Club SAW has been totally revamped, but still maintains its punk roots

It was near midnight once I arrived at Club SAW one latest Saturday evening, and I hardly acknowledged the place.

From the Nicholas Street entrance, a brief stroll from the LRT’s Rideau Station, I might hear a DJ spinning a number of the most effervescent tunes in pop music as colored lights bounced across the room. I acknowledged just a few of the beaming faces on the packed dance flooring, and some extra within the crowd gathered across the bar. In different phrases, the place was hopping. 

Like many live-music followers in Ottawa, I recalled the basement area at Arts Court as a darkish, awkward space on the backside of a darkish, slim staircase that, for many years, performed host to punk and indie bands and some dozen of their all-ages followers. 

What a distinction a effectively thought-out renovation makes. 

As a part of the multi-million renovation to the Arts Court constructing (which additionally resulted within the spanking new Ottawa Art Gallery), the artist-run SAW Gallery acquired a makeover that offers it 4 instances extra exhibition area, a welcoming courtyard entrance, much better accessibility and dramatic enhancements to the basement nightclub. 


The SAW Gallery within the basement of the previous courthouse has gone by way of a serious transformation and has turn into a major participant within the Ottawa arts and leisure business. The principal music studio.

Wayne Cuddington /

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There, Club SAW has been reworked right into a state-of-the-art multi-disciplinary venue and pop-up gallery devoted to performances, events and different cultural happenings. Its capability has nearly tripled, with room for greater than 280 individuals standing, or 100 seated in rows of chairs. 

But neither weddings nor company occasions will happen inside its partitions, vowed curator Jason St-Laurent throughout a daytime tour of the brand new facility. 

“We were really lucky in the sense that we got some federal funding through the cultural spaces program so it’s important for us to make sure this venue would always be for cultural purposes,” he mentioned. “Venues can get addicted to wedding reception revenue and then that fills your weekends for months and months. We didn’t want that to happen here.”

Instead, within the 4 months it’s been open, Club SAW has turn into get together central for Ottawa’s artistic class. Music promoters, together with Spectrasonic and Debaser, are reserving reveals. Festivals are internet hosting events. Films are being screened. Books, albums, performs and artwork tasks are being launched, sharing the calendar with academic and networking actions comparable to workshops and conferences. 


The SAW Gallery within the basement of the previous courthouse has gone by way of a serious transformation and has turn into a major participant within the Ottawa arts and leisure business. Tam-Ca Vo-Van, Director, within the exhibition area on the second flooring.

Wayne Cuddington /

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On the primary evening I used to be there, the occasion was a joint afterparty celebrating the tip of two festivals: the Ottawa International Animation Festival and the NAC’s Mòshkamo competition of Indigenous arts. Partygoers flowed from Club SAW to the gallery area upstairs, and thru the hallways into the exhibition areas, get together rooms and terraces of the Ottawa Art Gallery.

Between the 2 services, there have been a number of DJs and several other artwork reveals to take a look at, together with the usually graphic photos of the SAW Gallery’s first displaying within the revamped gallery, Sex Life: Homoeroticism in Drawing. 

As the title suggests, Sex Life is a set of drawings by 9 Canadian and worldwide artists that leaves little to the creativeness relating to homosexual intercourse. The stage of explicitness — to not point out the variety of erect penises — is daring for a public area in Ottawa. 

But that’s a key a part of the grasp plan for the SAW Gallery. 

“I wouldn’t say there was a fear in the community that we would institutionalize but it can happen when someone renovates and expands,” mentioned St-Laurent. “We were pretty adamant about not losing our punk spirit so we decided to open our centre with this exhibition to set the tone for the new centre. We haven’t changed very much and we still take programming risks.”


The SAW Gallery within the basement of the previous courthouse has gone by way of a serious transformation and has turn into a major participant within the Ottawa arts and leisure business. Tam-Ca Vo-Van, Director, on the bar situated on the principal entrance.

Wayne Cuddington /

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Still, for live-music followers, the most effective half is the great-sounding efficiency area. According to the curator, that idea dates again to SAW’s 1973 origin because the Sussex Annex Works, when it was situated in the identical Sussex Drive constructing because the legendary Cafe Hibou. In the early years, it moved from Sussex to the ByWard Market to Rideau Street, settling within the basement of Arts Court within the late ’80s. 

“There’s always been this relationship to the music scene,” mentioned St-Laurent. “It’s fairly unusual in the Canadian landscape to have a nightclub with an artist-run centre but it was always part of the SAW multi-disciplinary spirit of music and art coming together in one venue.” 

While the underground spirit stays, the dank basement vibe is gone, because of a wall of glass doorways on the entrance that may be opened onto the brand new courtyard. 

Other enhancements to the membership embrace the most recent digital sound and video-projection tools, a backstage inexperienced room, full with mirrors and a bathe, a raised stage, and the bar itself, proceeds of which is able to assist fund tasks that will not be eligible for public funding. 

Accessibility can also be significantly improved for each performers and followers, together with elevators, a wheelchair ramp and an adult-changing desk in one of many all-gender washrooms.

The subsequent part of the renovation undertaking will see the opening of the SAW Gallery’s Nordic Lab, a analysis and manufacturing area for artists, each Indigenous and non-Indigenous, from circumpolar nations. It will home the brand new Annie Pootoogook Studio and be geared up with digital workstations, screen-printing tools and a large-format pictures printer. 

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Here’s what’s arising within the membership:  

Oct. 18: Amnita, Romancer and Dad Sports

Oct. 19: The Creeps 20th Anniversary All-Day Bash

Oct. 24: Ottawa LGBT Film Festival Kickoff Reception

Oct. 25: Merganzer, album-release present, with Paper Beat Scissors

Oct. 30: Halloween FUNRaiser for Being Studio

Nov. 1: Polaris short-listers Fet.Nat with particular company

Nov. 9: Doomsquad, Phedre, Backxwash

Nov. 16: Del Barber 

Nov. 19: Close Talker, Basement Revolver

Nov. 23: Snotty Nose Rez Kids, The Sorority

(For tickets and extra info, go to the Facebook occasion pages) 


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