Urban Art Collective becomes home for Ottawa street artists

A photo of Lindsay Machinski wearing a pride coloured mask
Co-founder Lindsay Machinski is hoping to use their space on Somerset St. as a community hub. She plans to wrap the building in murals and host night markets in the parking lot. Photo by Zenith Wolfe

By Zenith Wolfe

A new gallery in Wellington West hopes to change the landscape of Ottawa’s art market.

Opened at 1088 Somerset St. West in December 2022, it’s the first physical space dedicated to Urban Art Collective, a group of local street artists. They sell paintings infused with graffiti aesthetics alongside objects like reclaimed and redecorated vinyl records, skateboards, and rocking horses.

Lindsay Machinski co-founded the collective with her husband in August 2021, with a website as a hub for local artists to work together and connect with the community. It also serves as a portfolio for potential employers to find and hire artists, she said.

“A lot of artists don’t have websites because that’s another cost they don’t have time to invest in,” Machinski said. People visiting the website get to see multiple artists – a way to make urban art more accessible, since it isn’t often seen in traditional galleries. Stickers, magnets, sweaters, and other products designed by collective members are for sale in a room behind the initial gallery.

“You don’t need to be able to afford original art to come in here. You can come look at the work and you can leave with a sticker, and that’s perfectly OK,” she said.

One of the gallery’s artists is Hintonburg resident Dan Martelock, known for his bird paintings and Parkdale Park’s Ukraine mural. He said selling with the Urban Art Collective has allowed him to reach a larger audience than before.

“It’s gotten my stuff out to different scenes that I wouldn’t have done normally,” Martelock said. “A lot of people now wear T-shirts with my art on it.”

Machinski said half the money from sales goes back into the business, and half to the artists.

Three colourful paintings hang on a wall.
Urban Art Collective supports local street artists. Photo by Zenith Wolfe

Corinne Blouin is a mural painter known in the gallery as Coblou. She said this isn’t “an unheard-of split in terms of galleries,” but it’s helpful. She said the collective helps with printing and production, which makes art a more sustainable career for her.

“It really helps with the logistics,” Blouin said. “They take care of the sales and the stuff that is another job of its own, so I get to make the art and do what I do best.”

A recurring theme in the gallery is “upcycling,” the re-use of objects that can’t be recycled otherwise. One of Blouin’s upcycled art pieces is an old rocking horse covered in pink paint and sketches of flowers. 

 Blouin said creating upcycled art helped meet her goal of protecting the environment through her work. She said it’s common for urban artists to “work with what they have” because they can’t afford expensive materials.

“Some urban artists … draw on cardboard or found objects,” Blouin said. “It kind of goes with the idea of ‘anything can be made into art if you try hard enough’.”

Machinski has big plans for the gallery space. The interior will host community art workshops, and the gallery will curate events where artist groups “take over” the space.

She also hopes to cover the building’s exterior walls with murals, and host night markets in its parking lot. Machinski said these events encourage Ottawa people to support local artists.

“Working together and supporting people in your community is super important. By everybody doing that, we can make our community a better place,” she said.

The gallery’s first event Feb. 18 will showcase art from a zine, a small artist-based publication, called Klein, and will serve as the launch event for Klein’s new issue.

Local artists pins for sale on a rack.
Urban Art Collective sells pins, clothing and stickers with local artists work printed onto them. It offers a cheaper alternative for people who want to support local talent. Photo by Charlie Senack

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