• By: Katie Hartai

The Coalition of Ottawa Arts and Sciences

It goes without saying, the National Capital Region is full of cultural life.

Thriving institutions have been developed in the area to promote and preserve Canada’s arts and sciences including the National Arts Centre, the Museum of History and four universities. There are also numerous operations dealing with special interest groups from physics and astronomy, to the visual and performing arts.

Most of these establishments, however, operate separately with little interaction between them. In 2011 Josh Beer decided to help strengthen connections between these independent developments by founding the Ottawa Society for the Arts and Sciences (OSFAS).

“The trouble with Ottawa I thought, at the time, is that it has so many cultural organizations but they all act as discrete entities,” says Josh Beer, Chair and Founder of the society. “There is little interaction between them much of the time.”

Beer created OSFAS to provide the city’s first social forum for professionals associated with the arts and sciences to exchange information and explore ideas with one another.

Meetings are held twice in both the spring and fall. The Executive committee consists of six members: Josh Beer, Adjunct Professor in the College of Humanities at Carleton University; Dr. Michael Bloom, Vice-President of Industry and Business Strategy at the Conference Board of Canada; Dr. James Cheetham, Associate Professor in the Biology Department at Carleton University; Dr. Douglas Moggach, Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair in Political Thought at the University of Ottawa; Diana Monnet, former Assistant Deputy Minister at the Treasury Board and Public Works and Government Services; and Gail Larose, former Secretary General,  Canadian Alliance of Education and Training and Director of Research Communication and International Relations (SSHRC).

“I tried to get a mix of people of different interests on the committee,” Beer explains.

As a completely volunteer organization, the society has no formal membership besides the executive committee, all of whom give their time and expertise free of charge. Panel debates and lectures on current interest subjects relating to the arts and sciences are open to the public.

“The panels have been growinbeerg generally. The first we held was introduced by His Worship Jim Watson,” which Beer adds attracted around 50 people. It featured Tom Henighan, award winning author and professor emeritus of Carleton University. He gave a lecture on Ideas of North: Variations on a Theme of Glenn Gould.

In May a lecture by Dr. Randal Marlin attracted well over 100 people. He holds degrees in philosophy from Princeton (AB), McGill (MA), and Toronto (Ph.D.). As one of the world’s leading authorities on propaganda, Randal spoke about Truth Lies and Propaganda: Ethical Communication in an Age of Spin.

“We try to cover as broad a range of topics as possible,” Beer says.

Recently, Paul Henry Beckwith, an engineer and physicist teaching in the Geography department at the University of Ottawa, talked about Climate Disruption, Extreme Weather and Food Supply.

In the next couple of years some important anniversaries are coming up that the society would like to explore, such as the fourth centenary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016 and in 2017 the 150th anniversary of Confederation..

The Ottawa Society for the Arts and Sciences is also hoping to form a youth advisory committee in the future.

“We don’t simply want to be seen as something that attracts older people – or more mature perhaps as you might say – so we are considering getting more younger people involved,” Beer explains.

To learn more about the OSFAS and what upcoming lectures they are hosting, visit their website.

Small photo at left of Josh Beer, Chair and Founder of the society.