Ottawa Murals – Top Areas to Scope Out Street Art

Photos by Anna Jonas

Street art has come a long way in the past few years. Once regarded with stigma, graffiti has since undergone a metamorphosis and is now frequently used as a trendy way to beautify public spaces. Former vandals are being commissioned to create murals in alleyways to celebrate milestones or deter unwanted graffiti tags. Artists such as Banksy have even earned widespread fame for their work and many are launching collaborations with major brands, like Urban Decay X Jean-Michel Basquiat or Jin Soon X Chris Riggs. Plus, outdoor art can have real staying power with the introduction of professional quality products (like those from street art supplies retailer bombing science)

The movement has made its way to Ottawa. With organizations like the Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA) commissioning artists and the introduction of city funded programs such as “Paint it up!” or “Paint the Pavement”, murals are popping up everywhere from the sides of businesses to highway underpasses.

“Paint It Up!” receives $50,000 per year from the City of Ottawa. Per their website, the project strives to engage youth and operates with the goal of supporting “graffiti prevention, community safety and the beautification of Ottawa neighbourhoods through youth empowerment and community arts.” In the seven years since the creation of the program, they have created 59 artworks around Ottawa.

So where can you see some of these outdoor masterpieces for yourself? We’ve rounded up a list of the best areas to find murals in Ottawa.

Quartier Vanier
With more than 30 murals, Quartier Vanier is probably your best bet for sighting street art in Ottawa, complete with a brochure and guided map. Most of the murals contain details from the history of the area, harking all the way back to 1830 when it was still multiple separate settlements. While most are the product of David Yeatman, the murals are the work many varied and skilled artists including Robin Burgesse, Karole Marois, Marie-France Hétu, Daniel Riel, Mireille Russo Estirac, C.Danis Jr., John Ellenberger, Bernard Lévesque, Shaun McInnis, Yvan Dutrisac, Marie-Hélène Lajoie, Colin McGill and Karen Churma.

Westboro has a highly underrated selection of outdoor art. The majority of the murals in Westboro were created by Shaun McInnis. Commissioned by Christine Leadman from the Westboro BIA, the murals were an effort to cut down on graffiti in the neighborhood. Many are hidden from plain sight, frequently found on side streets on in alleys.

Little Italy
The highway underpass of Preston St. features a huge mural that was the brain child of Joe Cotroneo, meant to help make the street pedestrian friendly and a focal point of the local Italian roots. The mural was a big step in the murals as public art movement, the first to be permitted on an Ontario Ministry of Transportation structure. Almost the entire mural is a tribute to the history of Little Italy and centers around three main pillars of Italian heritage: family, religion and food. It was painted by Karole Marois.

The Glebe
The Glebe is home to many lesser known murals in the city. Scattered among the local businesses and side streets, these works of art are not to be missed. Many were painted by artists such as Dan Metcalfe in an effort to make the area a less appealing target for vandals. The results make a well executed and colourful contribution to their surroundings.

Have a favourite that’s not included on this list? Comment below!