#CouncilSpotlight: Catherine Ballachey

Jenna Brown

The Ottawa Arts Council supports artists and arts organizations through leadership, guidance and the provision of opportunities to advance our local creative potential.

Our series #CouncilSpotlight presents stories and experiences of Arts Council members and art award recipients.

Catherine Ballachey received the Corel Endowment for the Arts Award in 2018

Where are you from?

That’s a bit of a tough question... I’ll say Vancouver, by way of Brantford, Montreal, Burlington, and Calgary. My family moved a lot!

How did you get involved in the Ottawa arts community?

I moved to Ottawa from Vancouver in 2013 to pursue a Master of Arts in Theatre Theory and Dramaturgy at the University of Ottawa. After my first semester, I landed a part-time position in the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC) box office. That same year, I directed a show at the Ottawa Fringe Festival and began meeting people in the community. From there, I became involved with Odyssey Theatre, the Acting Company, Fresh Meat Festival, and subDevision. You could say I had a good introduction to the community in that year!

How would you describe your artistic practice/discipline?

Multi-faceted, as many artists tend to be these days. I’m now full-time at GCTC in a role that focuses more on arts administration and outreach. In my practice, I’m part administrator/producer, part dramaturg. Dramaturgy is the practice of seeing the bigger picture of an artistic practice and providing coaching/consulting/research to the artists involved. In my mind, both of those practices are deeply connected and equally fulfilling.

What impact has your involvement with the arts/the Ottawa arts community had on your life?

I would say that my involvement in the Ottawa arts community has helped me narrow in on exactly what I want to achieve in my career. I have found a community of like-minded artists and my place within it. I have been able to put my administrative and dramaturgical skills to good use and contribute in my own way. From the outside, Ottawa can seem like a sleepy government town, but I’ve found it to be quite the opposite. I have met and worked with many young and eager creators, and they inspire me to continue down my artistic path!

Is there a specific moment/situation in your art career that you remember fondly?

I’ve had a moment in many different events that I’ve produced where I can step back, take a breath, and truly enjoy what’s going on around me. Most recently, I held an open reading for the Emerging Creators Unit at the Acting Company. We had been working together for a few months, but we ended our time together by inviting an audience to come and hear snippets of each project involved. Afterward, we invited the audience to stick around and chat with us a bit. I had a moment where I paused and took in the buzzing excitement around me. I could hear people excitedly talking about new work being made in the community, and it made me feel proud to be a part of it. I didn’t have to do much. There’s a hunger for creation and connection in this city, and I just provided the space to make it happen. I hope to continue to do so in the future!

Do you have any advice for artists in the Ottawa community or artists in general?

Keep on keepin’ on. As in, keep doing your work. Follow your passion and curiosity. You may fail, but you’ll never learn without it. It may scare you, but that’s a good thing! When I work with young playwrights, I often have them ask me: “Is it ok? Is it clear? Does it make sense?” I have to tell them: “Don’t worry about that yet! It’ll just slow you down!” I think there’s something in that. We’re judging ourselves before others even have a chance to! I would say, set that aside and remember the “why”. Why this work? Why now? Let that drive you.

What are you currently working on?

My work at GCTC keeps me quite busy! Other than that, we’re working towards a 4th iteration of subDevision, graciously supported by the Ottawa Arts Council, in the fall. subDevision is a site-specific theatre festival that features 10 – 12 different independent theatre companies. This time around, we’re crossing the linguistic divide and making it a bilingual event! Keep your eyes peeled for October 2019. It’ll be a good time!

What was it like to receive an award from the Ottawa Arts Council? How is it impacting your career?

I was honoured to receive the Corel Endowment for the Arts Award last year. It was very encouraging personally and artistically. Sometimes it feels like we’re doing our work in a vacuum, so it’s refreshing to hear that others are interested in it as well! The award is going towards supporting subDevision, an event close to my heart. It’s the perfect opportunity for artists to come together, support each other, experiment, and grow. Thank you again to the Ottawa Arts Council!