each day is a dream

As Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria” winds down next weekend, we share a snippet of Sara Formoso Fábrega’s story. Sara is the accordionist in the show and, like many of her colleagues, comes from afar and feels very fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful enterprise. Attending “Alegria” was spectacular for us, but meeting Sara (and boyfriend/manager, Nacho López) was truly special.

© Dwayne Brown + Anita Ruivo

© Dwayne Brown + Anita Ruivo

© Anita Ruivo

© Anita Ruivo

1. What is a girl from El Ferrol (Galicia), Spain doing, playing the accordion for Cirque du Soleil across North America?

I feel like each day is a dream. At times I catch myself smiling and still can’t believe I’m a part of it! What a great opportunity to meet people, travel, see the world and, of course, do what I most love to do: play music and share it with thousands of people. I am proud and grateful every single day. I believe I’m at the best moment of life on all levels.

2. When you were attending the Conservatory of Music back home, did you ever imagine this as a professional possibility? Was this a goal that you set out to achieve?

It was my number one goal. I have been dreaming about being a part of Cirque du Soleil since I was 18. I remember talking to my boyfriend, Nacho, about this remote, almost crazy possibility back then. I had just started university. Something went “click” in my head and I went on their website, started downloading material and studying how to go about it. One day in 2018, after finishing my musical studies, my accordion teacher Fernando Fragua, who had known about this crazy dream of mine, told me about a Cirque du Soleil casting. I applied for the first time. And here I am now, at age 25, in Canada, giving it all and living the dream as part of the ‘Alegria: In A New Light’ show!

3. On stage, it appears like everyone is a family. What does it feel like to be a part of such a creative and dynamic group of people?

Back when I fantasized about being in Cirque du Soleil, I used to hear that it was like being in a family. Now that I am a part of it, I can affirm that the meaning of these words multiplies by a million. We really ARE a family. We spend six out of seven days together, and share so, so many hours in each other’s company. We learn about each other, we eat together, laugh, cry and feel together. In a way, this show started from zero with all of us, so the feeling of unity is singular. The Big Top is now my home. This is how I truly feel.

4. What do you think about the Ottawa-Gatineau region? Have you had an opportunity to explore it?

I love the peace and tranquility of Gatineau and its contrast with the liveliness of Ottawa. During the last few weeks, we’ve visited many green spaces, as well as restaurants and shops. I love going out for a meal and have found many wonderful restaurants and eateries. We’ve had the opportunity to walk around and everything that I see, I love: the streets are clean, the people are open and so friendly! Both Gatineau and Ottawa have much to explore. I’ve also gone to to the Sound and Light show on Parliament Hill, which I loved. It left me smiling all night long!

Thank you, Cirque du Soleil, for the opportunity! If you haven’t yet had the chance to attend the show, we highly recommend it!

Meet the CBC TrailBlazers

These 9 inspiring individuals are leading change, breaking down barriers and creating new possibilities in their communities. From a slam poet helping women find their voice to a self-trained chef sharing his culinary craft, the CBC Trailblazers tell stories of triumph, adversity, passion and perseverance. Thank you CBC Ottawa for giving us the opportunity to help share the stories of real Ottawans making a real difference in the community!

© the loveOttawa project

© the loveOttawa project

the NAC Orchestra’s "Ideas of North Festival"

The new and modernized National Arts Centre is so welcoming and inviting! The renovated space is in full swing and has kicked off autumn with an excellent showcase of performances and activities.

It was wonderful for us to stroll through the different areas of the building this past week and to hear echoes of music and activity throughout. We loved seeing a mixture of patrons and new attendees, and families with children participating in the events. It’s impossible not to stop to admire the views of our city from within, and we observed their enthusiasm as they interacted with the space. It now truly feels like “Canada is our stage!”

We were there to attend the launch of the NAC Orchestra’s “Ideas of North Festival”, running to October 14th, which celebrates Canada’s 150th and Finland’s 100th birthdays through the music and culture of the North. This unique event features 23 concerts, in addition to lectures, post concert parties, pre-concert discussions and a mini-Sibelius cycle performed by some of the finest Canadian and Finnish artists. There are performances for every age range, from noon hour to classical music concerts to DJ nights, many of which are free and take place in the open spaces of the building.


We also had the opportunity to visit Le Café, the NAC’s restaurant, and to try their very delicious Nordic menu, prepared especially for the occasion, by Chef Kenton Leier. It was easy to get lost in the mouthwatering flavours of the Nordic clam chowder, the beet cured gravlax and the gingersnap crusted venison loin. What a treat! We also loved the Ungava Arctic Fizz cocktail and the apple and almond bread pudding. Yes, we are on a diet for a few days, but it was so worth it!

“Ideas of North” offers a great opportunity to visit the new NAC, if you haven’t yet dropped by, and if you have some free time or guests in town for the long weekend. Make sure to take advantage of the free family day activities taking place this Saturday and Sunday. There will be music and dance of the North and Inuit visiting artists, as well as workshops. Join in on fascinating vocal traditions, step along to traditional dances, and watch the artists perform in the noon-hour concerts. Next week will also be activity filled with many more free events, as well as a presentation on Nordic architecture and design.

The festival will come to a close with two impressive performances, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra’s first-ever North American concert, on October 12th and the “grande finale” concert with Conductor Alexander Shelley and Principal Guest Conductor and violinist John Storgårds, featuring Jean Sibelius’ final symphony, on October14th with the NACO.

If you want to participate in an extraordinary classical music experience, be sure to follow us on social media as we will be giving away three sets of tickets to the “Shelley and Storgårds” concert on the14th!

© Dwayne Brown and Anita Ruivo - the loveOttawa project

© Dwayne Brown and Anita Ruivo - the loveOttawa project

making friends - one t-shirt at a time

We love our city and we're very proud of our loveOttawa project. This summer is very special for us, as we have two students visiting from Spain through Anita's company, Funlanguages Canada. Raquel and Selene are here in Ottawa to improve their English as well as to participate in Funlanguages' Creative Mentorship program, including acting as loveOttawa ambassadors.

Yesterday was very fun for us and the girls, as we ventured forward on something we've wanted to do for quite some time. We headed downtown to give loveOttawa t-shirts away to visitors in our city. It's so cool to go up to strangers and ask them if they're visiting Ottawa and then gift them with a free t-shirt. Our t-shirt includes a design that has many of the words and praises that describe what people love about Ottawa.

During Raquel and Selene's stay in Ottawa, they will be meeting many of our loveOttawa friends in town and learning what makes this such an awesome city to live, learn and work in. They will even be doing some volunteering at HighJinx (a local vintage store and social enterprise), some Ottawa 2017 events and at some summer music festivals, including the Ottawa Chamberfest. And yes ,of course, they will be giving away many more loveOttawa t-shirts!

Follow our loveOttawa give-away on Instagram:  @loveottawa


loveOttawa_Free T-shirts_web9.jpg
Selene and Raquel delivering Friday lunch to HighJinx.

