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Ottawa's unofficial 'home away from home' for Inuit becomes documentary subject

Historians are looking to tell the story of how a modest motel near Ottawa's airport became a popular spot for Inuit visiting Canada's capital city.

Canada 150 funding to support artistic memorial to Ottawa's Southway Inn

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      It's well known to Inuit, but likely a mystery to many Ottawa visitors: why did a modest motel near the capital's airport fly the Nunavut flag?

      At the end of May, the Southway Inn hosted its last visitors and officially became the Waterford Retirement Residence. 

      Now, Ronald Rudin, an historian from Concordia University, is hoping to preserve the story and share it with all Canadians. 

      "I came up on this idea for the [Lost Stories] project, which seeks out little known stories from the public," said Rudin. 

      The Southway Inn is one of four stories which will be told in short documentaries and with a public art installation next year. 

      Rudin says the idea is to not only tell people about the building, but also document the process of the artist "puzzling through" how to represent the story in an art piece. 

      "It has a certain reality-TV vibe to it." 

      The project has already finished its first story about the man who created Montreal's first school for the deaf.

      A 'home away from home'

      Historians at Carleton University first introduced Rudin to the Southway Inn, which he immediately found to be "an amazing story." 

      The Southway Inn hosted its last visitors in May, then officially became the Waterford Retirement Residence. (Submitted by the Southway Inn)
      Inuit from Nunavut's Baffin Region frequent Ottawa for vacations, shopping trips and to visit relatives seeking medical treatment or long-term care

      The Southway Inn, which opened in 1958, became a meeting spot for Inuit. 

      Rudin says the Lost Stories Project will speak to the hotel's owners, as well as people who visited it over the years. 

      "The family that has owned it for decades was willing to participate in our project and provide space, visible to passers-by, where public art could be built," he said.

      He's even heard about a story about some preliminary negotiations surrounding the creation of Nunavut taking place at the building located at the corner of Bank Street and Hunt Club Road.

      Seeking artist

      The Lost Stories Project is looking for an artist who can create a public art piece inspired by the Southway Inn.

      "One of our goals in the project, is trying to watch the artist trying to figure out what to do," Rudin said. "So the application project is actually very simple, in the sense that we're not asking for drawings."

      Artists of any medium can send their application to historylost@concordia.ca by the end of next week, including a cover letter outlining their interest in the project and any personal connection to the Southway Inn, a CV and some examples of their previous work. 

      Funding for the project is being provided by the Canada 150 Fund. 

      The chosen artist will receive $2,000 for exhibition rights and a $10,000 budget for supplies and materials.

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