New Ottawa art hub opens on Somerset

Ottawa’s arts community welcomed the Art House Café with open arms on Feb. 10. The opening of the art space comes after the closing of Raw Sugar and the Daily Grind cafés on Somerset.

Co-founders Geneviève Bétournay and Josiah Beaton only met less than a year ago through a mutual friend, but Bétournay said they got along well right from the beginning.

“We had the same intentions, the same motivation and the same kind of space in mind so it was kind of a perfect fit,” Bétournay said.

In the six months since they bought the house, the space has undergone a big transformation. The main floor is adorned with modern light fixtures hanging from the ceiling and fancy blue-cushioned chairs for patrons to sit in.

Art made by local artists decorates the walls of the spacious sitting rooms in the café. Each piece is unique and ranges in price, size, and style.

Beaton, who has previous experience in the restaurant industry, is in charge of the café. He said he makes an effort to shop locally, and the café features Ottawa-made products from Happy Goat Coffee Company and Holy Cannoli. The café also sells a range of herbal and bubble teas and kombucha, which comes in a variety of flavours.

Bétournay’s experience running art exhibits and her pop-up shop, called Studio la Mouche, puts her in charge of the artist aspects of the Art House Café.

“I felt comfortable taking this one on. I don’t know if there’s anyone more qualified in the city to do this sort of thing,” Bétournay said.

She said the art being sold on the walls will be changed every three months in accordance with the seasons. The next season will run from March to May, and anyone is welcome to submit their portfolios for review on the café website.

The Art House Café will be hosting a wide variety of events, and will also be renting out two rooms that can be used as studio space. Other aspects of the space are still in progress, like the gift shop, but the co-founders said they hope to get it up and running sometime in March.

Community member Serge Gaiotti came by on the first day, and he said he predicts the project will be a success.

“Artists need this kind of space,” Gaiotti said.

Bétournay said she hopes to draw the Ottawa art community into the public eye.

We want to bring it up to the surface, because a lot of the time non-artists in Ottawa don’t know where to look for that sort of thing,” Betournay said. “I want to spread art to as many people, places and surfaces as I can.” 

– Photo is provided.