Remembering Lola Ryan

We are deeply saddened by the recent passing of Lola Ryan. As a MASC artist for almost three decades, Lola brought dance, movement and joy into classrooms and seniors’ venues, impacting thousands of people.  

Lola joined MASC in 1997, offering various dance workshops in schools, often working with everyday rubber balls.  It was extraordinary to see what she was able to achieve in a short time with students.  To background music, Lola encouraged the students to play with the balls, to engage with each other, to exaggerate their movements and then asked them to put the balls down.  Students then continued these movements without the balls, imagining the balls, and it was incredible to watch what unfolded: beautiful, spontaneous creative dance, filling the school gym.

Lola offered many school programs over the years, often collaborating with other MASC artists; for example, combining dance with drumming, offering cross-disciplinary experiences to students.  Lola’s programs were unique and creative and encouraged dance and movement from even the most reluctant participant.

“We don’t stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing.”

Lola Ryan

In 2017, Lola started offering workshops to older adults. Lola brought a sense of play to her workshops. Lola approached her workshops with a lens of inclusivity and a gentleness that created a space for everyone. Senior participants loved their sessions with Lola.

At MASC, we try to build a community of artists, administrators and supporters that is like a family. Lola never missed one of our 5 à 7 events and she was always an eager participant at our professional development days. She was always open to connecting with other artists and keen on finding ways to collaborate.

Lola was a uniquely creative and generous professional artist who always brought a sense of joie de vivre to her work. Our extended MASC family will miss her in so many ways.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Lola Ryan at the Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue in Ottawa, on Sunday May 19th in the afternoon. Details to follow.

Canadian Multiculturalism Day 2023

Canadian Multiculturalism Day presents an opportunity to mark Canada’s unique and diverse cultural makeup, particularly through the arts and acknowledging of communities that are new to us.

MASC is an organization working in Ottawa to bring that diverse suite of arts opportunities directly to students and other members of the communiuty.

Patricia Boal is joined by longtime MASC member and multidisciplinary artist Claudia Salguero and classical Indian dancer and new MASC member Stuti Mukherjee to talk about their art, how working with MASC helps bring it to others, the importance of having that forum around days like Canadian Multiculturalism Day, and more.

Learning history through dance

“Jigging is tough. It’s all footwork. It’s a lot of quick foot movements. We like to be to be quick; we like to be high energy, and then there’s this hopping element that was added in from that First Nations powwow step that comes from the beating of the drum, the heartbeat of the earth.”

MASC artist Brad Lafortune was invited to share his knowledge of Métis jigging in advance of this past weekend’s workshop with the Ottawa Public Library. He also speaks about working in arts education for the past ten years and MASC’s Indigenous programming.

Watch the full interview on CBC Ottawa starting at 51:35 (near the end of the program).

Pride Month 2023

MASC is PROUD to celebrate our artists during Pride Month!

MASC was originally founded over 30 years ago by two women artists who were life partners and believed deeply in the value of arts education. Today, MASC continues its commitment to supporting artists across the 2SLGBTQ+ spectrum. We are proud to work with queer and transgender artists who bring their passion and creativity to schools and communities.

Aurora Jade – Indigenous visual arts
Jennifer Cayley – Storytelling
Makhena Rankin Guérin (Indigenous Experiences) – Hoop dancing
Brad Lafortune – Métis jigging
Deidre Hierlihy – Visual Arts
Renata Soutter (Propeller Dance) – Inclusive contemporary dance
Lola Ryan – Dance
Zoey Roy – Hip hop, spoken word, songwriting

National Indigenous History Month 2023

June is National Indigenous History Month!

Create a mural, make some music, and learn some new dance steps with First Nations artists, as we recognize the rich history, creativity, and diversity of Indigenous peoples.

Aurora Jade – Murals, Medicine Bags, Storytelling, and Music
David Finkle – Turtle Island Music
Amanda Fox looking forward proudly smilling outdoors on a sunny day. Her clothing is colourful in yellows, reds, and blues, and has traditional floral designs. There are tassels across her shoulders and her earrings are large yellow circles with a large red bead in the center. She looks radiant!
Amanda Fox – Powwow Workout
Zoey Roy – Songwriting, Rap, and Spoken Word

Lowertown community shines at Awesome Arts Festival

The Lowertown community had a great time at MASC’s Awesome Arts Festival that took place on Friday March 31st at Viscount Alexander Public School.

