Ottawa’s Luc Lalande looks to transform public spaces with new guild

Gather-Ring 1
The Gather-Ring, a collaboration between architect Manuel Báez and artist Charlynne Lafontaine, located near the Ottawa River. Provided.

Tucked away in a corner of Makerspace North, Luc Lalande is forging a new venture that he hopes will bring attention to Ottawa’s creative economy.

The Aletheia Guild is a partnership between Lalande, a longtime entrepreneurship adviser at both Carleton and the University of Ottawa, and architect Manuel Báez. The two are hoping to create new public installations with transformational architecture.

A prime example is the Gather-Ring, a recent collaboration between Báez and Ottawa artist Charlynne Lafontaine, which sits near the Ottawa River at the intersections of the Portage Bridge and Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway. The installation, which won a Canada 150 heritage art competition under the theme “dream,” uses natural and indigenous imagery to convey themes of reflection and reconciliation.

Gather-Ring 1

Lalande says the guild hopes to leverage Ottawa’s artistic talent to put more pieces like this into cities around the world.

“I think there’s great potential for the creative industries in Ottawa. We just often don’t think of it,” he says.

Cultural innovation

Lalande was first taken in by the concept while working in the innovation offices at Carleton some 15 years ago. Báez, an associate professor at the school who explores the intersection of design and scientific principles, invited Lalande to his workshop and showed him an enormous, twisting structure comprised solely of skewers and rubber bands.

“I was really taken by it,” he recalls. “There’s a lot of innovation in the cultural industries.”

Now retired from the post-secondary space, Lalande has made the Aletheia Guild his full-time gig. He and Báez will select the pieces and draw on the skillsets of Ottawa artists and makers to bring them to life on a project-by-project basis.

Lalande has taken up residence in Makerspace North in an effort to surround himself with like-minded makers. He says that traditional cubicle-based co-working didn’t appeal to him; he needed to be located in an open space where drills and band saws were running and Ottawa’s creative types were constantly experimenting with new projects.

While Lalande has full confidence in local creators, he says the nation’s capital likely won’t be the market for the final products.

Luc Lalande
Aletheia Guild co-founder Luc Lalande at Makerspace North. Photo by Craig Lord.

“There’s an averseness to risk in this city that I find kind of daunting,” he says of Ottawa, citing European cities and markets such as British Columbia and China as being more open to “bold” designs.

Lalande notes he’s hopeful that with large public developments such as LeBreton Flats coming online in the near future, there might be room in the budget for some eye-catching public art.

Make it, share it, profit

While Lalande says he toyed with the idea of making the guild a non-profit, he’s confident he can run the business as a for-profit venture. He says that while public good is the final goal, it’s not mutually exclusive to making money.

“I can still do community support in a for-profit mode.”

While Lalande claims to have moved on from his days in the education space, there’s a learning component to the Aletheia Guild. He’d like to see the company work with indigenous and at-risk youth to share the digital design skills needed to create cultural artifacts and spaces like the Gather-Ring.

Lalande has reached out to community associations to offer classes in basic digital design. Those classes could lead to a student-led project being crafted at Makerspace North – a notch of confidence in a young person’s belt, and a decent start to a future creative professional’s portfolio.