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Ottawa Art City is a new augmented reality art festival

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As an Ottawa-based artist, Paul Sharp is used to having more ideas than he acts on. But a few years ago on one the walks he’d take to find inspiration for his own work, Sharp was struck by an idea that he couldn’t quite shake. “I thought, ‘Jeez, there’s all this space here. And it would be really amazing if it was full of art,’” says Sharp.

“While I was walking, I just kind of came up with the idea of having an augmented reality app that had art everywhere,” he says. Inspired at that time by the then-ubiquitous Pokemon Go app that combined digital technology with physical spaces, Sharp says he saw an opportunity to take advantage of the possibilities that augmented reality affords.

It was from this seed that Sharp’s idea for Ottawa Art City emerged: a free augmented reality art festival in Ottawa’s downtown core. The festival will debut on July 10 and run until July 18, allowing anyone with an iPhone to take part by downloading the free Hidelight app (developed by Sharp) and peruse local artists’ creations. The outdoor art exhibit will take place within the Byward Market.

“I’m hoping that this is novel enough that people are interested in trying something new,” says Sharp. “It’s a little bit like a treasure hunt for art.”

Art institutions like the Ottawa Art Gallery, The Ottawa School of Art, and The City of Ottawa’s Public Art Collection will be showcasing work alongside independent local artists. While some participants may take down their work once the festival officially ends, artists can decide to keep their artwork up after the end date.

Sharp says he designed the app and organized Ottawa Art City because of the damaging effects the pandemic has had on artists’ abilities to carve out a living. As public health restrictions prevented people from physically gathering, particularly in indoor spaces, the usual places where artists could connect with potential buyers were closed off.

“We’re watching all of these things in our life just disintegrate before us,” says Sharp. “All the events in the art community have been canceled or gone online.”

“I know how difficult this has been for artists. And I know culture is not at the top of people’s priority list right now,” he adds.

The festival suits the current moment: because it’s outdoors and asynchronous, people can enjoy cultural events without the same potential health risks of a large gathering for the same extended period of time, like a gallery exhibit or concert at a music venue.

Sharp says he’s hoping the festival will not just entice the community to show up and enjoy local art, but will encourage artists to reengage creatively as well.

If a festival-goer likes a certain piece of art, they can tip the artist using an in-app feature. Artists can also set up an e-commerce shop with Shopify that will be connected to the app.

There is also the ability for fellow artists to collaborate and co-create an art installation that is greater than the sum of its parts. Explaining how the feature can be used, Sharp says, “Somebody might see something that one artist did, and build on that and create something bigger, and somebody else can come along and add to it as well.”

“Artists do collaborate, it’s an important way that we work,” he says. “And I wanted that to be present in the app.”

Sharp says he thinks people are willing to travel and enjoy digital art.

“I’m really excited about the opportunities that this holds,” says Sharp. “And I really hope that other people will be excited about this as well.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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