Selene and Raquel delivering Friday lunch to HighJinx.

Ottawa is in for a great surprise!

Rosemary Thompson, photographed at the National Arts Centre

The National Arts Centre has been wrapped in scaffolding, undergoing renovations for one and a half years. On Canada Day, as part of our country's 150th anniversary, the “new” NAC will be opening to the public, unveiling a space that will be welcoming and inclusive, a reflection of our city’s generous nature and our coming of age as a world capital.

Rosemary Thompson, Director of Communications, along with her NAC colleagues, has been an important part of this transformation. We photographed her as she was preparing to attend a Sunday matinee session, and chatted about what the new, renovated space holds in store for our city.

What can we expect from the new NAC, what awaits us?

“Ottawa is in for a great surprise! It is going to be very beautiful. All of the public spaces are there for the people. It is about being inclusive, not exclusive. This used to be a fortress, but now it's about a transparent, beautiful, glowing place. We are going to have public animation in the new spaces. People can come in and have a cup of coffee or bring their kids and enjoy many activities, such as Toddler Tuesdays or yoga with music. It will be a place where people can really enjoy the arts without having a ticket.”

In the past, the main access to the centre was from the Rideau Canal. The back of the building was facing the city. This has now changed significantly.

The new NAC now has incredible views. The whole idea of the renovation was to turn the main access of the building. Now we will be facing the city and embracing the capital. We will be opening our arms and asking people to come in!"

Rosemary believes the whole city is engaged in a renaissance at the moment, the NAC being the symbolic part of it because of the arts. However, there is so much change and renovation underway throughout, that it truly makes Ottawa stand taller.

“It is a great time to be in Ottawa. We are growing up as a city, about to pass the million mark - we are not a little town anymore. We are starting to strut a little bit as a big city and we should be proud!”

Thank you so much, Rosemary, for taking the time today to share your passion for our city, the arts and the grand re-opening of the National Arts Centre.

If you are downtown on Canada Day weekend, be sure to drop by the NAC, where there will be free performances from some of Canada’s most accomplished artists.


Own our Ottawa

Catherine McKenna, photographed alongside the Rideau Canal

As our followers know, we gravitate to positivity in our city and are always so happy to hear about and support local initiatives.  

We were excited to learn a while back that Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, is very passionate about Ottawa, and was wanting to share the many exciting and generous ways that citizens have of making a difference in our community. Meeting and chatting with her, on a windy morning a few days ago, was a treat.

©  Dwayne Brown Studio  - the loveOttawa project

© Dwayne Brown Studio - the loveOttawa project

Minister McKenna believes that there is “so much awesomeness going on in our city”, that we need to tell and share the many stories behind it. Be it something that one person does individually, an initiative a business is involved in or that a not-for-profit supports, or even an idea that a whole neighbourhood stands behind, she wants to hear about it.

“The idea behind this campaign is that everyone tells amazing stories that are going on. For example, the recent story about Syrian refugees and what they've been doing to contribute to community - they did a cleanup and also did a fundraiser for CHEO. Everyone is making this city incredible, so let's talk about it!”

McKenna believes that it's important to be proud of our city and to share our local community successes with Canada and the world, particularly in our 150th year.

Participating is very easy and via the Minister’s social media channels. Using the hashtag #OwnOurOttawa, talk about how you are owning your Ottawa or what you see other people doing to own their Ottawa. It can be anybody - a child, a retired person, a business, an organization, a community group or any other entity.

The Minister is so approachable, open and pleasant, that it was hard to stop chatting!  As she prepared to continue with her busy morning, we asked her what she most loves about her city.

“That's really, really tough! There are a million things, but I love the water. I love the fact that we have the Ottawa river, we have the Canal, and I think we need to reimagine our capital around the water. That's our history. I love canoeing on the canal and I'd love to see more people out on the beautiful water.”

Thank you, Minister, for gifting us with your passion for the city, sharing the positivity of its people and spreading the love!

Please follow Minister Catherine McKenna's Instagram feed at: @cathmckennaottcen or her facebook page at: www.facebook.com/McKenna.Ottawa and hashtag your images with #OwnOurOttawa to share your love and commitment to our city! Please also visit Minister McKenna's website for more information about the Own Our Ottawa initiative.

when we open our hearts...

This afternoon we had the privilege of meeting and photographing a Syrian refugee family, who will soon celebrate their first year in Canada.

In the last few weeks we have been working with a creative team on a project about how Ottawa embraced the Syrian refugee crisis. We have photographed an amazing group of people who made possible the arrival, integration and smooth transition of these families, ranging from settlement workers to volunteers, sponsors to health care workers, teachers to lawyers. Our last photo shoot was of this family, at their home.

When Mohammed, his wife and two young daughters opened their doors to us, we were initially hesitant, not wanting to intrude on their privacy, almost fearful, wanting to get the job done swiftly and professionally. As with all new experiences, we were charting unknown territory.

At this stage in my life, I have learned that beautiful things happen when you open your heart. So we opened our hearts. And beautiful things did indeed happen this afternoon.

An eight year old girl learned a magic trick and gleamed with pride.

Her shy twelve year old sister told us her dream is to one day be a doctor.

Her 49-year-old, gentle-mannered father spoke of how he so wishes to meet more Canadians and learn more about our country.

And his wife, a pharmacist whose livelihood was demolished in an explosion back home, told us how worried she is for her children's future but how very grateful she is to the seven Canadian families that made possible their arrival in Canada.

©  Dwayne Brown Studio  - the loveOttawa project

© Dwayne Brown Studio - the loveOttawa project

As we were heading out the door, they invited us to have a coffee with them. As our hearts were wide open, we accepted their invitation and basked in their company for as long as was possible.

Thank you, Canada, for reminding me what a gentle and lovely nation you are.



striving for greatness while inspiring others

Sekou Kaba, photographed at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility

When we met Olympian hurdler Sekou Kaba a few months ago we were instantly drawn to his big smile and kind nature. We say we love shining light on kind and generous people and Sekou is no exception! He is not only a top athlete and member of the Canadian track and field Olympic team, having represented Canada in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but also an inspiring motivational speaker.

A large part of Sekou’s time is occupied by the continuous training and hard work required of any top level athlete. Like his colleagues, he must be at his physical and emotional best. Another passion of his is sharing his experience with others. An eloquent communicator, he speaks at different events as well as local schools on the subject of bullying. Having been uprooted from his native Guinea as a child, he faced tremendous difficulties trying to adapt to a new language and culture. This, no doubt, made him the special individual and great athlete he is today.

Thank you Sekou, for sharing your time and story with us, and for braving the chilly day while posing in your official aerodynamic gear!

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

In your moving article on CBC’s Player’s Own Voice, you speak of leaving your country and coming to Canada in 2007, as a teen, after spending a few years in the US. You felt marginalized and suffered bullying. Do you believe that the challenges you faced at this very formidable time in your life have helped you get to where you are today?

