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This article can be found in Issue 3 (p34) of Vhcle Magazine.
2010: A Truly Canadian Collective...
 
 
 
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The Canadian city of London, Ontario, is fast becoming an influential starting ground for new musicians. From Basia Bulat to Shad K, the city has seen its fair share of talent recognized on the world stage. With London continuing to generate its own scene and holding a wide variety of music and art-inspired events, the current culture was primed for musical growth. However, even with a growing support for local music, the city still seemed to lack a unifying body or group to gather and promote these talented musicians. Enter the Open House Arts Collective – a group of seven young musicians who have formed their own 'cottage industry' by holding live music and art events, and releasing new music on their independent record label.
 
The formation of this 'collective' started with a chance meeting on November 22, 2008 at a locally-organized Beatles White Album tribute show. Due to the overwhelming success of the Beatles tribute show, plans for creating this group soon progressed. The showcased artists (who would eventually form the Collective) all saw how creating a group could immediately benefit the city by organizing and promoting new music. With a vision for an identity that would bring the needs of London's musical community together, the Open House Arts Collective was formed. The group became official on January 15, 2009 with the launch of a website and the groundwork for a soon-to-be-released compilation CD.
 
After sitting down with key group members Olenka Krakus, Andrew James, Paterson Hodgson, and Sam Allen, I was able to better understand how this vision became a reality. “We really just started from the ground up, and we didn't know a thing manufacture-wise; we basically learned an entire trade from scratch,” says Andrew James of The Whipping Wind. With a philosophy focused on helping local bands gain exposure, Open House released its first compilation CD of material from a core group of up-and-coming bands, including A Horse and His Boy, Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, and The Whipping Wind. “The compilation really came out of [the Beatles Tribute show] and it was really the starting point for what we wanted to accomplish,” says Olenka Krakus of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers.
 
The support from the London community was astonishing, with articles from The London Free Press and interviews from local radio stations being broadcast throughout the city.  The once small group of musicians had started a movement, one that was rich in both musical talent and community pride. With local venues and respected record stores helping Open House gather funds, the Collective was able to take shape and bring about an idea of helping the not only talented, but uncelebrated local musicians.
 
Open House continued to network, sponsor local shows, and bring talent from London together with bands from all over Canada. The first real experience of this on a large level was the Collective’s weekend-long indie festival (now in its second year) titled Oh! Fest. Oh! Fest was initiated to reveal Canadian talent and create an environment where artists could meet and connect with other artists throughout the country. “The music scene – it’s all one big web – and Canada has the biggest web. We just want to support the city, and do the best we can to contribute,” says Olenka.  
 
 
 
As Open House continued to grow and develop, the focus of the group began to switch from promoting events to releasing albums. The Collective continued to be active within the music and art scene, holding events whenever possible, but the members of Open House all felt that the group needed to shift into a new phase of recording and releasing music and it began to focus on producing material for the record label, pushing the number of releases on Oh! Records to six within the first year. When asked about how Open House begins a recording process, the overwhelming response centered on the importance of building a relationship with the artists. “We just love to support the community, and support musicians that are focused on making good music,” says Olenka. Due to the vast familiarity within the Canadian music scene, other bands began to flock to London's quaint venues, giving Open House a strong reputation for supporting quality Canadian music.
 
While Open House has enjoyed widespread critical success from hosting Oh! Fest and releasing numerous records, it has not translated financially. Open House does not make a single penny on recording or holding events. Instead, they use any excess money generated from these events to put on and lower the cost of future events. Just as these events are not motivated by financial concerns, the record label is also against promoting solely for financial benefit. “The label does not 'type-cast' specific bands – we don't want to limit ourselves to one genre, we just want to put out good music,” says Andrew James. Their unchanging philosophy has been vital throughout their growth and development as a record label, blossoming Open House into a recognizable brand in London for recording and releasing top-tier talent. Despite the switch towards the record label, Open House still maintains the same level of high quality music and art-based events throughout London and uses this as a way to showcase the talent that the record label is helping produce.
 
Oh! Records recently released its seventh major album, Montreal-based The Winks’ Twilights. The release marked the very first non-London collaboration for the Open House Arts Collective, as well as the label’s first international distribution. Handsome Dan and his Gallimufray’s album Provincial Parks and Breaking Hearts came out soon after, and there are upcoming releases planned from Olenka and the Autumn Lovers, The Whipping Wind, and A Horse and His Boy.
 
With all this added focus on releasing and marketing new bands and albums, it doesn't seem possible for Open House to have the time for other art-centered events. However, the Collective is looking to soon produce and market a set of locally-designed silk-screen posters in a documented series, incorporating designs from members of the group and other artists. But the Collective doesn't limit itself to music and design – it also hopes to soon partner with local photographers to exhibit work in a studio or gallery setting. So how does one Collective do so many things? The answer lies in the group’s understanding for development and creativity. “We try to foster support for each other, and encourage one another to try new things, new ideas that we are passionate about,” says Paterson Hodgson of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers.
 
There are many different developments and ideas waiting to take root within London Ontario. The Open House Arts Collective might never fully reach every goal they've set for themselves, but they are certainly not scared to try, to reach out and to experience new forms of expression and creativity. More and more, students are beginning to recognize just how important groups like the Open House Arts Collective are to a thriving music and art scene. The events and community support that Open House brings is certainly something that separates London from any other city in Ontario, and certainly is the envy of anyone that understands how important this group is to a developing art culture.
 
 
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Drew Whitson. A final year philosophy undergraduate at Western Ontario, he’s written for the University newspaper, covering art and music-based events throughout Canada. He hopes to continue writing for publication in an attempt to break into the wide-variety of careers in the journalism market. 
 
A TRULY CANADIAN COLLECTIVE— CHRONICLING THE RISE OF THE OPEN HOUSE ARTS COLLECTIVE

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WRITERS
DREW WHITSON & EMILY PRATHER