Alongside professional performances by Oto-Wa Taiko (Japanese drumming), Julianne Lavertu of Cultural Arts Studio (Afro-Caribbean dance), Stuti Mukherjee (Indian classical dance) and Just Gumboots (South-African gumboot dance), community members of all ages from Lowertown and Sandy Hill took to the stage and screen to share the creations they’ve been working on through the winter months. Several partners, including the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre and Reconnect Ontario, provided key funding for these art residencies.

Highlights included the premiere of a music video created by Lowertown youth with JustJamaal ThePoet and videographer Craig Conoley. This project was supported by a SHINE Youth Led Arts grant from Crime Prevention Ottawa and the United Way/Centraide Eastern Ontario in partnership with the Lowertown Community Resource Centre.

Claudia Salguero MASC artist

Audiences also had the chance to experience Louis Mercier’s traditional French-dance workshops with seniors at 160 Charlotte, captured in a mini-documentary by videographer Shaun Elie.

Lowertown students from the École catholique Sainte-Anne performed live onstage in a dance routine choreographed and developed with the Bboyizm Dance Company.

The celebrations continued through Saturday April 1st in the Arts Court Atelier where artworks created during Awesome Arts, including an environmental mural led by Claudia Salguero and Emily Rose Michaud at York Street Public School, were shared in a public vernissage. Live music by Colores Andinos and a hands-on birch-bark art workshop with Louis Mercier rounded out the event.

Mural Claudia Salguero, Emily-Rose Michaud Creative Collaboration York St Public School Awesome Arts 2023

Claudia Salguero, a MASC artist originally from Colombia and known for her colourful, larger-than-life murals explained what Awesome Arts means to her and others.

This is my 4th MASC Awesome Arts and I feel so honoured! I have created seven murals for the program. It is a gift to us as art educators to see kids empowered by the experience and proud of their own creation and message to future generations. As a MASC artist I feel honoured to have seen, over the years, the pride of the community grow through Awesome Arts while discovering and showcasing their talents in so many artistic disciplines.

MASC is grateful to our Lowertown partners for supporting the Awesome Arts program for the past 14 years. It’s always such a treat to see the community shine!

Originally published by the Lowertown Echo

MASC Arts Awards 2023

What an amazing evening! Over 200 people joined us in celebrating creative youth in our region at the MASC Arts Awards. Many thanks to our supporters and partner: French Family Foundation, boyden and the National Arts Centre.

Congratulations to all the nominees! And here are the 22nd annual MASC Arts Awards Winners:

Rishika Malhotra-Burt

MASC Arts Award Winner – Dance

“Teachers care for their students, they encourage them, they guide them, but Rishika has my full respect as a student, a dancer, and a choreographer. I cannot overemphasize their maturity, their willingness to lead, their desire to learn and their humility that makes working with them easy. They have the confidence of someone much older than themselves. Rishika will follow their dream and make it a reality; I have no doubt. They are driven. They have goals. They have focus. They have the right attitude to make anything they want a reality.”

Nominated by Maria Maclean, Hadley Junior High School

Scholarship donated by The School of Dance

Amarissa Nwabuisi

MASC Arts Award Winner – Drama

“Amarissa has been an exceptional drama student of mine for two years now. She has performed in two plays The Day the Internet Died and The Jungle Book. During this time, I have seen her grow considerably. She has become much more confident and showed real leadership during this year’s production. She really deserves this recognition, and this scholarship will give her the opportunity to shine”.

Nominated by Benjamin Postin, St. Francis Xavier High School

Scholarship donated by The Ottawa Children’s Theatre

Jaydon Moncrieffe
MASC Arts Award Winner – Music

“Jaydon is very deserving of recognition for his hard work and dedication to music. He has blown everyone away with what he has taught himself these last few months. Jaydon has taken it upon himself to learn the clarinet during his own time, both at home and at recess since starting to play in October. He is an eager participant in our beginner band and comes to the Music room regularly to practice and plays songs at a higher difficulty level than what we are working on in class or in band. He has a natural gift, and I am so grateful he has found something that really gives him the opportunity to shine.”

Nominated by Ashley Cardinal, Hawthorne Public School

Scholarship donated by Allegro Music Schools

Najah Meneem

MASC Arts Award Winner – Visual Arts

“Najah demonstrates exceptional focus, attention to detail and determination in all that she does. She always goes above and beyond and shows great leadership in our classroom. Najah is a leader, she is kind, and she is mature beyond her years. She is curious about her craft, and she is resourceful when looking for answers to her questions and takes great pride in her work. She is resilient and follows the creative process diligently until she is happy with her final product. I believe that these qualities all contribute to her success as a self-taught artist.”