“I do believe those experiences played a part in shaping who I am today and what I stand for. One of the most important things in life is self-awareness. I knew that I was raised to be kind, and I thank my parents for that. I was lucky enough to perfect that trait early and it allowed me to treat people and situations accordingly. I knew the bullying would not last forever, I knew that I would become a better English-speaker. Everything that took place during those “dark” years served as education; on how not to treat people. It fueled me to strive for greatness and inspire others to do the same. I couldn’t have made it this far without the support of all the kind people I have had the privilege of meeting.”

You are a motivational speaker and an inspiration for young people. Is there a person that you looked up to as a youth or that impacted you positively?

“I grew up around so many cousins and uncles who played soccer and were great at it. I was eager to grow up and handle the soccer ball as well they could. Their favorite teams became my favorite teams. The Brazilian soccer team was the one I latched onto. Ronaldo was my favorite player and I wanted to be a great soccer player like him. When they lost the 1998 World Cup, I was devastated. I refused to eat that day. I was hoping to run into him in Rio but I never had the chance. Maybe someday…”

You chose to be photographed at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility. Why here? What meaning does it hold for you?

”The Terry Fox facility is my oval office from April to November. It’s also home of the Ottawa Lions, a club I have been a proud member of since my arrival in Canada. Just walking into the facility awakens my spirit. Seeing the finish line upon entrance brings back bittersweet moments of the past 10 years. So many vivid recollections of tough training sessions where I collapse after the last set of runs, as well as glorious races, setting personal bests; all those flashes took place at that same exact finish line. Terry Fox is also where the Canadian Track and Field Championships are taking place in July 2017. It will be action packed, as Canada’s fastest athletes showcase their talents for a spot on the 2017 World Championships team heading to London, England in August.”

As you and your fellow athletes prepare for these upcoming championships, and we prepare to cheer you on, is there anything that Ottawans can do to support your efforts as a sports community?

“I’d like more local businesses to get involved in supporting local elite athletes. Through our hard work and sacrifice, we receive the privilege of representing Canada on sport’s biggest stage. Imagine the exposure businesses could gain by associating with us. Fans want to know who our supporters are and word of mouth is very important in business. I am a traveling spokesperson for StrongBars Nutrition and you’d be surprised how many times I get asked, “what are you snacking on?”.

Finally, what do you most love about Ottawa?

“I love the fact that Ottawa is a hidden gem. This city has so much greatness to offer. It’s amazing to step out of the house and clearly notice the multiculturalism. I’ve met so many amazing people from different backgrounds who call Ottawa home. I appreciate being able to travel anywhere within the city in less than 45 minutes. As for healthy eats, I can never get enough of Cozmos Souvlaki on Greenbank. Not only is it close to home but Tony and his team give me a great reason to love Ottawa.”

Thank you Sekou, for sharing your time and story with us, and for braving the chilly day while posing in your official aerodynamic gear!

For more information about Sekou Kaba: www.sekoukaba.ca and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you, Anita + Dwayne!

bridging cultures – a true celebration

Hieu Nguyen, photographed on the Alexandra Bridge.

We met Hieu Nguyen a few months ago at a small gathering with a client after a long photo shoot day. We had photographed dozens of people for a LinkedIn session and our heads were spinning, the adrenaline still high, when Dwayne came over to me and exclaimed “I just met the most amazing woman!” We often say that our studio work gifts us with the opportunity of meeting the most wonderful people and this was no exception.

Hieu is petite in stature, grandiose in personality and has the most beautiful of smiles! It’s easy to fall in love with her positive personality. She spoke of her love of running and exploring Ottawa as a “social runner”, discovering new routes with friends and seeing the city from a unique perspective.  She also pointed out how Ottawa has given her a sense of belonging, just like her hometown of Sydney, Nova Scotia also welcomed her parents when they arrived from Vietnam as refugees. Since her arrival here ten years ago, she’s truly become a proud Ottawan!

As we celebrate Canada’s 150th, Hieu is a great example of who we are as a country and city: kind, trusting and generous. At this very fragile time of history, where we are constantly bombarded with messages of fear about other cultures and religions, where judging races and creeds often leads to misunderstanding and rejection, we celebrate our diversity and stand proud.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

You refer to yourself as a “celebration baby”. Your story fits in so nicely with what Canada is all about: acceptance, kindness and inclusiveness. Can you please tell us a little bit about your family’s experience in our country?

“My family were Vietnamese boat people and arrived to Sydney, NS in 1980. They were living at a refugee camp in Thailand for several months and before that survived a perilous journey in a homemade raft when they escaped Vietnam by sea. They were graciously sponsored by three churches in Cape Breton and I was the first Canadian born and why I dub myself the “celebration baby” as my age reflects how long my family has been in Canada.

People often ask how my family ended up in Sydney or why they chose to settle there and I guess the wonder is because it doesn’t have a large Vietnamese community, especially back then. I don’t have to reflect too long as I know it is because of the generosity of the people and the congregations. My family felt that they were very lucky to have been selected and sponsored by those who just wanted to help them, strangers really, where all they knew was the group size, their gender and age of the individuals they were sponsoring. This group included my parents, my sister (three at the time), aunt, four uncles, and several cousins (ranging from kids to young teenagers). The sponsors never asked for anything in return, they just wanted to help their new friends rebuild their lives after enduring warfare, political instability, and leaving a home they never thought they would have to leave.

Although I don’t have a strong Maritime accent, I do think what has stuck with me and what I have learned is the spirit of kindness and openness from the sponsors who helped my family settle in Canada. I remember going to church when I was younger and it was never because of being asked to go, but it was a way for my family to see their sponsors on a weekly basis to talk and catch up with them. Many of my relatives have since moved from Sydney, but still keep in touch with those they can. It was the sponsors’ support and compassion that nurtured my family’s humble beginnings to where they are today – safe, happy, and thriving.”

When asked about where you’d like to be photographed, one of your choices was the Alexandra Bridge.  As a runner, you’ve crossed it many times, year round. What other parts of the city do you love to run in?

“The shoot was very informative as I had learned that the bridge was named after Queen Alexandra (of Denmark), wife of King Edward the VII in 1901! I have run across this bridge many times in both direction (affectionately known as the bridge loop) and the views of the river, locks, and Parliament just never get tiring.

I never really ran that much until I moved to Ottawa. I think I naturally became one as it’s fairly easy to connect to a path or hop onto the Canal where you can make it a short run or a long one. Writing this, I have come to realize how much I like crossing bridges, including the Corktown Bridge and the new Adàwe Crossing, which connects nicely to the Rideau River. My default local routes are along Byron Park, the O-train Pathway, cruising along Wellington St. West, and recently discovered Hampton Park.

It’s nice to go running in the city but still feel like you can tuck yourself away into a natural oasis. You are able to mix a little urban and nature all in one run. I would describe myself as a social runner and enjoy running with friends and groups where I have been able to discover even more routes. There are more areas of the city for me to explore, and I would say, to be best seen by foot!”

