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Exploring Street Art and Murals in Ottawa by Bike or Escooter

Published: March 22, 2022
Last updated: March 22, 2022
Discover Ottawa street arts with Escape scavenger hunt city exploration games on bike, ebike or scooters

Street art, murals, and an infamous artist hunting for the canvas to make his next masterpiece. This scavenger hunt has it all!

The story begins with internationally infamous artist EgoNibi, a fictional artist from the equally fictional nation of Tunam. As he searches for the place where he will display his new mural, you will follow along and discover the urban gallery we call Downtown Ottawa.

We love the National Gallery of Canada and the Ottawa Art Gallery! But today we want to shine a light on the urban artists that decorate our neighbourhoods with colour as we take to the streets for our latest scavenger hunt. 

Join us as we dive into the controversy and celebration of Ottawa’s street art in our latest scavenger hunt: Through the Eyes of a Street Artist!

If you missed our previous blog post with the Introduction to our scavenger hunt City Games, make sure to check it out and learn more about how the games work!

House of Paint

Where are the best murals in town? Ask the folks at House of Paint and you will find a world of art around every corner of the city.

House of Paint was created in 2003 by Sabra Ripley and the dream of a legal graffiti wall for local artists. An inaugural event organized by Ripley and a few of her friends attracted 150 participants, and with that House of Paint was born.

The festival became an annual event that invites people to “take it to the streets” in a celebration of urban arts with dance, music, poetry, and (of course) street art. We reached out to our good friends at House of paint when we thought of the idea of a street art scavenger hunt and they painted us a picture of the Ottawa art scene.

House of Paint has developed the most complete map of murals, graffiti, tags, and street art in Ottawa! The map is constantly being updated so even if you’ve seen it before you need to check it out! 

At the click of a mouse, you can visit art all around the city. With photos and information about almost every mural, tag, and graffiti you can find it is a great tool to help plan your next urban exploration!

Graffiti and the Law

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Law paints urban street art in Ottawa in a less than flattering light.

It is no surprise that ByLaw Officers and Urban Artists do not always see eye to eye. To the City of Ottawa “graffiti is a public nuisance”. And lengthy bylaws “prohibit the placement of graffiti on property and … require property be kept free of graffiti”. 

So how does Ottawa maintain such a vibrant and active art scene?

The ironic answer is, at least in part, is the City of Ottawa itself invests in street art. The City has found numerous ways to support artists in telling the stories of our community including a project called Paint it Up! 

Since its inception in 2010, Paint it Up! has involved more than 2,754 youth aged 12 to 25. There have been close to 90 mural projects across the city supported by an average grant of $5,000.

Are you or someone you know an artist looking for support and resources for your next big project?  You will find the application process, information and more online.

Voice of the Voiceless

With our new insights, we grabbed our bikes to search for the best murals in Ottawa. As the list of our favourite street art installations grew we noticed that there was a theme to the art in the capital.

You will notice that many of the pieces we are celebrating are born from underground culture and protest movements. Street art is incredibly powerful to give a voice to the voiceless and allow for ideas, and emotions to be expressed in bright, vivid colours. Nowhere is that more evident than at the McNabb Community Centre where you will find a tribute to Black Lives Matter #BLM movement and murdered trans women of colour.

This bright, hopeful tribute was made by Ottawa artist Kalkidan Assefa. 

The mural is painted on plywood and hangs almost 2 stories in the air on the side of the building. Looking at this beautiful work of art you might ask yourself, why did they hang it so high up on the wall

The sad reality is that this is not the first time Kalkadan has painted this important piece of art. The original had been defaced in the night. In an interview with the CBC, he spoke about the destruction of his art.

“People would think that [this] really upsets me, but it doesn’t. It honestly just kind of empowers me to keep doing the work.” – Kalkidan Assefa (CBC Ottawa Interview

Kakidan is one of the many real artists you will meet during your game.

What to expect from the scavenger hunt?

While playing, you will learn about artists such as Kalkidan Assefa (@drippin_soul ), Dan Metcalf (@thehigherups),  and Mique Michelle (@miquemichelle) Each of these talented artists have a unique perspective and a distinct art style that you can spot from a mile away!

You will explore street art across 4 downtown Ottawa neighbourhoods: the Golden Triangle, Centertown, Little Italy, and Chinatown. While you hunt for clues, you will travel through interesting routes, streets, and local neighbourhoods. 

The challenges are fun and varied to keep you engaged and guessing. You are going to love this street art tour of Ottawa.

The story focuses on EgoNibi, a fictitious legendary street artist from the equally fictitious country of Tunam. Together you will hunt for the site for the next masterpiece… The only problem? Secret agents from Tunam are hot on your tail trying at all cost to stop you and censor the art! 

Do you have what it takes to evade the Secret Police and bring your message to the masses? 

Are you ready to start your journey? Start seeing Ottawa: Through the Eyes of a Street Artist!

Try It Today!!!

If you like to try these games with a bike or an electric kick scooter, you can rent them from us and get a 10% discount. Check out our Ottawa bike and scooter rental rates here and use promo code [ESCAPEGAME22] when booking your rental.

Escape Tours and Rentals thanks Ottawa Tourism and the Destination Development Fund for their support of the Escape Tours and Rentals Self-Guided City Games.

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