About RIA

The book on RIA’s history from 2006-2020, which includes all essays, is available online Click HERE
From 2006 to 2020, RIA (Research in Art) provided a home-based visual arts program in Ottawa, Canada. Initiated by Petra Halkes, artist, writer and curator and her artist-husband Rene Price, RIA focused on the local as a real-life node in a web of virtual global connections. RIA had no institutions, no money, and no jury system behind it. RIA welcomed anyone who enjoys looking at and discussing art with other people in relaxed surroundings. In addition to the Salons, Study Groups, and Art Mags Mornings, the dining-room in Petra and René’s home was transformed into an Artist Project Room from 2011 – 2020. Exhibitions focused on large existential themes (turning more political over time) that were explored for long periods, with many different exhibitions and other events. In all, we curated thirty exhibitions, including five Bring Your Own Art shows, with interpretative essays.

It wasn’t just Covid that changed all this in 2020. The period leading up to that horrible year brought an intense awareness of the criticality of global warming and the urgent need to change societal structures, the systems that prevent measures that, as scientists told us, need to be taken to slow down climate change.  What emerged was Ria Links_Artists for Systems Change, an online program that is an offshoot from RIA Research in Art. Set up in December 2020, it aims to connect politically informed, local artists from all disciplines, and artists’ collectives, and study-groups who face up to the urgency of systems change, and address the over-arching crisis of climate change directly in their art practice, or in other ways. A new website is under construction.

RIA Links_Artists for Systems Change has more than 350 subscribers. If you want to be added to the mailing list, please email: researchinart.ria@gmail.com

Ria was my sister, who died in 2006. I like to hear her name.  – Petra Halkes

Note: Considering our age and covid’s persistence, it is not likely that we will return to RIA Research in Art’s programs at our home in the future, but we would love to see other local artists take up any of our past programs (see below).  

Past Programs

Keywords for Change was the theme for 2018. Beginning with BYOA (Bring Your Own Art) an exhibition that was installed on January 1 2018, we collected and worked with words that we came across in our  readings on capitalism, colonialism, climate change and in news articles and commentary on wars and famines, mass displacements, tyranny and neo-fascism. We live in bizarre and horrendous times, but we must rally around. Amidst the horror and sadness, we found and collected positive words, keywords for change.

Perhaps together, looking at all those words in our own particular ways, we came a bit closer to an answer to the question of what role art can play in these unstable times, when so much is to be done.

Growing up Human, From January 1 2015  till March 2017 we grappled with the concept of “Human”. What does it mean to be human in an era when our place in the world has shifted away from the centre? How can we re-imagine our place in an interconnected life-world? How will technology change our ideas of being human? The project Growing up Human, came to an end with an exhibition by Svetlana Swinimer, Space Scape, in which she imagines what it would be like to leave earth and find another planet to live on.

For Research in Art archives from 2006 to July 2013 click HERE

One Thing Led to Another  (2013 -2014)

2011 – 2012 RIA Artist Project Room Archive

Salons took at Petra and René’s house from 2006 to 2020. Every now and then, an art professional or amateur was invited to give a slide presentation about a project he/she has been involved in, outside the Ottawa area. It could be about an exhibition, a presentation, a residency or a research trip. Artists who were new in town are also invited to give presentations about their work. And we also included new graduates from Ottawa University, who decided to stay in our city, to give a presentation about their work. The get-togethers were super casual, and the talks were short so there was time for shoptalk.

Study groups did spring up occasionally around a specific topic. In 2018, we began the CCCC (Capitalism, Colonialism, Climate Change) which led up to RIA’s big change in 2020.

At a “Talking in Circles” night, there was no agenda. We simply suggested one short text to read beforehand, and invited people who had strong opinions on specific topics. We set the chairs in a circle.

Based on Toronto’s No Reading After the Internet,  RIA initiated Reading Out Loud events, where participants brought their laptop or a printout from an article on contemporary or modern art, to read together and discuss.  This was for people who like to stay informed, but can’t find the time to read, in other words, just about everyone. No familiarity with the text or the author is required. For some time, RIA  concentrated on local writers, who were present at the readings.The Ottawa Art Gallery collaborated with RIA on several occassions.

Held from 9:00AM to noon on the occasional Saturday morning, this was not RIA’s most popular event, but it did generate the most intense discussions, around articles from print editions of art magazines.

RIA is open to other people’s ideas and suggestions, and above all, it invites new initiatives for other events. RIA only grows sideways.

For Research in Art archives from 2006 to July 2013 click HERE