What do you love the most about Ottawa? Is there a special spot that you frequent and that you’d like to share with us?

Tough to narrow it down but I what I do love about Ottawa, is its diversity, range, and random things that you can do on any given day. I have gone to concerts in churches, tested my painting abilities with friends, learned how to lawn bowl, and gone on many urban planning walking tours across the city. I do love food and enjoy the countless options of local eateries to try foods from all around the world and also, frequenting old favourites for a tasty brunch to catch-up with friends.

Ottawans have a lot of interests, which is great as we can go out and be engaged in so many areas whether it be a few neighbours joining together to get a community rink built to volunteering on a global cause and raising awareness. Any interest you may have, you can likely find a talk to learn more it or a group with like-minded folks. When I first moved to Ottawa, it was for work and thought I’d be here for a couple of years, but it has now been over ten and I feel like I still haven’t seen it all!

Thank you, Hieu, for sharing your beautiful story!

celebrating Ottawa’s music scene and being Canadian

Amanda Rheaume, photographed in the National Arts Centre 4th stage.

Our city’s music scene has never been more alive! Within this burst of local talent, one very gifted, generous and unique musician shines. Amanda Rheaume’s solid, beautiful voice invites listeners to travel to her heart, which is at the centre of her music, a fascinating blend of folk, country and pop.

Rheaume is also very involved with the community and works hard to raise awareness for a variety of causes and initiatives. For example, the song “Red Dress” pays tribute to the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. She is also the co-founder and organizer of the Babes4Breasts cancer fundraising concert.

Winner of the 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award for Aboriginal Songwriter of the Year and nominated for a Juno, Amanda has just recently released her fourth album, “Holding Patterns”. It is a true treat to listen to and to see Amanda perform in concert, her big heart and fun personality coming through each time! Rheaume will be going on tour to Europe in the next few days, playing in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

We had the pleasure of attending the launch for your new album “Holding Patterns”, which was held at the NAC’s Fourth Stage as its final concert, earlier this year. We also really enjoyed attending its vinyl release at The Record Centre a few days ago.  This new work is very close to your heart. How does sharing your personal experiences with your listeners and giving us a little part of yourself feel like, once it’s out there?

“It feels very exposed! Holding Patterns is certainly the most personal and honest album I’ve ever released. Initially it felt scary to talk about the songs and about my experiences but I think that is the role of the artist, to expose truths and unique vantage points on the many things we all feel as humans. I do feel more vulnerable and available as a person these days and I think that is scary but also beautiful and rewarding.”

You have a very special way of communicating with your band members while performing, which is so lovely and fun. We also sensed you have a great rapport with the album’s producer, Jim Bryson. How did you eventually end up working together?

“I love my band! And I love playing music with them. I also love Jim Bryson so much. We connected at Summerfolk in Owen Sound in 2014. He was at the festival playing and we met backstage in the artist beer tent and I asked him if he wanted to work together on a few tunes with me. We did three songs as demos and that turned into working together on an entire album.”

What does being Canadian and, more specifically Ottawan, mean to you as a musician?

“I love being Canadian. I have traveled this country numerous times and am in awe each time. I love that I get to tell stories of our incredible country through my music. Being from Ottawa is especially important to me because it is the capital of our country. Ottawa gets looked over a lot and I truly want to change that. We have so many talented people living here in all art forms and business sectors, people that are doing amazing things. It’s high time we all celebrate ourselves!”

Finally, what do you most love about Ottawa?

“I love the community of people here – the artists, the business people, the philanthropists. I also love the rolling Ottawa River and Beau’s beer! :)”

Thank you, Amanda for gifting Ottawa with your musical talent and being an essential part of our arts scene!

If you’d like to follow Amanda on tour, you can follow her on Instagram at @amandarheaume and/or Twitter at: @amandarheaume. If you haven’t yet listened to Amanda’s new album yet, you can purchase it on iTunes.

sharing musical passion + embracing canadian culture

Alexander Shelley, photographed in Southam Hall at The National Arts Centre.

We have had the privilege of meeting and photographing Alexander Shelley, Music Director and Conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, on a few occasions since his arrival in our city in the fall. British-born Shelley is also Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (Germany) and Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (England).

Whether chatting informally in his very unique, engaging fashion or enveloped in music and intensely focused while conducting, Alexander is a class act. Having attended and photographed some of his concerts, we have been fascinated by how he is able to captivate the audience, drawing us into his world, sharing composers’ stories and anecdotes as if they were old friends. Alexander brings, not only international experience to our orchestra, but also a very unique offering, as well as great respect towards Canadian culture. This musical season at the NACO promises to be rich and diverse under Shelley’s musical direction. One of the highlights will be Life Reflected, on May 19th, blending the music of four Canadian composers with literature, film, photography and dance, while sharing the stories of four Canadian women.

Our city is very lucky indeed to have such a talented and dynamic “maestro” who, in the few months since his arrival, has shone some wonderful light on our classical music scene. No doubt, he will inspire future generations.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

We love how you have brought a breath of fresh air to classical music in Ottawa . You connect so beautifully to your audience, allowing us to enter your unique world, and enjoy not only the classical genre, but many other styles and rhythms. Do you think we’ve been as good an audience as you have been an artist?

“Oh absolutely! I couldn’t be more moved and excited by the enthusiasm and warmth that has been shown at our concerts over the last 8 months. This city is home to such a great many sophisticated, inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving and generally rather brilliant people, that the pre- and post-show events have become something of a personal highlight. Having the opportunity to meet and talk to so many of our subscribers, as well a so many first-timers, has helped me to understand what it is that our audience tastes are, what it is that they enjoy and appreciate. Particularly exciting, and a wonderful opportunity for continued growth, is quite how varied and extensive those tastes are – from those that come to the NACO for the great classics, to those searching for the newest sounds and stories.”

Music in all its forms evokes so many different emotions, speaks over countless time periods, is so adaptable.  We have a feeling that with you as Music Director, we will be experiencing not only the world’s greatest classical music, but also some very new, contemporary productions, such as Dear Life.  We so enjoyed how you and your collaborators brought Alice Munro’s short story to life, giving it a musical voice, filling it with beautiful imagery.  Will we be experiencing more of that in the future?

“We will most definitely be experiencing more productions like Dear Life. In the month of May we premiere the most ambitious creative project that the NACO has ever undertaken. “Life Reflected” is a completely immersive show, without interval, with multi-media 3D projections on and around the symphony orchestra, relating and interpreting the stories of four astonishing Canadian women through the collaboration of four of Canada’s finest composers with stars from the worlds of literature, film, photography and dance. It will be truly exciting and represents my vision of what our National Arts Centre Orchestra can do to bring the extraordinary creative artists of this country together, in order to produce engaging, meaningful works of art for our audience.”

