Dear fellow senior artists and arts workers,

How are you coping with the pandemic? For many of us in the arts, things are precarious at the best of times, when worries about making the rent, getting the next contract, and staying healthy are always top of mind.

In the past few months, COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on some of the most vulnerable in our society, which includes many arts workers struggling to get by on an average income of $18,000 annually. For those aged 55+, the numbers are even bleaker. That was made painfully obvious when, in partnership with the Ottawa Arts Council and the Ottawa Community Foundation, PAL Ottawa (though an anonymous PAL Ottawa donor) was able to recently provide 50 emergency grants of $900 apiece to senior arts workers (but had to turn down scores more, again indicating the significant need that exists for such assistance).

At PAL Ottawa, we are proud to engage in work that is consistent with the mandate of the United Nations  Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha, who declared last month that “Housing has become the front line defence against the coronavirus. Home has rarely been more of a life or death situation.”

At a time when, more than ever, affordable housing is clearly a social determinant of public health (and when the City of Ottawa has declared homelessness and lack of affordable housing an emergency), we are pleased to share the news that we’re engaged in significant discussions with development partners to construct 80 units of affordable, accessible housing for arts workers aged 55+, with a projected opening of 2023 in central Ottawa.

Creating a space for senior arts workers to continue contributing to the cultural fabric of our communities – because they are living in safe and affordable housing and with a community of like-minded souls – is not only good for the residents, but also for the city. Our Supporting Cast team is also available to assist those who need some help with daily challenges, a form of mutual aid that we have seen springing up in many communities during the present crisis.

Application List Now Open

PAL Ottawa is now accepting applications for this unique live/work residence, providing its tenants access to lower rents, a good working environment, and a place to exhibit their theatrical, musical, visual art, and related work. Similar live/work arts hubs in Vancouver and Toronto have become jewels in their communities, where inter-generational gatherings celebrating the arts have made these communities highly desirable accommodations with years-long waiting lists.

While the PAL Ottawa live/work residence is intended for those aged 55+, arts workers of any age can apply so that they maintain a place on the waiting list for when they turn 55 or older. That’s the kind of peace of mind that provides many younger arts workers the assurance that they will have care and protection in later years, encouraging them to keep doing the theatre, music, writing, visual art, filmmaking, or arts administration work they dearly love but which too often cannot provide the kind of wages that would keep them in the city.

As mentioned, the PAL Toronto and Vancouver residences have years-long waiting lists, but in Ottawa, we are currently accepting applications, and strongly encourage you to submit one as soon as possible. (You can move down the Waiting List if you’re not quite ready to move in. Or if fortune smiles on you, you can give your space to the next fellow arts worker in line!)

Housing Needs Survey

In addition to applying to become part of the PAL Ottawa live/work residence, we hope you will also share our current housing needs survey, which will continue bolstering our case that this high priority project must hit the ground as soon as conditions improve. The survey, in English and French, is available at:

Take care of yourselves, and let’s keep this conversation going.