Welcome to Art House! A unique landing spot for artists and art lovers alike. Art House opened as a cafe for artists to connect and find community back in 2017 but has over the years evolved into that and more with a diverse and overflowing gallery of original and print artworks, a gift shop for local goods and crafts, a bar lounge, and events venue. They have showcased hundreds of local artists including visual artists, musicians ranging from jazz to pop to ambient, drag performers, spoken word artists, photographers, and many more.
Their menu is just as inclusive as their events calendar with something for everyone! They serve gluten free/vegan baked goods, homemade vegan soups and salads, and a range of locally made sandwiches and other seasonal treats. Creativity can even be found in their coffee and cocktail menu as well with unique in-house made offerings like their Beetroot Latte and Smokey Lavender Old Fashioned.
Geneviève Bétournay, owner and creative director of the Art House and President of Studio La Mouche says that the cafe is an entry level point for artists and art lovers. She is hoping to have an impact in the community and on society. “We want to change the world through art!”
What’s it all about?
The Art House selects artists from diverse backgrounds, skill levels, and perspectives to showcase their work inside the 150 year old walls. It is literally an old house transformed into an inviting space where barriers can come down, masks can come off, and strangers can become friends.
Geneviève says “We have a diverse team in terms of background and lifestyles. We like to encourage the staff to really express themselves and experiment with who they are and how they want to show up in the world. The weirder the better!” The impact this cultural prerogative has had can be seen in the authentic and meaningful connections formed there everyday. “We like to encourage the expression of creativity through everything they do from the creation of new menu items, making the space more inviting and accessible, showing up as their shifts as their alter-egos, and maybe even sharing their art with the public for the first time.”
Geneviève comes from a background in Chemistry but her own unique and often difficult journey kept bringing her back to art, the perspectives it can offer and the potential it has to inspire courage and connectedness within her community. Running a multi-faceted business without a business degree has made her wonder if having that degree would have made things easier though. She didn’t have the benefit of a baseline understanding or education in how to do it. She just had to figure it out as she went along. “The stakes are high when you care so much about something. It’s important to be a good leader–you must get your ideas across effectively and keep your team in a good headspace and motivated about what you’re building. Without them, you don’t have much at all.”
The Pandemic: “How do you sell an experience if you can’t bring people into your space?”
Being in the hospitality sector during the pandemic had its unique challenges. Balancing the ever changing regulations with trying to keep the community and staff safe wasn’t always easy to navigate. Even with the financial assistance of the government, there was so much uncertainty. Staffing shortages, inflation, trying to manage staying open while doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
It has undoubtedly been one of the most difficult times Art House has faced in its 6 years of being open. Late 2022, things started to pick back up and people’s desire for connection, community, and art that can be shared together reignited. The Art House has always been and will continue to be more than just a place to have coffee, it’s an experience, and it’s nice to see that taking shape again now.
Geneviève talks about how Zenbooks has helped her run a business by keeping everything tidy and readily accessible. This has allowed her to have more free time and focus on the business. She talks about how nice it is to have someone she can rely on, appreciating quick and clear communications along with accommodation for her business’s specific needs. She says Zenbooks has also been helpful with financial advice as well as giving great insight. Book a free consultation with one of our accounting and tax experts today!
Geneviève believes in the growth that comes from making mistakes. “They are inevitable but learning from them is what makes people evolve.” The Art House celebrated their 6th anniversary on February 10th which also marks the launch of a whole bunch of new events, menu items, and offerings all under the mandate of art as a transformative act/experience. Now all that’s left is for you to come and see this Ottawa gem for yourself! Visit the Art House at 555 Somerset St W, Ottawa, ON K1R 5K1.