• By: OLM Staff

Ottawa’s Urban Artists Connect at Ravenswing

With summer rearing its head, Ottawans are getting excited for the multitude of community events coming up. For local art enthusiasts, Ravenswing is an event not to be missed.

Ravenswing is an urban artist market that features local artists, merchants and musicians. Referred as Ottawa’s D-I-Y fair, this annual event has an interdisciplinary focus in displaying Ottawa’s talent. The event is free of charge and will take place on May 27 in Centertown’s Minto Park.

The event will feature different types of vendors, including book binding and book repair, pottery, baked goods, soaps, t-shirts as well as various jewellery vendors. There will be a comic artist in attendance, who makes sketches of various Ottawa landmarks.  The Toronto Zine Library will also have a table at the event. “There’s something for everyone at Ravenswing,” said Sean Zio, co-founder of Ravenswing. “It’s a unique market of local talent for a reasonable price.”

This year’s event will feature 70 vendors. Photo by Sarah Lendore

This year’s event will feature 70 vendors. “For the first few years of Ravenswing, the event featured around 25 vendors, so the event has really grown,” said Zio. He explained that most of the vendors are returning vendors, but there are also new vendors that are attracted to the event. Over 60% of merchandise that is sold at Ravenswing  is priced $20 or less. The event last year drew between 2,000 and 3,000 people during the day.

One of the highlights of the event is Yoga in the park. Ravenswing will feature entertainment, including local bands and local DJ’s. In addition, patrons can participate in free skill-sharing, community-building workshops, organized by Les Ateliers. Ravenswing has also organized a silent art auction as a way to incorporate more visual art into the event. There will be a dozen pieces available for auction. Artists will get 50% of the proceeds and the other 50% will go back to Ravenswing in order to cover operational costs.

Ravenswing is an independently-run, self-funded artist fair, which is why it’s referred as Ottawa’s D-I-Y fair. The organization receives no government funding, which gives the coordinators more autonomy. “All the money we collect from vendors goes to paying the space, renting the tables, and covering other operational costs,” explained Zio.

Zio explained his motivation behind the creation of Ravenswing. As a struggling artist, Zio was looking to sell his tote bags and zines (small, independent magazines). After searching for opportunities to sell his items, he discovered some cool events in other cities, but nothing in Ottawa. After attending a few craft fairs in Ottawa, Zio found that the vendors’ fees were too expensive.  “I really wanted to start a low-cost vendors’ fair, where I could sell my things,” continued Zio. After attending a zine event at the Ottawa Art Gallery, Zio met Ravenswing co-founder, Faye Estrella. Both of them had ideas of starting a zine and craft fair. “Within two weeks, we had booked the Jack Purcell centre, thought of the name Ravenswing, and created the idea behind the fair,” explained Zio. “From there, the event has kept growing.” When the event started seven years ago, it took place indoors at Jack Purcell Community Centre. After its inauguration, the event moved outdoors to Minto Park. Ravenswing has called Minto Park home ever since.

Ravenswing is an independently-run, self-funded artist fair, which is why it’s referred as Ottawa’s D-I-Y fair. Photo by Sarah Lendore

When asked the meaning behind the name Ravenswing, Zio explained that ravens are often considered a totem of Ottawa, especially because of the Carleton Ravens. In addition, the raven’s wing is black, a unified colour but in the light, the wing is like a rainbow, with many different colours, representing diversity. According to Zio, while the Raven’s wing is unified, it is also diverse. “The name really represents the event well,” he said.

All the volunteers who run Ravenswing are all artists, designers, musicians, which, according to Zio, brings authenticity to the event. “When Ravenswing began, there were two people running the event,” said Zio. “Now, there are a dozen volunteers who coordinate the event.”

Community Spirit and Collaboration

The idea behind Ravenswing is community spirit and collaboration. Zio and his team work in partnership with the Clothesline Project, an initiative that seeks to bring awareness to the issue of violence against women, for the past six years. Women and children survivors of violence paint t-shirts with their personal messages. The shirts are hung on a clothesline and are exhibited for the public.

The partnership began when both organizations were looking to book Minto Park on the same day for their respective events; they then decided to collaborate.  “It worked out very nicely and we’ve been partnering with them ever since,” said Zio. “Ravenswing allows the project to gain more exposure because of the foot traffic that our event brings.” Zio saw this as a great opportunity to help their cause and get some extra hands on board to help set up their event .

In addition, this year’s Ravenswing is being held at the same time as another community event: Ladyfest Ottawa’s Tarts’ n Crafts fair. Instead of holding competing events, both events are being promoted together, as a double-date bill. As Zio puts it, “the more, the merrier.”

Supporting Local Talent

It is important to provide local vendors with a market in Ottawa. Photo by Sarah Lendore

Zio believes that it is important to provide local vendors with a market in Ottawa. He explained that the craft market changed a lot in the last seven years. “Back in the day, there were only Christmas fairs and Art in the Park,” said Zio. “We wanted to do something different.” Ravenswing is not juried and does not have a limit on space for vendors, which, according to Zio, allows for more diversity. It distinguishes itself from other craft fairs with their large number of vendors, the skill-sharing workshops and the entertainment they offer.

People can expect many art-related events during the summer.  Now is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the lovely weather and check out what Ottawa’s best have to offer.

Ravenswing takes place on May 27 from 11pm to 4pm at Minto Park, Elgin Street at Gilmour Street.