent? The area was first settled in 1826 and quickly developed into a village. It’s named after Joseph Hinton in recognizing his contributions to the area such as securing a post office and the Nepean township hall. 1907 saw the village annexed into the city of Ottawa and later a streetcar line was built through the neighbourhood to shuttle workers into the downtown core. Today, it continues to be a vibrant community with many of the industrial buildings hubs for artists. In 2007, enRoute magazine called Hintonburg one of the top ten emerging neighbourhoods in the country.

Be Part of the Happening, reads a sign greeting you as you walk through Somerset Square at the edge of the neighbourhood. It really was only a matter of time before a group of visionaries, artists, small business and musicians would come together to showcase everything the area had to offer. The result is the Hintonburg Happening, a nine day festival of art, food, music and more.

“The event came from two separate groups wanting to host different art events around the same time,” says organizer Summer Baird.  “Some of us felt Somerset Square was not utilized enough so we were planning to throw a party in it. The other group wanted to do an art tour of the neighbourhood. We collaborated and Hintonburg Happening was born.”

Co-organizer Mary Beth Wolicky was excited to see what people could come up with for the neighbourhood she so adores.  “I moved from downtown because it was killing my soul and I wanted to live in a real neighbourhood. I just love Wellington West.”

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Artist Eryn O’Neil

Now in its third year, the festival continues to promote the arts in a unique way. Patrons of the Wheelhouse Cycle spin studio found that out Saturday morning when, before their usual workout, they were meet with some vibrant artwork on the walls.

“We didn’t want it to just be another gym,” explains co-owner Heather Andrews. “We wanted to really build a space where people felt welcome, felt included, and create a community. We joke about how if we served coffee people would never leave.”

On this day they did serve coffee –not to mention some tasty treats supplied by Little Jo Berry’s– in a sort of vernissage for artist Eryn O’Neil, who also just happens to work there. The new business was offered a spot at the Happening last year but, still dealing with just opening, Andrews declined. However, when she got the call again this year by Wolicky she found a quick solution to the conundrum of how to bring art into a spin gym.

“Luckily Eryn started working with us and I thought, well, she’s an artist, I wonder could we do something? She graciously said yes and I left it in her very capable hands,” says Andrews. “It’s been great! People are very impressed and somewhat surprised because they didn’t know this five-foot nothing thing behind the desk even knew how to paint.”

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Wheelhouse Co-owner Heather Andrews

That five-foot nothing thing behind the desk has actually been painting most of her adult life, deciding to make a go of it professionally as a more full-time career eight years ago. Working at Wheelhouse helps pay an artist’s bill but O’Neil never expected her art to be actually showcased where she worked.

“It’s so great for me to collaborate with small businesses and people who just want to fully support art. It’s what Ottawa’s good for, I find,” beams O’Neil. “Heather kind of just said to be free, do what you want.”

Doing what she wanted created a pretty interesting approach to the project. Much like how patrons were amazed by the artwork found at their gym, O’Neil was surprised to find her inspiration in the gym itself. “I work early in the morning. I’m here at 5:30 so it’s dark. So, I turn on all the lights and it looks beautiful. It’s lit from within and it’s a really tempting, warm environment. It’s just happy and exciting; people are always in a good mood here. I wanted to try to emulate that.”

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This is exactly what Wolicky and Baird hoped would happen, these types of collaborations with area artists and businesses.

“The festival brings people together, people that live and work here,” Wolicky says. “You find out about the talented people and artists that are doing things professionally and for the love of it in their daily lives. It also rewards customers and clients of the businesses. It brings new people into the neighbourhood as well.”

Related: The Record Centre Puts a New Spin on the Growing Vinyl Market .

The 100% volunteer based event runs between May 6-14, so still plenty of time to get happening. Highlights this weekend include a new mural being painted near the Parkdale Market by the artist ARPi, a chance for both kids and adults to get their hands dirty at the LOAM Clay Studio, a festival themed cake made by Holland’s Cake and Shake as well as a family friendly party at the Carleton Tavern featuring musicians Tariq Anwar and Jess Cole.

During the week you can take in the artist collective MASC’s open stage at the Hintonburg Public House (May 10), compete in a beard competition at the Mint Hair Studio while sipping wine to some dj beats (May 11), listen to the sweet sounds of songstress Amanda Cottreau and readings by local poets at Bread By Us (May 11), groove down at The Record Centre with surf-rockers the Reverb Syndicate (May 11), sample some brews by Beau’s while perusing label artwork at Brew Donkey (May 12)  and listen to local artist and historian Andrew King tell ghost stories around the “campfire” at Maker House Co. (May 13). It all culminates in a huge closing party in Somerset Square on Saturday, May 14 with family programing that includes Hip Hop demos by Flava Factory, an interactive crafts and maker market and performances by Tilda, Noisy Locomotive and Hintonburg resident Lucky Ron! More information and showtimes can be found on the festival’s website.

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So, what are you waiting for? It’s all Happening in Hintonburg!