Gwyneth Orr and Andrew Morrow during the Arts Awards Evening

#CouncilSpotlight – Gwyneth Orr

Jennifer Clark

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.

Gwyneth received the Young Artist Award in 2018.

"Man-Angel", photograph by Gwyneth OrrWhere are you from?

I have lived in the Hunt Club area of Ottawa for my whole life.

How did you get involved in the Ottawa arts community?

In my time spent with the Mensour agency and at the Canterbury High School theatre program, I have learned about and become involved in the Ottawa theatre community. As for fine art, around this time last year, I enrolled in a summer introductory course at the Ottawa School of the Photographic Arts taught by Neeko Paluzzi, and have since taken two additional courses with the school in their part-time program. The Ottawa Arts Council and their opportunities were brought to my attention by Jennifer Lee, a winner of the Young Artist Award, who has been a fellow classmate of mine in both primary school and at Canterbury.

How would you describe your artistic practice/discipline?

I hope to always be evolving and changing as an artist as I grow into an adult. As of now however, I would describe my practice as primarily consisting of photography and video, in addition to mixed-media collage and some sound design work. My work oftentimes revolves around the themes of fragility, vulnerability, sensuality and gender expression. I work with subjects that are usually friends of mine, or at least teenagers themselves, as the majority of my pieces focus on what the transition between childhood to adulthood is like in real-time.

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

The involvement I have had with the Ottawa arts community has been extremely positive. I have learned so much valuable information about what I am deeply passionate about, for example how to make my subjects comfortable in front of the camera, and the elements and styles of fine art, which have all served to strengthen my love for the arts. The community that I have gotten to know is one that holds great respect and admiration for one another, filled with kind people and open minds. I am eager to learn more and be involved in efforts made by the community whenever possible, attending vernissages, the Fringe festival, local concerts, art galleries, etc.

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

Apart from attending the absolutely magnificent school that is Canterbury for these past three years, the most fond memory I have associated with my art career is walking into that first SPAO class. A close family friend of mine suggested that I get involved with the school in some way, and once I found an opening in the part-time class, I jumped at the chance. I opted out of the youth-specific class and asked to register for the adult class, and was thankfully accepted. Once I first heard about the itinerary for the class, I was elated. As as we learned about the fundamentals of different styles of photography and some big names in the industry in that first class, I was hooked.

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

I have not exactly been involved in the community for long, but the biggest piece of advice I can give is to have an open mind, and to be eager to learn. If you are stuck in your ways and habits, there is no real room for learning to take place. And without learning, there is no real enjoyment or connection to be had with oneself and others. It is so important to accept and learn from feedback or others’ experiences in order to grow yourself. Also, take time to support local artists! There are so many opportunities to experience the beautiful art this city has to offer, so seek them out; you never know what might pique your interest right in your own neighbourhood.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my Young Artist Award projet called Avis, a photo series depicting teenagers as bird-like creatures. This involves a heavy amount of costuming and storyboarding/sketching, so that is what I am spending time on in these initial stages of the project. In addition, going into my senior year at Canterbury, I am working on building my portfolio for university applications with continuous sketchbook work and collage work.

What was it like to receive an award from the Ottawa Arts Council? How do you think it will impact your career?

Receiving the Young Artist Award was beyond exciting. It felt like me and my art were being taken seriously, and as a teenager and an aspiring artist, I cannot thank the Ottawa Arts Council enough for that feeling of reassurance and encouragement. I can only hope that this award serves as a catalyst for a full-time career in the arts. I want nothing more than to work in the field of the arts, and I wish for this award to serve as a gateway.

If you wish to learn more about me and my art, you can follow me at @gwynethgraceorr on Instagram. Thank you, be well.

Project update

Gwyneth will be presenting her completed project at SPAO.

Photographs by Gwyneth Orr
April 6th, 2019, One Night Only

Reception: April 6th, 2019 (6-9 PM)

SPAO (School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa)
77 Pamilla Street
Ottawa, Ontario