Your professional commitments take you from London to Nuremberg and to many other cities around the world on a regular basis. Does Ottawa seem small compared to other European cities? What do you most like about our city?

“I find that Ottawa has the advantages of a major world capital, mixed with the charm of a smaller city. Within minutes of my home I can be at the National Gallery or the NAC, soaking up some culture, in the Market buying some fantastic fresh produce, down Elgin glugging some delicious Ontario wine, jogging up the canal to the lake, or I can pop up to Gatineau Park and taste a real flavour of the countryside. There are not many cities that offer all of that in such a compact space. Love Ottawa!

Thank you, Alexander, for so graciously and generously affording us your time and company, and for sharing your musical passion with Ottawa.

For more information about Alexander Shelley: www.alexandershelley.com  And please follow Alexander’s very cool and insightful Instagram feed at: @alexander_shelley

reshaping commerce with collaborative passion

Some of our Shopify friends, photographed in their Ottawa headquarters.

Shopify is one of our city’s most talked about young, trending companies. A developer for multichannel commerce platforms, it is reshaping the concept of commerce internationally. It is also known for its “avant garde” approach to doing business and its company culture of thinking “outside the box”. For many, it offers the dream job and marking a difference.

Walking into their spacious downtown headquarters, one is enveloped in a high functioning yet casual, playfully creative environment. Loving people as much as we love our city, we were very curious to meet and photograph a handful of Shopify employees, and ask them about what they love about our town. We were so very impressed with such a unique, dynamic and passionate group of individuals.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

Thank you Shopify, and especially to Konval, for opening your doors and city hearts to our project! It was so much fun!

What do you most love about Ottawa?

“It’s full of hidden secrets!” – Alec

“It’s one of the most well-rounded cities. You can go places so easily. It’s got a great music scene, lots of green spaces – such a humble city.” – Karmen

“Nature is so close to everything. It’s got some great gems.” (one of which we were asked not to disclose!) – Dave

“Its closeness to nature!” – Monica

“Its neighbourhoods and community spirit. We help each other out!” – Mandira

“Ottawa has just the right amount of entertainment and distraction. It enables those who want to contribute to the scene and build communities to do so. It isn’t saturated, there’s space for makers to provide to the city.” – Guillaume

For more information about Shopify and their great people: www.shopify.ca

amazing multiculturalism + creative community

Claudia Salguero, photographed in her South Ottawa studio.

A few weeks ago, as we were asking our followers on social media about what they loved about Ottawa, we received a few tweets from Claudia Salguero, who very enthusiastically answered, “I love your project. Ottawa needs to be told how vibrant it is! I loveOttawa ‘cause its doors are open wide if you work hard and you believe in what you do.”

Soon after, Claudia invited us to her home studio and shared her love of music, art and community. Energetic, dynamic and versatile, she is, not only a very talented digital and visual artist, but also a Latin Jazz/bolero singer and a community art facilitator who works with organizations like Operation Come Home, Ottawa Housing Corporation and OCISO .

On Saturday, May 28th, Claudia and a group of very talented musicians will perform a one night Latin Jazz concert, “Cantares,” now in its sixth year, at the National Arts Centre. The musicians are from nine different countries and cover a wide range of styles and instruments. We were honoured to attend one of their rehearsals (in Claudia’s studio basement) and were immediately enamoured by the Latin rhythms and Claudia’s lovely voice. Part of the proceeds from the concert will go to a community centre in Bogotá, Colombia.

Thank you, Claudia, for sharing your art and music, as well your passionate sentiments about our city.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

You are a vibrant, creative, multi-talented artist. What started first? The art, the music or the community involvement?

“The music and the art have always been a part of my life. I remember being a little girl and making things with my hands, always curious about materials, always trying to understand how things were made, always putting colours wherever I could. There is something I regret, though. I was probably 8 when I decided to paint the shell of a little turtle I had in our fish tank. She died… :(

Singing and music are also a part of who I am and definitely helped me to develop self-confidence (you have no idea how introverted I was!) and, at the same time, the certainty of knowing there is always lots to learn. I started singing at school when I was probably 10 or 11.  The community work started here in Ottawa a few years ago and has been a gift for me in many ways. I discovered the joy of sharing what I know and the importance of art as a tool for a healthier world.”

How long have you lived in Ottawa and how did leaving your country impact your work?

“I moved to Ottawa in 2001 and this change in my life has enriched my work. I now have a wider view of the world, a deeper knowledge and appreciation of other cultures, many friends from all over the world and also a better understanding of Latin American culture. As Latin Americans we share many things including our language, but we are still different. If we talk about tradition, food or music, the variety is immense. I have seen and experienced that in Ottawa and I feel now more proud and more in love with Latin American culture. You can see that in my concerts. On the other hand, I have been exposed to artists from the five continents who work with many different techniques. This has been an inspiration and a source of artistic knowledge. My Photo-Fine-Art “Downtown Aluminum Series” is about cities of the world and the energy flowing in their streets.”

We are looking forward to attending “Cantares” later this month. Such a wonderful mixture of talented musicians coming together to play Latin Jazz promises to be a real treat. What would you like to tell Ottawa about the concert and what can we expect?

“CANTARES will be a musically rich, fun, chic, romantic and also educational concert. This year’s repertoire includes songs from many countries of Latin America as well as some classic Jazz tunes from North America with our Latin flavour.  Our audience is over fifty percent anglophone and francophone which, for me, is a sign that the concert is enjoyed by everyone in Ottawa, not just the Latin community.  I think people appreciate and take pride that a production of this level is Ottawa-based and they want to be part of it and support it. This is my sixth year at the National Arts Centre and for the audience it has become a night they look forward to. Our concerts sell out and we hope to achieve the same again this year.

I sing many songs in Spanish but I’ll tell my audience about the stories in the songs, the rhythms and the instruments of different countries we use on stage. It will be like traveling the continent. The musicians accompanying me are extremely talented and prolific but most of all beautiful human beings. I feel so fortunate to have worked with them over the years. They are from all over: Brazil, Mexico, Canada, USA, Africa, Great Britain, Peru and Chile. Of course there is me, from Colombia! We are from nine different countries in total and we all bring something from our background to the stage.

As in previous years, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a foundation in Colombia. This year it will go to “Casa Taller Las Moyas” in Bogotá. Thank you Ottawa, for your permanent support!”

Finally, what do you most love about Ottawa? Are there any places you love to go to or activities you enjoy doing?

“Besides the amazing multiculturalism, the way in which the community welcomes new residents, I love how easy it is to become part of this community and participate in it.  In terms of places, I love with all my heart the Rideau Canal and The Arboretum. These are the places I escape to. Biking and skating the canal whenever I can is something I just need to do. I also love Winterlude. I have been learning ice and snow sculpture since 2011 and Winterlude is the best place and time to do it. This is something I can’t do in Colombia!”

