September 28, 2022

“Portraits of the Ottawa Mission” Exhibition Tell Stories of Compassion, Care and Community

Paintings by renowned Canadian artist Karen Bailey highlight the work of Ottawa’s oldest emergency shelter to support vulnerable community members

OTTAWA, ON – The Ottawa Mission, Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) and renowned artist Karen Bailey have come together to bring the stories of the clients, employees, volunteers, service partners and donors of Ottawa’s oldest and largest homeless shelter in a new exhibition in the Sky Lounge of the OAG at 10 Daly Avenue entitled “Portraits of The Ottawa Mission”. The exhibition runs from September 30 – October 16.

As a nationally recognized artist with an impressive record of artistic excellence over four decades, Bailey has a strong focus on unrepresented individuals, communities, and why their stories are important. In this exhibition, Karen’s sensitive and empathetic brush has captured perfectly those who have turned to The Mission for help, those who have provided it, and the profound connections between them. The exhibition is comprised of 31 paintings completed over a period of 14 months.

“My goal as a painter is to shine a light on underrepresented people and behind the scenes workers. I’ve always wanted to do something with an organization that works with homeless people. The Ottawa Mission is an absolutely remarkable place. I had no idea that there was such a broad range of services available until I came there. And that’s what impresses me most of all,” Bailey noted.

“The Ottawa Mission wanted to get involved in this project because we wanted to highlight the people who are making a difference each and every day in our community,” stated Peter Tilley, Ottawa Mission CEO.

These 31 portraits extend a key principle of The Ottawa Mission: each person has inherent dignity by virtue of being human, and each person is worthy of unconditional acceptance, respect, attention and compassion. Through this exhibition, viewers discover their rich and meaningful stories together.

“Being brought into this project made us feel that our work was really appreciated,” stated Jesse Whynacht, Manager of Housekeeping for The Mission. “It’s nice to know that someone understands what we do and why it’s important,” said Andrew Wright, Assistant Manager of Housekeeping. Featured in a joint portrait situated in The Mission’s laundry, Jesse and Andrew have worked at The Mission for a total of 59 years.

Jean Wylie, who volunteers serving clients in the shelter’s kitchen notes the personal importance of this work to her. “At first, many clients are reluctant to even make eye contact with volunteers and staff. Over time, they come to trust you. Sharing a smile with someone who likely doesn’t get a lot of people smiling at them is an uplifting experience. I’m very grateful.”

As The Mission’s immediate neighbour across Waller Street on Daly, the Ottawa Art Gallery continuously showcases the critical importance of art in Ottawa to realize a sense of meaning, belonging and impact in everyday life. Through showing as well as telling the stories of The Mission and its place within the broader network of community and individual relationships, The Mission is delighted to build on its longstanding partnership with the Ottawa Art Gallery.

“Karen has honed her skill and reputation as a portrait artist with a notable commission by the 27th Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean, to a series on Canadian military medical personnel in Afghanistan through the Canadian Forces Artist Program, to exploring the working animal community through projects like Raising Stanley / Life With Tulia. Her portraits resonate because of her deep commitment to and respect for the individuals and communities she paints. The resulting artworks provide intimate and privileged perspective on the people and relationships that create a sense of belonging, while memorializing communities often overlooked,” said Ottawa Art Gallery Director and CEO Alexandra Badzak. “The Ottawa Art Gallery is honoured to collaborate with The Ottawa Mission and Karen Bailey in sharing these stories of resilience, dignity and care.”

“I’m absolutely delighted to be showing my work at the Ottawa Art Gallery. I’m so proud that my work is going to be shown there,” Bailey added.

“Karen’s stroke of genius is highlighted in each and every one of these portraits. It’s a gift to us, and to the community as a whole,” Tilley concluded.

About The Ottawa Mission
Since 1906, The Ottawa Mission has been serving the homeless, the hungry and the lost by providing food, clothing, shelter and skills. In 2019-2020, The Ottawa Mission provided emergency shelter to an average of 118 men every night and served an average of 2,570 meals every day. The Ottawa Mission also provides to men and women health services, mental health and addiction treatment programs, hospice care, dental services, housing services, educational support, job training, spiritual care, and clothing to thousands in need in our community. In September 2020, The Ottawa Mission marked the one millionth hour that the shelter has been in existence since its founding in 1906. In 2019, the Mission became a housing-focused shelter reflective of its commitment to a home for everyone as a human right with the launch of a new housing department.

About the Ottawa Art Gallery
The Ottawa Art Gallery is situated on traditional Anishinābe Aki and is Ottawa’s municipal art gallery and cultural hub. Located in Ottawa’s downtown core, the expanded Gallery is a contemporary luminous cube designed by KPMB Architects and Régis Côté et associés.

Aileen Leo
Director of Communications
The Ottawa Mission
T. 613.234.1144 x 305
C. 613-712-3092

Véronique Couillard
Officer, Media, Public and Francophone Relations
Ottawa Art Gallery
T 613-291-1358