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(L-R) Glowzi, Maylee Todd, LuCille are all performing at Pique's Spring Edition.

Pique Is Keeping Art and Community in The Spotlight

The Ottawa-based festival returns with its spring edition, featuring local and international music, visual arts and education. 

by Ozioma Nwabuikwu

From March 8 to 10, the Arts Court in Canada’s capital city will come alive at Pique, the quarterly event series produced by Ottawa-based arts and culture presenters Debaser — but on this particular night, the focus is on its supporters behind the scenes. 

Debaser only has three full-time employees, but the non-profit regularly engages the community through enlisting volunteers, artists, and guest curators. At the beginning of the year, they hold a Community Appreciation party to thank volunteers and other community contributors. RANGE was recently invited to attend and hear what Pique’s contributors had to say about the event described as ”the best Ottawa has to offer.” 

Ethereal music, soft lighting and a projection of a YouTube video of cats doing everyday things greet me when I arrive. Rachel Weldon, Pique’s executive director, serves at the bar and offers me a drink. Along the walls, I see free food and Debaser merch–aka my kind of party. 

The volunteers I meet are warm and from different backgrounds, but they’re all like-minded in purpose. They are excited about the local arts scene, involved in music creation or promotion, eager to be exposed to different art forms and underground artists. 

Navin, a music industry professional who just moved to the city, tells me “Anyone who appreciates art will find something [at Pique].” Pique also has a great relationship with their fellow Ottawa arts organizations. Howard Adler, co-director of the annual Indigenous arts festival, Asinabka, is having a great time and tells me, “[Debaser] knows how to treat people.” This much is clear, since volunteers and other contributors keep coming back and the company’s programming each season is increasingly diverse, thoughtful and expansive. 

Don’t just take their word for it, either–I had a great time at my first-ever Pique last December. No act was the same and I was pleasantly overwhelmed with choices: should I go to an experimental DJ set on the third floor, or experience the thought-provoking art installations on the first floor? At Pique, accessibility is the name of the game, so volunteers are always readily available to assist. 

Maria Chavez

This year’s schedule is bigger and better, with three days filled with art and music. The schedule will include the return of Topique, a series of artist talks and presentations. This  year’s theme notably leans towards electronic music, and I’m most excited to see Vodou-Electro innovator Val Jeanty and avant-garde turntablist Maria Chávez perform as well as present a workshop on “Abstract Turntablism and Afrofuturism.” 

This year’s festival is also partly dedicated to the memory of Pauline Oliveros, one of the foremost electronic and experimental music pioneers. There will be a screening of Daniel Weintraub’s documentary, Deep Listening: The Story Of Pauline Oliveros, along with a Q&A and a chance to create using Oliveros’ creation principles (presented by Anne Bourne). Katie Manners, Debaser’s Programming Manager, informs me that the festival will also have some of Oliveros’ peers and coworkers present. When asked about the importance of Oliveros’ inclusion in the festival, she says that it represents the queer electronic/experimental scene and “weird queer kids making weird music.”

Debaser’s plans for 2024 are simple: “We’re not trying to grow bigger, we’re trying to grow better,” says Weldon. Accessibility and sustainable community investment are inherent to Debaser’s mission. They also hope to keep growing their relationships with international artists. This year’s Pique already feels like a resounding success, and I can’t wait to experience this labour of love.  

There’s so much more to be discovered, so visit thisispique.com for the full schedule, location details and ticketing information. Debaser offers tickets on a sliding scale of $25-50 via Eventbrite or PWYC by registration. Tune into Pique online at youtube.com/debasertv.