Thanks Claudia for sharing your creative and generous spirit. We so look forward your upcoming concert! For more information about Claudia and her many creative projects, please take a peek at her site: www.claudiasalguero.com You can also follow her on Twitter at: @closalguero and on Instagram at: @claudia_salguero

the gap between intention and action

Chris Bailey, photographed in front of Equator Coffee, Westboro.

At loveOttawa we get to meet such fascinating individuals. It’s always a pleasure to run into young people that are making a change. This is the case of author/speaker Chris Bailey.

Chris’ soon to be released book, ‘The Productivity Project‘, is the result of a yearlong task of time management experiments that he began to conduct on himself after graduating from Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business. As he shared his thoughts and findings on a blog he called ‘A Year of Productivity’, Chris soon began to have a strong social media following. His hard work and determination has led to the culmination of a dream for this 26-year-old. ‘The Productivity Project’ will be published by Penguin Random House and launched internationally on January 5th.

We met up with a very busy and enthusiastic Chris a few days back. Although not originally from our city, he has made Ottawa his home! We were truly inspired by his determined, positive nature, brilliant ideas and, above all, his genuine and humble ways.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

What inspired you to embark on The Productivity Project?  

“Productivity is an idea I’ve been obsessed with for the last decade – not productivity in the cold, corporate sense, but in the sense of getting the most out of how little time we have every day. Who wouldn’t want more of that?

The Productivity Project book is the crescendo for a yearlong project I embarked on after graduating.  I graduated with a couple of full-time job offers but I figured that if there was a time I should explore something I was so deeply passionate about, it was then! So I took a year to conduct productivity experiments on myself, interview the most interesting productivity experts from around the world, and read as many books and papers as I could on the topic.”

You are on the cusp of launching a book that will reach a huge audience on a topic, productivity, that affects everyone in the working world. How have you been able to accomplish so much in so little time, at such a young age?

“I think the answer is pretty simple, and maybe not surprising: I’ve invested in my productivity quite a bit over the last decade, which has let me get more done every day. Of course, like everyone else on the planet I’m not ultra-productive every single day, but most days I achieve what I intend to, because that’s a skill I’ve developed over the long haul. My daily productivity has, over time, compounded to let me accomplish more. I do things like step back frequently to think about what I want to get done every day and week, shut off distractions quite often, spend a lot of my working day disconnected from the internet, and invest in my energy levels, like by exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep.

Lest I sound conceited, some of it is definitely luck, and being in the right place at the right time, but productivity let me take advantage of the opportunities that have come my way!”

In your experiments you refer to a gap between ‘intention and action’. What exactly do you mean by this?

“This is an idea I’ve always been fascinated by. Every human on the planet intends to do stuff – like slim down, pick up a book instead of firing up Netflix, eat better, and get more done every day. But I don’t know of a single person, including myself, who acts on everything they intend to do – most people have a big gap between what they intend (or want) to do, and what they actually do. This is another reason productivity piques my curiosity: over time, I’ve come to see it as a way of bridging that gap. To me, intention is one of the most fascinating ideas out there. It’s what makes us human.”

What would you say to a young Ottawan who is starting a career?

“I’d suggest not planning too far ahead. If you know exactly where you’ll be in five years, your work probably isn’t interesting enough. I’m not suggesting that you don’t plan – I personally keep an 18-month plan—which is long enough for me to think about where I want to go in my career, but short enough so that I’m not blinded to any opportunities, or trying to predict what the world will be like five years out.

I’d also, of course, suggest investing in your productivity. This is cliche advice coming from someone who experiments with the topic for a living, but I really think productivity either makes or breaks how much you get done every day, and how successful you are in general.”

What do you most love about our city and why have you chosen it to make it your home? What are some of your favourite spots around town?

“I love how, even though we have a pretty big population, Ottawa doesn’t feel like a typical large city – it feels like a bunch of small towns that happen to be adjacent to each other. I live in Westboro, but always feel like I’m stepping into a totally different city whenever I visit friends, or travel around!

My favourite spots around town include the National Gallery, The Tea Store (the most underrated place in the market), Equator Coffee (in Westboro), and Planet Coffee (also in the market). There are so many cool places in this city!”

Thank you, Chris, for sharing your ideas and being an example of intention put into action! The passion that led to your productivity project will, without a doubt, impact and inspire many people.

If you wish to follow or get more information about Chris’ book, please take a look at his website: www.alifeofproductivity.com  and/or twitter at: @ALOProductivity

it only really comes down to attitude

Gail Stanley, photographed at Orchard View in Manotick.

Through our work as corporate/commercial photographers, we sometimes come across people who, in a soft and quiet way, leave us with a smile on our faces and a good feeling in our hearts. This is the case of Gail Stanley, who we met on a recent photo shoot at Orchard View on the Rideau, an assisted living and retirement residence in Manotick.

Gail has cerebral palsy. Despite her physical challenges and an important life change – she had to leave her family home when her dad passed away recently – she has a great disposition and a lovely and positive attitude. At age 65, she is the youngest resident of Orchard View and is lovingly called “the kid” by her close friends. We loved photographing her and captivating her kind cheerfulness.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

Originally from Miramichi, New Brunswick, Gail grew up in the west end of Ottawa. She has fond memories of it, as well as the years spent living with her dad, who she was very close to, in the Riverside area. When faced with the task of having to live independently, she had a hard time of it, but embraced change courageously and slowly adapted. She has become one of Orchard View’s most charismatic residents, with her contagious smile and sharp wit.

When asked about her favourite pastimes, Gail points to her three good friends Edith, Dorothy and Len, who are sitting close by playing Scrabble, and replies “I enjoy Scrabble. They got me liking it!” while Edith happily chirps in that “Gail is wonderful with mind games –  you know, trivia and things like that!” Edith is her closest friend and speaks of her love of music and how, when somebody plays the piano, she dances and twirls around, despite the wheelchair. Gail also loves her exercise routine, sitting outside in the garden, observing people come and go (“even if they don’t talk to me”) and her day group outings. She also underlines the importance of having her downtime, watching shows in her room and reading.

When her sisters and family come to Ottawa, Gail loves going downtown to the Byward Market for a meal and the opportunity to see all types of people. She also enjoys visits with her cousins to the family-run Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm.  This is what she most loves about our city.

Chatting with Gail, one gets the feeling that happiness is found in the simplest of things, in spite of challenges and that it only really comes down to attitude. As we prepare to leave, Gail shyly asks about the photo and wonders if it looks fine. It looks beautiful, don’t you agree?

creating art as a narrative in an inner city studio

Jeff McIntyre, photographed in his art studio, Little Italy.

Artist Jeff McIntyre creates art while quietly contemplating the world around him. A generous man, he is also a voracious reader. He can be found either at his 400 acre property in Val-des-Monts (Quebec), living peacefully with family and friends, or at work in his Ottawa studio, where we caught up with him earlier this month.

