Related: Ottawa Arts Guide
Book clubs, quilting bees and men's groups come and go but one meeting has endured for almost two decades: the Utne Salon. (Utne rhymes with chutney.)
This particular Salon was started 18 years ago in Ottawa in response to an article in the Utne Reader magazine when Eric Utne, progenitor of the magazine, posited that there wasn't enough personal discourse. He felt that people were spending too much time watching television or otherwise entertaining themselves to death and not conversing. In effect, more discussion was needed, more thought given to what was happening in our lives.
He fashioned his Utne Salons after the French Salons of the 17th century, a movement started by women who sought to mitigate what they saw as coarse and barbaric aristocratic behaviour. They championed the notion of the honnete homme, the man of integrity, culture, wit and cleverness.
Long-standing member, Andrew Drake, notes that the Ottawa Salon is non-structured, in that there isn't an executive, per se, but he has acted as a pro tem moderator since almost the beginning.
He echos Eric Utne's stance: “There are plenty of one-way communication media out there already, and we feel that the Salon is a precious, rare opportunity to meet with other live human beings and share our thoughts with each other, face-to-face."
Over the years, the group has met in church basements and various community centres. Currently, the third Tuesday of each month sees a cadre of the 100 or so members, usually 10 to 15 people on the third Monday of each month, get together at the McNabb Community Centre, 7:30 to 9:30 pm.
Discussion topics range from politics, economics, arts and culture to science, social justice and philosophy. It is ideas that are discussed and not personalities or personal problems. The Salon is not a self-help group although, from time-to-time, topics of a more personal approach have been introduced. For instance, one such topic from a few years back, “Whom do you most respect and why?” gave people a chance to personalize the discussion.
One memorable “art appreciation” evening saw members bring a piece of art that they had either made themselves or which they particularly liked. Items ranged from sculpture, paintings, photographs and poetry. One person sang a song.
Some ideas for topics arise from the Utne Reader while others are suggested by members and some come from current events.
More information about the Utne Salon in Ottawa is available from Andrew at 613-948-0584.
September 02, 2010
Guest blog: The Utne Salon: Still going After all these years
Shannon Lee Mannion wrote today's guest blog post. She's the former Auto-Biography columnist with the Ottawa Citizen, and currently she's an urban pop artist who uses discarded computer keyboards as her canvas. She is also a squirrel rescuer.