Urban art in Ottawa, Canada

The urban art scene in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, has truly taken off since I lived in the city 10 years ago.

When I visited Ottawa in September 2018, I happened upon dozens of new-to-me murals, sculptures, statues and installation pieces. At times, it seemed like there a was new public art work around almost every corner!

Below are a few of my favourite murals, encountered during my daily wanderings.

Aviator-kid dreams

How would it feel to soar over the Glebe neighbourhood with childlike glee? This mural captures the sensation perfectly, from the perspective of a capped and goggled child with one heck of an imagination. Look closely at the artists’ rendition of the Glebe and you might recognize some characteristic buildings. Find this mural along an alleyway east off Bank Street between Third and Fourth Avenues. (Artists: Dan Metcalfe and Pat Buck.)

Photo of soaring aviator child mural in the Glebe neighbourhood, Ottawa.

(Photo: Caroline Ross, The Road Home.)

Russian nesting dolls

On the south side of the same alleyway as the young aviator (above) stands this colourful, coy line of Russian nesting dolls. There are seven in total – each with her own unique expression – and they get smaller as you move down the alley. See them east off Bank Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues, in the Glebe neighbourhood. (Artists: Dan Metcalfe and Pat Buck.)

Photo of Russian nesting doll mural on Bank Street, Ottawa.

(Photo: Caroline Ross, The Road Home.)

Big-eyed kitty

Cat person? You’ll get a kick out of gazing into the hypnotizing baby blues of this larger-than-life cat curled onto the side of a house on Garland Street, just north of Armstrong Street, in the Hintonburg neighbourhood. (Artist unknown.)

Photo of cat mural on Garland Street, Ottawa.

(Photo: Caroline Ross, The Road Home.)

DJ Aqua-Liz

This cool kid with a lizard headdress looks like she should be spinning flowy tunes from inside her water-based cocoon — and since her real name remains a mystery, I’ve decided to call her “DJ Aqua-Liz.” Find DJ Aqua-Liz in Old Ottawa South, on the south side of The Cyclery building at 1115 Bank Street. (Artists: Ottawa Urban Arts.)

Photo of mural at 1115 Bank Street.

(Photo: Caroline Ross, The Road Home.)

Jumping fish staircase

The stairs at the west end of York Street in the Byward Market lead up to Major’s Hill Park, and for years they’ve also served as an urban canvas for various artists under the Art in the Capital program. The current mural — called Kwáshkwan-in!, which translates as Jump! in the Algonquin language — depicts six salmon leaping up a waterfall (a.k.a. the stairs) as they return to their spawning grounds to nurture the next generation. (Artist: Naomi Ratte, Peguis First Nation.)

Photo of "Jump!" fish mural on York Street steps.

(Photo: Caroline Ross, The Road Home.)

What I like most about this mural is that it’s painted only on the riser of each step — the top walking surfaces remain untouched. Which means that as you ascend the staircase, the mural breaks apart before your eyes (below). It’s kind of like the cycle of life: how various parts come together to form a coherent whole, depending on how and when you encounter them. Check out Jump! on the York Street steps until March 2019.

Closeup photo of fish mural on York Street steps.

(Photo: Caroline Ross, The Road Home.)

Want more Ottawa urban art?

For more images of, and information about, public art in Ottawa, visit:

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