Ortona Armoury Arts Building, September 1, 2018

Urban Sketchers Edmonton are joining me in one of my goals as Edmonton’s 5th Historian Laureate: sketching Edmonton’s architectural heritage (or as much as we can!)

Another off-and-on rainy day greeted Urban Sketchers Edmonton at the historic and arty Ortona Armoury Arts Building, 9722 – 102 Street, but that did not deter our hardy little gang.

A City-owned historical resource built in 1914 as the Hudson’s Bay stables and warehouse, the building has been home to many of Edmonton’s businesses and organizations over its 104 year history.

Sketch by Barry Hollingshead

Sketches by Heather Jenkins

Sketch by Angie Sotiropoulos

For the last 30 years or so, the Ortona has been a vibrant part of Edmonton’s arts community, providing much needed artists’ studios and arts spaces. I had my studio in the Ortona for many years and have a great fondness and regard for it, and helped to have it designated as a municipal historic resource in 2004. In 2019, the artists must move out and the building will be closed for up to two years while the City brings it up to code.

Urban Sketchers Edmonton in the Ortona 2nd floor kitchen (this was the  HMCS Nonsuch wardroom bar during the Navy years)

The artist-tenants and I have been in discussions with the City to retain as much of the historic Navy era interior as possible, which works perfectly for artists who appreciate and gain inspiration from spaces with character and heritage.

Sketch by Irina Kruglyakova

Sketch by Irina Kruglyakova

The floorplan layout has remained largely unchanged for 80 years, and I was able to locate Navy era floor plans at the City of Edmonton Archives that indicated the Navy’s use for the rooms that the artists now use. For example, the present Ortona Room (multi-purpose arts room) on the main floor was the Navy’s Chief and Petty Officer’s Mess; the artist-run Ortona Gallery on the second floor served as the Navy’ Clothing Stores; artists’ studios were the Navy’s WRENS’ Mess (Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service), the offices of the HMCS Nonsuch Officers, storage for sails, ropes & rigging, and much more.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

As expressed by arts writer Agnieszka Matejko who was reviewing a group arts exhibit in the Ortona Gallery, “…the strongest impression I am left with is the building’s palpable sense of rich community life among artists of all backgrounds.” Vue Weekly 21 January 2003, “Ortonary People”.

Sketch by Marlena Wyman

Posted by Marlena Wyman



About Marlena Wyman

Edmonton AB. I am an artist with interests in history, food, gardening, wellness, and the quirky and inspiring things that my fellow beings are up to out there.
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4 Responses to Ortona Armoury Arts Building, September 1, 2018

  1. Your drawings look lovely. Although showing building which are static and bold you managed to make the sketches so illustrative and light. Beautiful 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment! We have a very talented group of artists, and we have lots of fun on our sketchouts.

      • Yeah! I noticed the different styles people of your group have. It is so amazing to work together, so everyone can benefit from the different styles and perceptions of the same of similar subjects! Keep up the good work and enjoy your sketching/painting!

  2. Always enjoy getting your posts! Thank you!

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