SAW Video was initiated in 1981 by Galerie SAW Gallery (then “SAW Gallery”) as a video project at the Sussex Annex Works (S.A.W.) in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. Highlights of SAW Video’s early years include presenting the Ottawa International Festival of Video Art (1983 and 1986), and producing two community cablevision projects, Video Sync (1983), ad 17-part series of works by artists, and Mirror/Mirror (1993 and 1994), a television series about Ottawa artists hosted by the late visual artist/poet Dennis Tourbin.
In 1985, SAW Video’s longstanding JumpstART grant was created to assist artists new to the medium of video, and exists to this day. In 1989, SAW Video and SAW Gallery moved to their current location in the Nicholas Street annex of Arts Court. From then until 2001, SAW Video and SAW Gallery formed the multidisciplinary centre, Galerie SAW Video.
In 1997, SAW Video launched itself into the digital age with the acquisition of two Avid digital editing suites to replace its 3/4-inch videotape editing suite. These new technologies, together with an aggressive outreach program, saw operations grow fivefold over the next ten years. Annual youth-in-residence projects begun in 1998 — and continuing to 2006 — allowed a new generation of video makers to make their presence felt. Extensive renovations in 2001 further accommodated this growth, adding new media suites, production equipment, webcasting abilities, and a refurbished event space shared by SAW Video and SAW Gallery: Club SAW. The same year, after a decade and a half functioning side by side with SAW Gallery under a common board, SAW Video officially separated from the gallery and formed the SAW Video Association, a charitable, non-profit organization. To this day, SAW Video continues to collaborate with Galerie SAW Gallery through the sharing of Club SAW.
In 2003, with Canada Council pilot funding and a Heritage Canada grant, SAW Video launched its innovative Mediatheque, a website that streamed more than 500 full productions from the SAW Video tape archives, including work by artists in the Ottawa region and across Canada. In 2004, the organization expanded operations to include media art programming. This important, permanent addition to the centre’s activities has allowed SAW Video to develop the community of media artists in Ottawa-Gatineau through the presentation of thought-provoking and dynamic media art programming, featuring local, national and international artists.