Community·CREATIVE Q&A

'I like to think of creativity as resourcefulness': Meet Ottawa artist Marisa Gallemit

Marisa Gallemit was the CreativeMornings Ottawa speaker for the month of September. We asked her to answer a few questions by email about creativity in her career and her city.

CBC Ottawa is proud to partner with CreativeMornings Ottawa

Marisa Gallemit, an Ottawa-based visual artist, was September's CreativeMornings Ottawa speaker, exploring the theme of 'muse' at the Ottawa Art Gallery on Friday, September 27. (John Finnigan Lin)

If you're an early riser and a creative thinker in the Ottawa area, you might've heard of the CreativeMornings breakfast series. 

With chapters in more than 200 cities around the world — from Oslo to Ottawa — CreativeMornings hosts free, monthly events for the creative community, featuring a short talk and a bite to eat. Each month's talk has a global theme, such as: courage, honesty or tradition. September's theme was 'muse.' 

Ottawa has been hosting gatherings since 2012, welcoming speakers from such varied occupations as psychologists, architects, artisanal sign painters and brew masters.

CBC Ottawa is proud to partner with CreativeMornings Ottawa to share creative Q&As and conversations with the community. CBC Ottawa and CreativeMornings Ottawa will soon announce a special event coming this fall. Stay tuned for details! 

The theme of muse is good reminder that acting and thinking creatively is sexy and fun, and that we can easily incorporate this ethos into our contemporary quotidian habits.- Marisa Gallemit

The speaker for the month of September was Ottawa-based visual artist, Marisa Gallemit. 

We asked Gallemit to answer a few questions by email about creativity in her life and her city. 

Her answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

Q: How does creativity play a role in your life and career?    

I like to think of creativity as resourcefulness. It can mean substituting olive oil for butter when I'm cooking, or mending clothes with Japanese boro stitches. When it comes to my art practice, this same resourcefulness helps me to figure out how to make things and gives me the confidence to try (almost) anything. 

I make a lot of sculpture with found objects or discarded objects, so sometimes it takes imagination and guile to give these elements a second life.

Q: Why do you think the CreativeMornings theme "muse" is important to talk about in Ottawa?  

I think the concept of the muse is a beautiful allegory of the creative process.  

The pace and protocols of life in our capital city might swindle us out of being excited about ideation or a romantic idea of creating art.

The theme of muse is good reminder that acting and thinking creatively is sexy and fun, and that we can easily incorporate this ethos into our contemporary quotidian habits.

Q: What's one piece of creative advice or a tip you wish you could tell your younger self?

Be bold and say less. 

Q: When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?  

First, I call my partner, Nicholas, to moan about how I'm stuck. He is always kind but firm.

Then I'll listen to Alice Coltrane's Reflections on Creation and Space (A Five Year View) or anything by Shabazz Palaces.

Then I'll move my body — do some yoga postures, pushups, squats — and get my blood moving.

Q: What makes Ottawa a creative city? 

Ottawa is special because it's got a small town mentality despite the fact that our population hovers around the million people mark.

The arts community is tiny, so it's not unusual to have friends who are Griffin Prize judges, curators at the National Gallery, JUNO award winners and others who are just starting their arts practice. 

What I find inspiring in Ottawa right now is witnessing how BIPOC [black, Indigenous, people of colour] and marginalized creatives make space for themselves in the arts community. 

Organizations like Qu'Art (Queer Arts Collective), Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival, Possible Worlds and Cinqhole are forging ahead with community programming that centres diversity. It's giving me hope for this conservative city.


Visit the CreativeMornings Ottawa Facebook page for a visual recap of Marisa's talk. The next CreativeMornings Ottawa will take place on Friday, October 18. Keep checking creativemornings.com/cities/ott for details.