During the pandemic, when galleries and restaurants have been shuttered, two Facebook groups have helped emerging artists connect and support each other in Ottawa.
Algonquin artist Peter Purdy started the Art Source Ottawa page seven years ago as a way to encourage and support young and emerging artists in the region.
"I thought originally would only be a few acquaintances I knew within its community," said Purdy, whose group now features more than 1,100 artists.
"It grew like wildfire."
As the president of the Ottawa chapter of Art Battle, and the curator of amateur art shows at Centretown restaurant Atomic Rooster, Purdy has an established track record of supporting other artists.
He said his Facebook group quickly turned into a forum where artists could post images of their work, as well as share advice and tips about art-making techniques, and cheer each other on.
"I realized that there was very few places for us to share our information about the smaller shows in the capital region, be it restaurants and cafés and smaller galleries," said Purdy.
He also posted notices about funding opportunities and articles on how to apply and navigate government websites.
"When I first started in the arts all that kind of information was being kept pretty close to the chest by professional artists in the city," said Purdy. "We have been trying to break down barriers."
'So positive and hopeful'
Artist Catherine Gutsche says her Facebook group, Ottawa Artists, has grown to almost 5,000 active members with up to 20 posts a day.
With galleries closed, Gutsche says artists been shared more, and gathered online at virtual vernissages.
"It's so positive and hopeful," said artist An Nguyen. "Just what we need during the pandemic."
Nguyen says she likes how the artist-run forums exchange ideas and information
Before the pandemic, Nguyen said Art Source Ottawa helped attract fellow artists and the public to her art shows, but lately it's boosted online sales of her colourful geometric paintings.
"If you look at a lot of galleries a lot of them carry art by white men," said Nguyen.
"I'm a racialized artist ... it's really important for me to have my art out there to be [a] voice for other artists from my community."
Purdy said while artists wait for galleries and arts festivals to return, he hopes Facebook groups will encourage their creative output.
"If you are at home, maybe now is the time to experiment with a new body of work. Maybe this could be a blessing in disguise."