Nominated by Mackenzie Jones, St Mother Teresa High School

Scholarship donated by the Ottawa School of Art

Kaya Hipwell
MASC Arts Award Winner – Literary Arts

“Kaya’s love for reading and writing is evident through her dedication and love of the craft.  She is creative, kind, curious, and brave, which is an ideal combination for storytelling. Her writing is inspiring, unique, and refreshing; her descriptive writing and word choice are masterful.  Her hard work, imagination and passion will surely leave a mark in this world.  It is exciting to see where she will journey with her calling.  It is an honour to stand behind Kaya Hipwell.”

Nominated by Erin McHardy, Hadley Junior High School

Writing mentorship with local author, Laurie Gough

Molly Ellens Award Winner

Claudia Salguero, Daijah Celestin and Jane Ellens at the MASC Arts Awards

Daijah Celestin

“Daijah Celestin is a talented and creative artist with the hopes of becoming an interior designer in the future. She has created multiple pieces of art for school and community events such as the York Street Public School 100th anniversary open house and the OCDSB Black Excellence Celebration. She is a girl of few words who speaks and connects with others through her art, and whois developing the confidence to shine by making York Street Public School and Lowertown a more beautiful place to learn and grow.”

Nominated by Mia Kakebeeke, York Street Public School

Prize donated by the Ellens family and DeSerres Ottawa

Jennifer Cayley Award Winner

In 2013 Leticia won the MASC Arts Award in Literary Arts, and she was mentored by Ottawa author, Frances Itani, a friendship that continues to this day.

Leticia Alvarez

Leticia is a trilingual twenty-two-year-old Canadian-Colombian living in New Zealand, in her fourth year of undergraduate law, English, and politics.

Leticia has had her work published in various publications and recently won the University of Auckland’s creative writing competition. She was nominated by the Law School as their representative at Georgetown’s Centre for Transnational Legal Studies at King’s College in London, in 2024.

The MASC Arts Awards winners received a year-long scholarship to pursue studies in their art discipline with: The School of Dance; Ottawa Children’s Theatre; Allegro Music Schools; Ottawa School of Art;  and mentorship with local author, Laurie Gough. All nominated students received commemorative name tags designed by Aurora Jade.

Aurora MASC artist.

Interview with three of the young MASC Arts Awards winners on CBC Ottawa on All In a Day

Listen to an interview with three of the young MASC Arts Awards winners as they share their feelings and apprehensions about public speaking on stage. They express their joys regarding the chance to benefit from their scholarship. Check out this CBC Ottawa interview on All In a Day with Alan Neal.

Congrats, Amarissa, Jaydon, and Najah on a great segment!

Amarissa Nwabuisi, MASC Arts Award Winner – Drama 
Jaydon Moncrieffe, MASC Arts Award Winner – Music 
Najah Meneem, MASC Arts Award Winner – Visual Arts 

Community Arts Educator Award 2023

MASC Executive Director Micheline Shoebridge and MASC artist JustJamaal ThePoet presented the Community Arts Educator Award to Jesse Stewart, award-winning composer, percussionist, visual artist, researcher, and educator, at the Ottawa Arts Council Awards earlier this month. We are delighted to see the work of arts educators being recognized in our community.

Micheline Shoebridge and Jesse Stewart
Nomination of Jesse Stewart

Interview with Laurie Gough on Rogers TV

What does it mean to be a writing mentor?  Journalist, travel writer, and memoirist Laurie Gough has seen the world and written about it – and now she’s in for a new adventure!

For the next year, Laurie will be mentoring grade 8 student Kaya Hipwell, who won the 2023 MASC Arts Awards for Literary Arts.

Find out about Laurie’s writing career and the incredible bond she and Kaya already share in this fun interview with Derick Fage on Daytime Ottawa, Rogers TV

Laurie Gough being interviewed by Derick Fage.
Laurie Gough and her mentee, Kaya Hipwell, winner of the Literary Arts Award at the 22nd annual MASC Arts Awards ceremony at the National Arts Centre.

Amanda Fox Powwow Workout on CTV Ottawa Morning Live

MASC artist Amanda Fox shared her Powwow Workout on CTV Ottawa Morning Live.

Amanda Fox is Ojibwe from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, and is based in Ottawa, Ontario. Amanda is a jingle dress dancer, singer, drummer, beadwork artist, sewing artist, powwow workout instructor, and workshop facilitator.  She started dancing as soon as she could walk and has a profound knowledge in powwow dance and protocols.  She started offering powwow workouts as a way to share her culture while promoting physical health. 

A powwow is a gathering to celebrate First Nations culture through dance, songs, food and crafts, and is open to all. This 30-minute high-intensity workout will incorporate powwow dance steps from different styles of powwow dance and the sounds of contemporary and traditional powwow music into a simple, follow-along workout. 

