Cover photo for Jonathan David Browns's Obituary

Jonathan David Browns

October 8, 1961 — January 21, 2023


Jonathan died January 21, 2023, at the age of 61, following a sudden illness. A leader and mentor in arts and culture, Jonathan was an extraordinary person. Friends and colleagues describe him as warm, vibrant, intelligent, creative, and very generous with his time and energy. He could talk to a janitor or a rocket scientist with the same level of deep compassion and genuine interest. His inquisitiveness and curiosity knew no bounds – he was interested in areas from art to sports, music to food, travel to fashion.

Born October 8, 1961, in Ottawa, Jonathan grew up in the Manor Park neighbourhood. He was known as “Jay” when he attended Rideau High School and the High School of Commerce, where he was the yearbook art director. At the Ontario College of Art from 1980 to 1982, he started a long fascination with handmade papermaking. In the following years, he furthered his art, performance art and papermaking in several centres. In Ottawa, he produced the arts program “Artistic License” at Radio Carleton (CKCU). In Montreal, he worked at the last handmade paper manufacturer in Canada – Papeterie Saint-Armand. In Kingston, he was an art prepator at the Agnes Etherington Art Gallery. Returning to Ottawa, he worked as a contemporary art installation technician at the Canada Council Art Bank from 1989 to 1995, then furthered his education in collections conservation and management at Fleming College in Peterborough. This included an internship in paper conservation at the prestigious Morgan Library in New York City. He was collections manager at the Ottawa Art Gallery from 1999 to 2001, where he curated the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art. He then moved to a position with the City of Ottawa as Public Art Officer, Collections for the Public Art Program. He was with the City for more than 20 years, until his retirement in 2022.

Almost 30 years ago, Jonathan met Cindy Stelmackowich, with whom he had a wonderful loving partnership. He and Cindy worked together on art projects, travelled the world, and hosted friends in their warm and welcoming art-filled homes and gardens over the years.

Jonathan’s interests were both wide and deep. He was an audiophile, a lead-off batter, a fan of all sports, a foodie, a distance skater, a nature lover, canoeist, and an avid gardener who designed a Japanese-inspired oasis in the courtyard of his home. He loved not only all periods of art but many of the applied arts such as ceramics and design. He had a distinctive hip, funky fashion style, featuring bright colours and outspoken patterns. His style included a Salvador Dali mustache in recent years. His closet held a collection of hats and another of vintage shirts, colourful shoes, and stylish suits.

He travelled all over Canada several times, from Newfoundland to Haida Gwaii, often with Cindy. They had long stays in New York City, and had been to Japan, Vietnam, Egypt, Israel, eastern Europe, Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Lisbon (Portugal), London (England), Berlin (Germany), Hawai’i, Mexico City and Havana (Cuba).

Jonathan’s colleagues in the arts community often mention his generosity as a mentor. He helped friends, artists, colleagues, and arts organizations without a second thought. He was the driving force behind growing internship opportunities and excelled at being the ambassador for all of the artists in the City’s collection. His passion for the job, as well as the deep relationships he forged with artists, collectors, gallery dealers and other professionals in the wider cultural community was unprecedented. As a colleague commented, his impact was immense and the City’s collection is a gem due to his care and custodianship of it, and the artists of this City were lucky to have him at its helm for so long. He will be greatly and deeply missed by family, friends, neighbours, artists, and colleagues.

Jonathan leaves his partner Cindy Stelmackowich, his brothers Shmuel Browns and his family (Jerusalem), and Baruch Browns Sienna and his family (Toronto). He was predeceased by his father Morris Browns in 2007 and his mother Dorothy Browns (Polisky) in 2020.

A Celebration of Jonathan's Life will be held on March 26, 2023 from 2-5 p.m. with a presentation followed by reception, at the Ottawa Art Gallery, Alma Duncan Salon, 10 Daly Avenue.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Jonathan David Browns, please visit our flower store.

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Celebration of Life

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Eastern time)

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