From its inception in 1973, the artist-run centre SAW has supported politically and socially engaged art, focusing on the performance and media arts. Many of the world’s best-known artists have exhibited at SAW in the early stages of their careers. Begun by a group of local artists, the centre was originally part of the legendary café Le Hibou on Sussex Drive, hence the name SAW, an acronym for Sussex Annex Works. In 1981, the centre founded the SAW Video cooperative to support independent video artists and documentarists. During this time, the centre also initiated Club SAW, which has become the most important multidisciplinary space in the region. In 1989, SAW Gallery, SAW Video and Club SAW moved into the historic Arts Court building. Since 2001, SAW Video, now called the Digital Arts Resource Centre, has operated as a distinct organization no longer legally affiliated with SAW, although both share a home at Arts Court and continue to collaborate on many projects.
In 2019, as part of the City of Ottawa’s Arts Court Redevelopment project, SAW expanded over two levels within Arts Court and tripled its space to 15,000 square feet. In addition to expanded exhibition spaces, the new SAW features a state-of-the-art live performance venue, a new circumpolar artistic research space called the Nordic Lab and an outdoor courtyard completely renovated for the presentation of summer festivals and events.
SAW aims to become a premier artist-run centre in Canada and the world, engaging in innovative programming, outreach and exchange initiatives. With over 30,000 visitors each year, SAW is a prime destination in the Ottawa-Gatineau region for contemporary art.