When it comes to celebrating Ottawa’s urban culture, no one does it better than House of PainT (HoP). The annual festival, which serves as a vehicle to elevate and celebrate urban arts and culture, has become instrumental in bringing forward the four elements of hip-hop to young and old from all walks of life who are curious about the culture or those who simply want to be a part of the movement. For its 11th edition, HoP organizers invite everyone and anyone with a love of hip-hop and community to converge between September 4 and 7, and take in graffiti art, breakdancing, emceeing, slam poetry, and deejaying under Dunbar bridge in Brewer Park, a secluded yet perfect setting for this urban gathering which, incidentally, has been the festival’s hub since Day 1.
I had a chance to sit down with Rob Reid, Festival Producer, to find out more about this year’s programming and highlights, which revolve around the theme “Our House, Our Art”. During our chat, Reid shed light on some new programming elements that he’s looking forward to, in addition to sharing details on what’s coming back this year. At its core, HoP is fundamentally a big community block party spread out over 4 days, featuring graffiti writing, breakdancing, deejaying and emceeing, but in the last few years, the organizing team has widened its horizons to include more visual arts and “expand on that to include a lot of spoken word poetry too,” explains Reid. But it’s not all about that, as part of its mission, HoP also strives to increase the sustainability of Ottawa as a place for artists to live and work by offering professional development workshops and a knowledge conference.
Festivities will kick off with an audience-judged poetry slam and Art Expo at the Mayfair Theatre on September 4. Dubbed the OG 500 Poetry Slam, the event will give centre stage to 12 poets who will compete in a head-to-head battle for a chance at the winning title. Friday night’s Rock Tha House program will happen under the bridge in Brewer Park and will feature a hip-hop show with rapper Masta Ace and female lyricist Jean Grae, who Reid says organizers were “stoked to lock in at the last minute as the other headliner”. A popping battle, which is a new addition this year, will also go down under the bridge on Friday and promises to showcase some solid dancers and crews from across the country. The signature all-ages family-friendly Main Event is once again being held on Saturday under Dunbar Bridge starting at noon and is sure to have something for everyone with 11 hours of solid programming. The day’s events will culminate with the breakdance battle finals for which “a band out of Brooklyn called Ikebe Shakedown has been tasked to premiere a 12-minute commissioned piece that they’ll perform live as the soundtrack to the final round,” Reid adds. It goes without saying that the local scene will get a chance to shine, having artists like DJs Magnificent, Danya D D-Mass and 2Creamz as well as spoken word all-stars The Recipe, emcees Missing LinX and lyricist Rita Carter representing the National Capital Region. HoP will conclude on Sunday with dance master classes and the “Each One Teach One” knowledge conference geared towards Ottawa’s urban arts community, for which Jean Grae will deliver the keynote address.
Simply put, House of PainT is an all-around positive, empowering, inspiring, educational, and unifying community event that continues to make a difference amongst the local cultural scene. Power to Ottawa’s urban arts and culture!
Image by James Park courtesy of House of PainT