Reality Revisited — Enriched Bread Artists’ annual Open Studio goes virtual
February 2020 was a big month for Enriched Bread Artists (EBA). The non-profit collective of 22 Ottawa artists takes its amusing name from their building, a onetime bread factory built in 1924. And that month, that building and local landmark received official heritage designation from the City of Ottawa. Built as a commercial bakery in 1924 for the Standard Bread Company founded by Cecil Morrison and Dick Lamothe, it’s a valuable example of early 20th century industrial buildings and representative of Sydney Comber, a British architect known for the commercial bakeries and dairy production facilities he designed across Canada. The building’s plaque features the Latin proverb Audaces Fortuna Juvat, or Fortune Favours the Bold.
How long it’s been. Normally each October, EBA artists present an annual “Open Studio” where they open their studios to share their work and visions with the Ottawa community. But this year, as the pandemic conspires against in-person events, EBA have found a way to favour their own boldness.
This Thursday night, EBA is presenting Reality Revisited, a 2020 spin to their annual Open Studio event. For the first time in the artists’ co-op’s 28-year history, the EBA will not be opening its doors for their popular Open Studio; this year, they plan to bring the studios and artists directly to their supporters.
Responding to new pandemic realities, EBA is planning two approaches to connect their artists with the general public. First, a virtual vernissage (normally a private view of paintings before formal public exhibition) will launch a collection of online projects bringing studios to viewers, including virtual group exhibitions, interactive 360-degree studio tours, live-streamed performances, and artist interviews. The virtual vernissage will be produced by Digital Arts Resource Centre, formerly Sussex Annex Works Video. Second, EBA is providing Art Surprise Boxes! Each limited edition box will contain original artwork from three EBA artists and gifts from local businesses and sponsors. The boxes that had been put up for sale sold out in 3 days!
Emcee Laura Margarita will be joined by Michael Caffery to unveil the “happenings and manifestations” of this year’s exhibition in a live stream on Facebook. The events continue online this weekend and the next, starting with Poetic Constructions this Saturday afternoon. Grant Wilkins has mined a vocabulary of text from each participating artist’s body of work for this poetry project. Using said vocabulary as raw material, he has reflected the artist’s vision into the creation of a new and unique poetic object.
The following Friday night sees Laura Margita in conversation with Petra Halkes for the event Sad Empire. “Sad Empire is #dream, #revery #reimagining #loveletter #actualreallifeexperiences as if I was able to tell you anything anyway,” EBA writes, promising an ethereal event. That Sunday afternoon, William Staubi will head an event called Musings. William Staubi was part of the last seven Open Studios at EBA in one way or another, as a former administrator and member. This year, EBA has invited Bill to experience the exhibition and share his reflection on how the work reflects the arc of the organization.
Participating artists include Marije Bijl, who teased this song relating to her appearance in advance. Other artists include Sarah Anderson, Taylor Boileau Davidson, Heidi Conrod, Kristina Corre, Maren Kathleen Elliott, Colette Gréco-Riddle, Sayward Johnson, Gayle Kells, Pat Kenny, Karina Kraenzle, Juliana McDonald, Jenny McMaster, Valerie Noftle, Christos Pantieras, Bozica Radjenovic, Mana Rouholamini, Daniel Sharp, Cindy Stelmackowich, Svetlana Swinimer, Tavi Weisz, Joyce Westrop, and Yvonne Wiegers.
So while the Studio may not be Open this year, the business of making art continues. EBA remains the biggest artist studio co-op building in the Ottawa region, and now their location has more official historical clout as well. As we isolate and distance from each other, these artists are finding new ways to promote their work, allowing us to look inside.