Jeff is pursuing his art while also being a family man. His studio is speckled with evidence of his children, the space peaceful and orderly. His art has a very defined voice and he loves to share his work and ideas. His latest project is an art installation comprised of a life-sized replica of a traditional North American canoe camp. Dripped in a vibrant red coating, all objects interact with each other, celebrating our country’s heritage and depicting the importance of man’s interdependence. When exhibited, it will be accompanied by sound and light. Jeff likes to accompany his work with videos, sharing the process and making it tangible and real.

Jeff is an adopted Ottawan, originally from Montreal and Toronto. His work has become well-known and has lead to many exhibitions and commission pieces. His paintings are in numerous international private collections. His determination to pursue art as a way of life is commendable. We are grateful to you, Jeff, for adding to Ottawa’s growing cultural community!

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

Would you say that your close relationship with nature and the time you spend in it has influenced your new work, the Red Sticks Project?

“Most certainly. From a young age, I constructed primitive shelters when exploring the lakes and river systems of northern Ontario and Quebec, Canada.  As an artist, it is very rewarding and beneficial to work with materials and share narratives from one’s own environment and experience. There is never a doubt that I yearn to create art with natural materials from my own land.

The planning and fabrication of the Red Sticks Project has been most enjoyable. Personally, it really does not get better than this:

  • Sculpting trees for shelter posts and widdling saplings for a pot’s tripod.
  • Rolling a fire pit circle with rocks carved by melting glaciers 10,000 years ago.
  • Building a traditional canoe camp as explorers have done for centuries.
  • Sleeping inside my Art, under the stars, beside a bending stream.”

We love your Demonstration (cities) Collection. It’s busy, noisy and screams at the spectator, yet it is vibrant, balanced and happy. Do you feel at times that you are a social commentator through your art?

“Thank you. Yes – colour, movement, vibrancy and beauty can be found in even the most desperate and tragic events. Media imagery clearly provides a visual congruency – whether Baltimore, Budapest or Bagdad; the pictorial record is very much the same. I hope the Demonstration Collection creates an open, international space for discussion and comment about how world events are increasingly interdependent and what this new reality means for shared global responsibility.”

Why did you choose Ottawa to live in and what places around town do you love the most?

“There are not many cities in the world that could offer the contradictory lifestyle which I demand.  Where else can I enjoy the morning at a studio in a wildlife reserve – and then 40 minutes later, be working at a studio in the core of a city? Ottawa has it all; arts, music, culture, food, and most importantly, close proximity to wilderness experiences.

An ideal day would start with breakfast at John’s on Wellington Street, next a few hours working at Platform Studios in Little Italy, a quick curry lunch at Fairmont Confectionery, then boogying across the Gatineau River with my family to the lake camp, and finally – poking the fire as the sun sets.”

Thanks Jeff for sharing your art and welcoming us into your studio! For more information about Jeff’s art: www.jeffmcintyreart.com and/or you can follow him on Instagram at: @jeffmcintyreart

turning her fascination for fantasy into a reality

Krista Walsh, photographed at Black Squirrel Books & Cafe, Old Ottawa South.

It’s always a pleasure to discover local talent and more so when that person can inspire others! Krista Walsh is, at 29, a fantasy author who has, in the short span of three years, published five novels and is about to launch a sixth, completing “Meratis”, her second trilogy.

Fascinated with the fantasy genre, Krista, an Ottawa native, has been writing from a young age. When she decided to publish her first book, she faced the very difficult and competitive challenge of finding a publishing company that would. Not one to give up, she rolled up her sleeves and decided to do it herself, joining forces with a growing community of authors and literary creators. Through self publishing and her blog, The Raven’s Quill, she weaves new tales, creates unique characters and shares her world with her readers.

Behind a quiet demure and smiley disposition, we discovered a strong and determined young woman who has, at least for one full year, had the courage to make possible her dream of writing for a living. Krista embraces her next months with great optimism and the hope that her readership will grow and her many projects and ideas will become a reality.

We caught up with Krista at the Black Squirrel Books & Cafe, a special place where books, coffee and people come together to celebrate the love of reading.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

You have written and published five books in under three years and a sixth is underway. That’s incredible! Why is self publishing the best option for you?

“My mentor in England first walked me through the steps in October 2013, and I haven’t looked back. I love having the final say in my cover artist, and my choice of editor. I love being hands-on throughout the entire process from draft to final product, and learning every part of the business side as well as the creative side. Every day I learn something new about marketing or self-editing, so my process is constantly evolving.  On the opposite side, when readers have issue with my work, that’s all on me, as well, but I consider that a great excuse to learn where I can improve.

I’ve surrounded myself with an amazing team of artists, proofreaders, editors, readers, all from networking and reaching out. The self-publishing/indie community is the other incredible benefit of choosing this method of publishing — we’re working together to raise each other up whenever we can. We share our experiences, offer support and encouragement. My team is invaluable to me.”

What made you decide that you needed a year away from your full time work commitments just to write?

“The biggest reason is because at the moment I have the opportunity to do so. Fortunately, my family and my partner are among the most supportive people I know. From the time I started writing (at about 6 years old), my parents have always encouraged me to express myself through words. They would always take the time to read my massive epics about ghosts and kids on adventures, and never made me feel I should focus more on “societally recognised” careers. In January 2015, I dropped down to part time work, balancing a 2-day a week day job against 5 days a week (what are weekends?) writing, and I increased my productivity from 2 books a year to almost 4. I loved having the extra time. My stress levels decreased, and I was generally a happier person. I was able to focus on learning my business, improving my marketing, and therefore seeing more of a return on my efforts.”

You strike us as a very hardworking, confident young woman who has fearlessly paved her own way in the competitive literary world. Do you, at times, feel overwhelmed by it all?

“Oh goodness gracious yes! Even having the entire week to focus on my dream job, I still have days where I want to crawl into hole for a month or six. As much as I love putting words together, it’s still work. There are days where my to-do list is a page and a half long and every item as a deadline or is something I dread doing. There are tasks on both the business and writing sides that I can’t bring myself to enjoy, but they still need to get done. Getting notes back from readers, or getting poor reviews is enough to make me bury my head in the freezer with a bucket of mint chip ice cream.

Again, fortunately, I’m surrounded by people who are there to draw me back into the real world and hand me a spoon so I can at least eat my comfort ice cream on the sofa while I sort through my stress and form my plan of attack. I love my job, and while there will always be stressors and frustrations, there are far more rewards to keep me coming back.”

As an Ottawan, what do you most love about the city and in what ways has it impacted your writing career?

“The walks. Ottawa is a beautiful city with so many gorgeous routes to lose myself on to think or de-stress or find someplace to write. From May to September, I often grab my notebook and find someplace by the Canal or the Rideau River to read or jot down notes. In the winter, I like discovering new local coffee shops that I can work in for an hour or two — I see that as a great mutual support system among business owners.”


Thanks Krista for introducing us to Black Squirrel Books and for sharing your story. We love how you’ve followed your dream and turned your passion into a reality!

