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Annual festival features graffiti, dance, poetry, and more

Photo: Courtesy of Selena Chau

Graffiti artists are more often condemned than praised for their art. But at the annual House of PainT festival, which runs from Sept. 9-13 at Brewer Park, the opposite is true.

The festival began 12 years ago when a group of artists who had been lobbying for legal graffiti space were finally granted space under Dunbar Bridge in Brewer Park. This space became Ottawa’s first legal graffiti wall.

“The celebration that ensued after the success of the lobby was pretty much the first House of PainT festival,” says Patrick McCormack, general manager of the festival and University of Ottawa alumnus. “It was an organic reaction to the good news and after that it became an annual thing.”

Starting out as a small get-together with a piece of cardboard to breakdance on, it has grown exponentially over the years into a festival spanning over five days, and including a huge variety of events, with an attendance of almost 10,000 people.

The festival is sponsored by the U of O’s own campus radio station, CHUO. The station manager Erin Flynn says that they partner with many grassroots events and organizations.

“We (CHUO) recognize that we have an important role to play in the growth and development of arts, culture and education in our community,” Flynn wrote in an email. “Working with the House of PainT festival is just one such opportunity!”

Events at this year’s festival will include live graffiti art, dance battles, DJ battles, poetry slams and more.

Friday night’s main event is a concert that takes place under the bridge, highlighting the space where the festival began. The concert will be headlined by Black Moon, a hip hop group from Brooklyn, New York.

The weekend will be filled with workshops and activities for festival-goers to get involved with the hip hop community themselves. There will also be dancing, mural painting, and spoken word poetry workshops for anyone interested in testing out their own skills.

Saturday will be an all-day event with live graffiti art under the Dunbar Bridge, live music and DJs, and one of Canada’s largest b-boy and b-girl dance crew competitions.

“The dance competitions are always really exciting and engaging,” says McCormack, “and of course the progression of the giant murals over the course of the day is pretty magnificent.”

The festival will wrap up on Sunday with a conference featuring panels, workshops, and a keynote speaker, all with the purpose of building knowledge and skills, and exchanging ideas within the hip hop community.

Visit for a full list of the festival’s events.




  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper