Spotlight on... Dharma Arts
By Ren Tomovcik

Dharma Arts

“Everything is connected” - so says the mantra of Ottawa-based online zine Dharma Arts.  And with one sharp, uber-creative team at the helm, it’s little wonder that this publication is forging connections, making waves, and inspiring tons of local artists along the way!

Dharma Arts Covers Dharma Arts is a non-profit venture, dedicated to connecting artists and creative communities with each other and with their audiences.  Founded by local DJ and arts patron Akash Sinha in spring of 2007, Dharma Arts hasn’t taken long to establish itself as one of the hottest arts initiatives in the capital. 

The Dharma philosophy is all about connections, providing artists with valuable exposure and opportunities and putting up-and-coming talent into the limelight. When creative people come together, great things happen, and that's exactly the kind of magic that's evident in every single one of the magazine's six issues to date.  With each new issue, published quarterly, the magazine's audience grows and new partnerships are made. 

Dharma Arts is staffed by a passionate team including designer-producer Kenji Toyooka, editors Shannon Beahen and Matthew Harrison, and photographer Ben Welland, and it's driven and powered by the growing Ottawa arts community.           

The interactive nature of this little online zine makes for a reader experience that’s way beyond the ordinary.  The pages feature movable and clickable elements, pop-up text, and inventive page layouts that seem to suck the reader right into the scene.

If you haven't had a chance to check it out yet, it's a must-read.  As you flip through the last of its pages, you'll find that you have to go back through it again just to make sure you've uncovered all its secrets! 

Crossing the sensory experience of paging through a glossy paper book with digital-age interactivity, Dharma Arts is definitely unique among e-zines. One popular regular feature, dubbed "Space Invaders," allows readers to take a 360-degree peek into artists’ workspaces - readers can alter their viewpoint and "spin around" to see the entire space, complete with notes on the quirky items to be found there!  The magazine also incorporates sound, often featuring downloadable content including playlists and audio poetry.

Dharma Arts 3D @ Raw Sugar
The arts come to life at Raw Sugar with the Dharma Arts 3-D event. 
Photos by Jessica Ruano.

Recently, Dharma Arts took their interactivity to a brand new level with their very first live event, Dharma Arts: 3-D.   The event was conceived as a representation of the magazine itself come to life, and true to its mission, Dharma Arts: 3-D featured DJs, spoken word performers, artists, and even extreme hairdressing!  The big event took place at Raw Sugar, a locally-owned independent cafe, just this February - and more live events are certainly on the cards for this unstoppable team.

The evolution of Dharma Arts has been an organic process, and one that will surely continue over the months to come. Its creators like to think of the publication as “a person who gets to explore Ottawa like any patron of the arts” - and oh, what a journey it’s been on so far!  Keep an eye out for the next issue, due out February 2009.

Putting local artists in the limelight...
Artist Jennifer Campbell, whose work and studio were featured in the last issue of Dharma Arts, now has a gallery show at La Petite Mort.  The Dharma Arts team were proudly a part of Jennifer’s first vernissage, and the whole community turned out to support her on her opening night.  Jennifer’s paintings are eclectic and edgy, illustrating her sharp-witted commentary on pervasive pop-culture images.                                    

Jennifer Campbell @ La Petite Mort

February 5th to 29th 
La Petite Mort Gallery
306 Cumberland Street   

Left: Jennifer Campbell, Bogart.
Oil on Board, 48" x 48", 2008.

Kenji Toyooka, designer-producer of Dharma Arts, speaks out:

"The real way any scene can hold its own is for the artists within it to share ideas on a regular basis.  There needs to be more inter-artist influence inside the city, rather than from outside the city.  Sharing can be both cooperative and competitive; both are excellent ways to breed creativity.  Moreover, an ideal forum for this to happen is through a publication, whether it is online or print. 

In the end, the best thing an artist can do for their scene is work on their skill, produce great art, and get it out there to be seen.  Oh, and not abandon that community of course!
  Often, the greatest inspiration for an artist is the work of another artist.  Acts that follow each other on the same stage influence each other naturally.  Dharma Arts strives to be that stage."


Visit the  Dharma Arts website to read the back issues and keep an eye out for the highly-anticipated new issue due out in February 2009.  Or join the Dharma Arts Facebook Group to find out about upcoming events!
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