If you wish to follow or get more information about Krista and her books, please take a look at her website: www.theravensquill.com  or follow her on twitter at @kwalshauthor

ottawa is like the “goldilocks” of cities

Olivia Nixon, photographed at Echo Lands Park, on Ottawa’s Rideau River.

One of the wonderful things about loveOttawa is the great people we continuously come across, even as we go about our day to day.  While working on a corporate shoot a few weeks ago, we met communications professional, Olivia Nixon. Her positive energy and good vibes immediately came through as she spoke of having just come back from waterskiing. Waterskiing “in Ottawa”, we asked? Her enthusiasm quickly caught on and, before we knew it, we were pulling up at Echo Lands Park, by the Rideau River, with our camera equipment and white canvas, to photograph Olivia in full gear!

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

You are Ottawa born and raised. What do you most like about our city (besides being able to waterski!)?

“What I like most about Ottawa is our unprecedented access to the outdoors. We have nature’s playground all around us! There’s lots of water, hills and gorgeous countryside. You can waterski in the morning, go to work for the day and then go cycling in Gatineau Park in the evening. It’s fantastic.”

We love how passionate you are about your hobby and knowing it’s possible to practice it right in the city. Does Ottawa have an active waterskiing community? Besides proximity, why is the Rideau River ideal for this sport?

“Ottawa has a small but pretty passionate waterski community. We are really lucky to have the Gloucester Water Ski Association in Ottawa that offers affordable skiing including access to a tournament boat, a water ski slalom course and a bunch of really great people who are just as wacky about the sport as you are.  The Club is volunteer-driven and everyone has to pitch to keep it running. The Rideau River is actually not the worst place to ski. Boat traffic can be a bit of an issue but that’s one of the reasons I, along with some other early birds, ski at 6 a.m. The water is like glass. There are worse ways to start your day than skiing with your friends at dawn and then heading to work afterwards.”

What are your favourite spots in the city or in your neighbourhood? Is there a “hidden gem” you’d like to share?

“That’s easy. I have three. I work from a “home office” which often is code for my local coffee shop  – my two favourites are Alice’s Village Café in Carp (yes people, that’s in Ottawa) and Quitters Coffee in Stittsville. The coffee is yummy and the vibe is right for creative types. The third “gem” is the Cheshire Cat Pub on Carp Rd. It’s our “local” – literally down the road from where we live. But don’t tell anyone because it’s really hard to get a table there – it’s busy all the time.”

How would you describe Ottawa to a person who’s never been here?
Ottawa is like the “Goldilocks” of cities. We’re not too big. We’re not too small. We’re juuuuust right!  And, I would add, with lots of exclamation marks, we are not a boring government town!!!! There’s so much more to Ottawa than that!”

Thanks so much, Olivia for sharing one of your passions and what you love about Ottawa. For more information about Olivia Nixon and/or to connect with her, you can view her Linkedin profile.

I wish for my family to be here

Syrian refugee, Rasha, photographed in Dundonald Park.

Rasha was forced to flee her hometown of Damascus, Syria over two years ago. The safe life she once knew, her job as a flight attendant for Air Syria and her loving surroundings changed dramatically when her family came under threat. After her two brothers were murdered, her own life under imminent danger, she fled and arrived in Beirut, Lebanon. She had left behind her elderly mother, sister and young nieces.

Rasha’s only wish was to reach safety and help her remaining family members leave Syria. She went directly to the UNHCR office in Beirut to seek help and, while awaiting the results of the commission about her future, she worked endlessly under very difficult circumstances. It was an unwelcoming and scary environment for her. After an eighteen month wait, she was told Canada would welcome her. Rasha initially went to Edmonton. There she faced a few obstacles but eventually, wanting to come to the capital, made her way to Ottawa.

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

With many challenges behind her, Rasha has come a very long way. Thanks to our friends at the United Way, we met up and chatted with her. We are reminded of the importance of stopping our busy lives and taking the time to look around to help others.

Rasha has a beautiful, yet sad look to her. In her mid-twenties, she looks older and more worldly than most young women her age. She is soft-spoken yet strong, speaks with conviction but in an at-times broken voice, is determined yet fragile. Her English has been learned quickly, out of the need to survive, to be understood. She pulls out images of her family and nieces and whispers, “I will die if something happens to my mother or sister.” Through the help of a kind-hearted Ottawan, she has found an apartment and a job. She is taking French classes in her free time, on a daily basis. She wants to do many things. Her dream is to become a police officer. In our city, “I feel safe, finally. I love Ottawa. People are so nice, so friendly.”

Although many questions were exchanged in our encounter, the one that we got an immediate answer to pertained to her family.

Now that you are safe, what is your biggest wish, Rasha?
“Please, I need my family. This is my biggest wish.”

Happy Thanksgiving, Rasha. We so admire your courage and strength. May you be reunited with your family very soon.

For more information about how you can help refugees like Rasha, please contact the United Way Centraide: www.UnitedforRefugees.ca or call (613) 228-6700. For information about Ottawa’s relationship with the refugee crisis please, contact Refugee613: www.refugee613.ca

a city to love for 2017

Guy Laflamme, photographed at the Ottawa Canal Underpass.

We had the opportunity to photograph Guy Laflamme a few months back for an editorial shoot. We were anxious to meet the author of the City of Ottawa’s 2017 celebrations but knew that his very tight schedule would only allow for a short amount of time. We were pleased to be introduced to the most charismatic, passionate, respectful and extremely photogenic man!

Laflamme embodies what we love about our city: kindness and generosity. He rewarded us with his time, was enthusiastic to hear about our project and very patiently waited while we set up our loveOttawa canvas. We are so proud to include Monsieur Laflamme in our project and look forward to a very exciting 150th year in our city!

© dwayne brown studio  – the  loveOttawa  project

© dwayne brown studio – the loveOttawa project

Being the voice behind the 2017 celebrations, what would you like to highlight about Ottawa to the world?

“2017 will allow people to experience Ottawa like never before and celebrate Canada’s 150th like nowhere else. We are inviting the world to come and enjoy our unique quality of life and be inspired by the unique experiences we can offer.”

How can Ottawans participate actively in making the 2017 celebrations a special event?

“We have and will offer, every citizen, business and organization of our city‎, numerous opportunities to contribute and to participate to Ottawa 2017. Collectively we will transform our city and open new horizons for our future.”

In your free time, how do you enjoy our beautiful city?

“I have cycled, jogged or walked every kilometre of our recreational pathways.  We are blessed by the abundance of our natural surroundings and I love to embrace the variety of our seasons. You can see and experience our city from many different perspectives.”

What message would you like to convey throughout the year leading up to 2017?

“Be ready to experience an exhilarating new Ottawa! Let’s collectively transform our city and give more vibrancy to its ‎heart and soul.”

Thank you very much Guy for sharing your time and your love for Ottawa! For more information about Ottawa 2017: www.ottawa2017.ca