Gerald Dragon creates a legacy of combining art with community development

MASC sat down with Gerald Dragon of Sandy Hill Community Health Centre to chat about his incredible legacy of combining arts programming into his community development work. Gerald is also a member of the MASC Board of Directors and the host of CHUO 89.1 FM’s Raiders of the Lost Art.

You’ve worked with the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre since 2011, and you’re currently the Community Development and Engagement team lead. What motivated you to get involved with this organization, and what has kept you there?    

What brought me to the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre was an opportunity to work with the Community Development team as a Child and Youth Engagement Worker. What has kept me there has been the work that I’ve been engaged in within the Strathcona Heights neighbourhood in Sandy Hill. This is an Ottawa Community Housing neighborhood located at the intersection of Mann Ave and Chapel Crescent, and on the other end between Lees Avenue and Chapel Street. I’ve been fortunate to have seen many of the children I first worked with grow up to become young adults, going to high school and then moving on to university. It’s been an experience that has brought utter joy just witnessing their development.

Gerald with his arm around Noélia, MASC’s intern from Argentina

How did you become involved with MASC?

I became involved with MASC as an attendee of the first Awesome Arts Festival that took place in the Lowertown community in 2011. I was invited by another colleague who previously worked at the Lowertown Community Resource Centre to attend this event that they were involved with. I was completely blown away during this festival and afterwards sought out the person who was responsible on the arts side [Micheline Shoebridge, MASC’s current Executive Director] to understand how we might work together to bring this spectacular celebration to the community I was working in. The following year in 2012 the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre held the first Awesome Arts program and festival in our community and we’ve continued to do so ever year since.

Gerald and Micheline Shoebridge

As a frequent collaborator on MASC projects, how do you think the arts can help strengthen communities, including the various partner organizations involved?

The arts have the ability to strengthen communities by way of bringing people together. They offer an opportunity for those who may not usually sit side by side to be able to work on a project and see it through until the end and then step back and marvel at the achievement of what was accomplished by working together.

For myself this has been an insightful process to witness because, for an organization which has as part of its mandate providing equitable opportunities for people to participate in their own health and well-being, the arts help to play that role, allowing people to bring the strength that they each have to any particular project. 

Within the perspective of community development – working with neighbourhoods to identify their issues and challenges and then coming together to identify potential solutions – the arts offer another pathway for people to talk to each other about those problems and allows for a different method of coming to solutions.

How would you describe MASC’s Awesome Arts en folie program and festival to those who have never experienced it before?

It’s AWESOME and that’s just it. It’s an 8-week crash course in various artistic disciplines being guided by world-class artists who are on the artist roster of MASC.  Throughout the years we have done some amazing workshops such as: body shadow theatre; various dance forms including Bollywood, Afro-Caribbean, Ghanian, Bboy/Bgirl; creating music and poetry videos; animation; West African drumming, just to name a few. And the final week we put on a festival where all of the participants involved in the workshops get the opportunity to take centre stage and share their creation with their friends, family, and the larger community. The festival is reminiscent of a concert: the lights, the performances, and all the energy coming from the crowd.

Young performers at MASC’s Awesome Arts Festival

Could you share examples of community arts projects that have had a positive impact on the individuals involved or on the community as a whole? 

We’ve done several community arts projects that I feel have left a lasting impact within the community.  A few of those are at Viscount Alexander Public School where over the years we have created four large murals with MASC artist Claudia Salguero, which can be found on the outside of the school as well as on the inside of the school.

One in particular is on the very front of the building and is able to be seen as people go up and down Mann Avenue, which is a heavily trafficked street. It can also be seen when going between the O-Train station at the University of Ottawa to Lees and vice versa. It stands out due to the vibrant colors and is just so noticeable. I’ve heard from people who know that I was part of the project how much the mural brightens the streetscape simply by being there.  This is a perfect example of how beautification of the spaces and places within our neighborhoods can contribute to a positive sense of well-being. 

Viscount Alexander Public School mural, visible from Mann Avenue

We have also been involved in the creation of music, poetry and animation videos which will live forever on the internet and get to be viewed over and over again by not just community members and participants but also anyone else who happens to stumble across Awesome Arts. This is a very significant way of leaving behind a legacy with a project that you have been involved in.

Gerald Dragon stands behind music artist Le R Premier at work

What are your plans to keep the Sandy Hill community thriving, and what role do you see the arts playing in that?

I envision continuing to find opportunities to partner with various arts organizations, including MASC, where we can demonstrate the power of the arts and its potential to change individuals as well as communities.