Nadine, an actress, writer, blogger, and sex columnist living in Westboro, is about as engaging a personality as you will ever meet. An advocate for the arts and proponent of a bike-friendly city, Nadine has a lot of really interesting thoughts about the state of the arts community here in Ottawa, and her enthusiasm is both encouraging and catching.
I work in the city as an actor and a playwright, and during the day I work at Planned Parenthood Ottawa. I’m the program director for Insight Theatre there. I write a blog, and I write a sex advice column for Apt613. In my family life I have this amazing partner – he’s fantastic – and I have this crazy, hyper, awesomely weird little boy. In my spare time, just in the past year, I’ve gotten into running and this past summer I did a couple of triathlons. So that’s something that’s pretty new to me. I’m definitely not naturally athletic. I spend a lot of time online, and I’m kind of a social media junkie. That’s me in a nutshell!
How long have you lived in Ottawa?
I moved to Ottawa in September ’99, so it’s been 11 years. I kind of unexpectedly fell in love with Ottawa. When I moved here, it was right after I graduated from university, and I moved here with my partner because he had this random job offer that came up. We’re both from Toronto, so I think we had always assumed we would move back to Toronto. But we figured, hey, we’ll try Ottawa for a year and see what’s up… not really intending to stay. But we kind of got hooked on it. There was a lot here that worked for us, so we’ve been here ever since, and we’re really happy.
What keeps you here?
Ottawa for me kind of rides the line between what I like about an urban setting, but also what I like about a more rural setting. So, in terms of the urban setting I like having people and activity around me. Even simple things like having the sound of traffic outside my window, and being able to walk to a coffee shop, or walk to a neat little boutique, or walk to a restaurant and things like that. But I also like to do things like go hiking, or go apple picking, or go somewhere where I can see a lot of trees. Which can be a challenge – I mean, growing up in Toronto, Toronto itself is very large, and then there’s all the outlying suburbs. So what I was used to growing up was having to drive, like, two hours to get to somewhere that was really rural, where there were forests and actual hiking trails. We moved here in September, and I remember the first time we went hiking in Gatineau Park, and that just blew my mind! I mean, that’s just ten minutes away!
The other thing I like about Ottawa is that I always had this fantasy growing up in Toronto of what it would be like to live in a smaller town, and just to walk around and bump into people that you knew. That doesn’t happen very much in Toronto. Here, I’ll walk down the street and pretty much on a daily basis just randomly run into someone I know. Or, I’ll be listening to the CBC and they’ll be interviewing somebody and I’ll be like, “Oh, I know that person! How awesome!” So I feel an intimacy here in Ottawa that I just didn’t get growing up in Toronto.
How do you feel about the arts community in Ottawa?
I think we have a long way to go in terms of our visibility. I think that what our arts scene needs more than anything else is confidence. We need to embrace our local artists and really support them. As an artist myself, I feel like we really need the confidence to say that what we’re doing is as good as what anyone else is doing. We don’t need to emulate what other people are doing, because we have our own character, our own story and voices. We really need to just run with that. I think we’re going to be amazing. I’ve seen a lot of growth in the decade-plus that I’ve been here, but I think there’s a lot more growing to be done. I think there’s a core group of people who are really committed to making art happen in Ottawa. There’s the conventional path of starting out here and then, you know, there’s an exodus to Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver. There’s sort of the idea that if you really want to be a serious working artist you have to leave, and I don’t think it needs to be that way.
For your photos you chose the Wellington West strip. Can you talk about why that area is important to you?
I guess it’s more a sort of visceral, emotional reaction to it. I think I had lived in Ottawa for something like two years before I stumbled on Wellington West. I really, really love it here. I will often speak to people and there’s this sense of, you know, Ottawa is okay but it’s not what it could be. While I think it’s good to see the potential in a city, there’s a lot to value in this city. I’m really proud to live here, and I stay here by choice. Maybe if there were some kind of irresistible opportunity that came up somewhere else we would consider leaving, but that’s not anywhere in our plans because we’re really happy here. I think Ottawa is a magnificent city, and I don’t think it needs to be a Toronto or a Montreal or a Vancouver, I think it should be exactly what it is.