BHBB Feature Article

20 Upcoming Cultural Events in Ottawa

If you like to be inspired by art or music, there are plenty of events happening this spring to fill your cultural quota. Whether it’s an indigenous art exhibit, a Canadian themed play, or an outdoor music festival, Ottawa’s rich cultural background has helped produce a wide spectrum of visual, performance and multi-disciplinary artistic programming across the city.

Here’s a list of 20 stimulating and inspiring cultural events happening in Ottawa soon!



1) Vimy: Beyond the Battle: To mark the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, visit the Canadian War Museum’s newest exhibit Vimy: Beyond the Battle. Opening on April 6th, the exhibit explores the private and collective memories of one of Canada’s most defining moments from the First World War. Other commemorative events include a candlelight vigil, a sound and light show and a 100th anniversary ceremony.


2) Photography in Canada: 1960–2000: The National Gallery of Canada’s sweeping Photography in Canada: 1960-2000 exhibit brings together more than 100 works by 71 artists from across Canada to celebrate the enormous growth of the practice over more than four decades. Organized by the Canadian Photography Institute, the exhibit opens on April 7th.  


3) Alex Janvier: Until April 17th, discover more than 150 paintings, drawings and works of art by celebrated contemporary Aboriginal artist Alex Janvier. In this major National Art Gallery retrospective, experience the vivid colours, calligraphic lines and Denesuline iconography of Janiver’s lifetime body of work.


4) Canada Goose Arctic: Explore Canada’s Arctic through authentic specimens and artifacts, stunning multimedia resources, and a unique video installation as part of the Canadian Museum of Nature’s newest permanent gallery Canada Goose Arctic. Opening June 21st, the new gallery includes a special exhibition on the centennial anniversary of Inuinnait contact with the western world.


5) Canadian and Indigenous Art: Featuring renowned works by artists as diverse as Tom Thomson, Emily Carr, Norval Morrisseau and Daphne Odjig, the National Gallery of Canada’s From Time Immemorial to 1967 and 1968 to Present exhibits explore the magnetic north, the emergence of Inuit art, and the richness of Canada’s indigenous art collection. Expect both exhibits to open this May/June through to 2018.




6) Vigilante: Presented by the National Arts Centre from March 29th to April 15th, Vigilante is a rock opera that’s based on the unsolved 1880 massacre of the notorious Donnelly family. Find your inner rock goddess as you take in the true tale of the ruthless Irish immigrant family and an entire town bent on revenge.


7) 1979: If English theatre is more your thing, don’t miss 1979 at the Great Canadian Theatre Company between April 11th and 30th. Set in 1980, this fast-paced satire follows Prime Minister Joe Clark on the eve of his minority government’s defeat in a non-confidence motion during one of the most fascinating times in Canadian politics.


8) Towards Zero: Based on Agatha Christie’s award-winning detective novel, watch the stage adaptation of the classic Towards Zero at the Ottawa Little Theatre between April 26th and May 13th. This intriguing play follows the story of Lady Tressilian, an elderly widow, who is found murdered at her seaside home after a house party.  


9) Children of God: Another brilliant production coming to the National Arts Centre this spring is the Canadian musical drama Children of God about an Oji-Cree family whose children were taken away to a residential school in Northern Ontario. Inspired by First Nations music, this powerful play about the Indigenous cultural spirit screens from June 7th to 18th.


10) Sister Act: Featuring original music by Tony and Oscar winner Alan Menken, Sister Act is a feel-good comedy musical based on the smash 1992 film of the same name. Follow the wild antics of disco diva Deloris Van Cartier from May 25th to 28th at the Centrepointe Theatre in this Suzart Productions theatrical release.




11) JUNO Awards: Expect Ottawa to come alive as Canada’s musical elite descend upon the city for a week of celebrations, culminating in the 46th Annual JUNO Awards at the Canadian Tire Centre on April 2nd, hosted by Canadian icons Bryan Adams and Russell Peters. The week leading up to the JUNOs will be filled with musical performances, workshops and other activities showcasing the diverse array of talent and genres that define Canada’s lively music scene, including a two-night JUNOfest music festival on March 31st and April 1st.  


12) Ottawa Fringe Festival: The Ottawa Fringe Festival – an annual theatre festival that unites artists and audiences in a fun, exploratory environment – returns this spring. Taking place over ten days between June 8th and 18th, watch original performances by local, national and international artists at several downtown locations around the city.


13) GlowFair Festival: On June 16th and 17th, expect Bank Street to close down to vehicle traffic and be transformed into a world of music+light+art as part of the annual GlowFair Festival.  From Slater to Gilmour, ten street blocks will come alive with mesmerizing art installations, dazzling street performers, cutting edge music and the wildly popular ‘silent disco’.


14) TD Ottawa Jazz Festival: Between June 22nd and July 2nd, experience some of the world’s most renowned jazz musicians at this year’s Jazz Festival. Over 11 days, hundreds of Canadian and international performers will gather in Confederation Park for a mix of Dixieland, blues and jive music. 2017 headliners have yet to be announced.


15) Escapade Music Festival: The eighth edition of the Escapade Music Festival runs from June 24th to 25th at the Rideau Carleton Raceway. This year’s mix of EDM (electronic dance music) acts includes Tiësto, Above & Beyond, Steve Aoki, Richie Hawtin, Claude VonStroke, and Zeds Dead.




16) The HAPPENING: Celebrate local artists, designers, musicians and businesses in the Wellington West neighbourhood during the annual HAPPENING event. From May 3rd to 6th, enjoy live music, interactive art, children’s activities, fashion as well as food and beer gardens between Island Park and the Somerset Bridge.


17) Jane’s Walk Ottawa:  Offering free walking tours throughout several neighbourhoods across Ottawa, this pedestrian-focused festival celebrates the work and legacy of Jane Jacobs. Through the simple act of walking and observing, promote walkable cities on May 6th and 7th with Jane’s Walk Ottawa.


18) Westfest: Each year more than 50,000 people attend Westfest, a three-day outdoor celebration of Canadian art and culture. This year’s event takes place at Laroche Park in Mechanicsville between June 2nd and 4th and features musical guests Deejay NDN (A Tribe Called Red), MonkeyJunk and Lemon Cash.


19) Doors Open Ottawa: For the fifteenth consecutive year, owners across the Ottawa Valley will unlock their doors and invite the public to explore historically and architecturally significant buildings. On June 3rd and 4th, take part in Doors Open Ottawa and discover some of the city’s most interesting heritage sites.


20) Italian Week: An Ottawa staple on the spring festival line-up, Italian Week is an annual event featuring delectable samples of Italian food and music as well as a huge ‘mardi-gras style’ procession that winds through the streets of Little Italy. This year’s festival runs from June 8th to 18th.


Written by Danuta Whetton

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