Take a first look inside new Ottawa Art Gallery expansion

While the art in Ottawa's new art gallery is not yet installed, construction on the building is largely complete. We take a look inside the $34 million renovation.

'We're finally coming of age,' says gallery director

Gallery director and CEO Alexandra Badzak stands at a group entrance that leads to the OAG’s Jackson café, a studio for student programs and a staircase that leads to the main gallery. (Sandra Abma/CBC News)

Ottawa's new art gallery has plenty of airy spaces, natural light and much more room for art and social activities. 

CBC got a sneak peek of the new Ottawa Art Gallery this week. And while the art is not yet installed, construction on the building — set to open on April 28 — is largely complete. 

The Ottawa Art Gallery has undergone a $34 million renovation, now with four times the gallery space. Take a tour of some of the changes. 3:11

The $34-million renovation spans five floors and features more than 5,000 square metres of exhibit space including permanent and contemporary galleries.

It also includes studios, storage areas and the new Jackson café, a place "where people can have a glass of wine, some tapas and talk about art," said OAG director and CEO Alexandra Badzak.

The secondary entrance off Daley Ave. will open onto the OAG’s brand new Jackson café, named for the Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson. (Sandra Abma/CBC News)
Alexandra Badzak shows off the Spencerville Gallery, which will exhibit Ottawa contemporary artists. (Sandra Abma/CBC News)

The expansion will show the art world that Ottawa has come of age, Badzak said.

"We're finally playing in the same sandbox as other key municipal and regional galleries across Canada," she said.

The large multi-purpose space will host social functions and become the new home for screenings by the Canadian Film Institute and the Ottawa International Animation Festival. (Sandra Abma/CBC News)

The OAG was slated to open in autumn of 2017, but that was pushed back due to construction delays. 

"Like any big project we saw it getting more and more complicated," said Badzak. "Hooking a new building into a historic building has some complications to it."

A purpose-built ground-floor storage area will allow the gallery to expand its collection. (Sandra Abma/CBC News)

When the expansion opens, the first show will cover 6,500 years of art making in the local area, including 193 historical and contemporary works of art by 181 artists.

The exhibition will have three titles: Àdisòkàmagan, Nous connaître un peu nous-mêmes, We'll all become stories, and will fill three floors of gallery space.

It's important for the region to have a gallery to showcase the great artists who work here, Badzak said. 

"The artists in this area will finally have a space that is worthy of their talent," Badzak said.

The main entrance will feature the original staircase from the Firestone residence. The Ottawa family's collection forms the foundation of the gallery. (Sandra Abma/CBC News)