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Facing climate change with musical instruments made of ice

February 5, 2019

Press Release

OTTAWA – February 5th, 2019 – The Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) presents the work of award-winning percussionist, visual artist and instrument builder Jesse Stewart. The exhibition Jesse Stewart: Icebreaking will also feature works by members of the Group of Seven and other Firestone Collection of Canadian Art artists such as Franklin Carmichael, Lawren S. Harris and Claude Picher, under the theme of transformed landscapes and environmental changes. It opens with a free reception open to the public Saturday, February 9, 2019 from 2 PM – 4 PM in the Firestone Gallery at 10, Daly Avenue, and will run from February 9 to June 23rd, 2019.

Drawing inspiration from works in the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art (FCCA), Ottawa-based artist Jesse Stewart examines the role of industry on climate change, as well as the related disappearance of ice.  The exhibition includes artworks from the FCCA highlighting industrial activities such as mining and smelting in Ontario’s Great Lakes region, as well as annual icebreaking to clear shipping channels along the St. Lawrence River. Stewart’s work, in turn, seeks to emphasize renewable resources. His use of reclaimed materials, including wood, glass, and plastic, stresses the necessity of upcycling in the face of accelerated toxic manufacturing and consumer consumption.

Reflecting on the global ramifications of local pollution, Stewart also looks to melting glaciers and polar ice caps. Depictions of northern landscapes from the Firestone Collection have been paired with Glacialis (2010-19), a video of Stewart using percussive instruments made of ice (sound excerpt here). We feel a sense of urgency and ephemerality as it becomes evident that Stewart’s music will end when the instruments melt. As we currently sit at an environmental tipping point, it is necessary to contemplate the reverberations of our collective and individual actions on the local ecology in the age of the Anthropocene.

Jesse Stewart: Icebreaking is part of Firestone Reverb, a series of exhibitions in which contemporary artists engage with the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art. The OAG houses and presents this collection through changing exhibitions that highlight its breadth and diversity.

Jesse Stewart is an award-winning composer, percussionist, visual artist, instrument builder, educator, and community activist. His audio-visual installation-based work crosses disciplinary boundaries, exploring the link between the visual and the sonic arts. He mainly composes for percussion, found objects and instruments of his own design. He is an active performer, and has facilitated dozens of inclusive music and art workshops throughout Canada and internationally. He is currently a professor at Carleton University’s School for Studies in Art and Culture and an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa.

Listing information

Location and contact:
Ottawa Art Gallery
50 Mackenzie King Bridge, Ottawa, ON, K1N 0C5, CANADA
613.233.8699 |

Exhibition Title and Artists:
Jesse Stewart: Icebreaking
With the work of Jesse Stewart, Franklin Carmichael, Alan Collier, Lawren S. Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Claude Picher, Philip Surrey

Exhibition Dates:
February 9 – June 23, 2019


9 AM to 9 PM daily (except holidays)

Free Childcare:
Wednesdays from 3 PM to 7 PM

Opening Reception:
Saturday, February 9, 2019, from 2 PM to 4 PM
Free and open to the public

Family Day at the Ottawa Art Gallery
Monday, February 18, 2019, from 11 AM to 3 PM
50 Mackenzie King Bridge Lobby
Join family and friends at OAG for a drop-in activity inspired by Jesse Stewart’s Icebreaking exhibition in the lobby at 50 Mackenzie King Bridge and gallery tours on the hour.
Suitable for all ages. Free.

Dropbox Icebreaking Press Kit:

For media enquiries:
Véronique Couillard
Public and Media Relations Manager
613-233-8699 +244

About the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG)
OAG 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.


OAG is Open from 10 AM to 6 PM Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday | from 10 AM to 9 PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Admission is always FREE. Register for Summer Art Camps!