Whether you're in desperate need of a better background for your Zoom calls or wish to transform your blank walls into conversation starters, you have until Friday to submit your bids on new and original artwork available through the Ottawa Art Gallery’s Give to Get Art fundraiser.
The local arts organization is featuring 56 pieces of art that include paintings, photographs, mixed-media art, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, prints and jewellery. The works have been donated by emerging and established artists from the region.
The OAG has got fundraising down to a fine art when it comes to its popular auction, an annual event that normally attracts hundreds of art lovers and collectors for a night of silent auction bidding, combined with food, drinks and socializing. Who doesn’t have a bidding war story or two to share, such as that sneaky competitor who hovered over the auction sheet for too long and took for-ev-er to write down their bid as the final seconds ticked down.
The coronavirus pandemic has meant the OAG had to use its imagination in how to hold its event this year. Luckily, creativity is what Ottawa's municipal gallery does best.
The OAG has been running a two-week-long Give to Get Art exhibition at its 50 Mackenzie King Bridge location. Purchasers of a $35 ticket can participate in the online auction, which got off to an exciting start during Saturday night’s official launch.
Fifty per cent of each sale goes back to the artist while the remaining half goes to the OAG to help with its free educational programs, tours, events and admission. Supporters heard how OAG is working with different community groups, such as BEING studio, which supports artists with developmental disabilities. It's also collaborating with the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre on a program that uses the visual arts as a wellness tool in mental health.
“We all know the COVID pandemic has hit many sectors hard, including the cultural sector,” Alexandra Badzak, CEO and director of the Ottawa Art Gallery, said in her video message to thank patrons for their support of the gallery and artists, during Saturday night's VIP auction launch.
An integral part of most fundraisers is social interaction. Several members of the OAG board hosted virtual dinner parties that evening. A total of 74 dinners were prepared by My Catering, which is the new in-house caterer for the art gallery. The four-course meals included drinks from Bar From Afar and Dominion City Brewing Co. Participants also had access to early bidding.
Badzak dropped into the parties, via Zoom, to meet the guests and introduce them to Laurena Finéus, one of the five 2020 Critic's Choice winners and a graduate of uOttawa's fine arts program. She called Finéus an “extraordinary” artist and the youngest to be recognized as a Critic's Choice. Badzak also described her sizeable painting as stunning.
"You're very much drawn into it," she added.
For their first stop, Badzak and Finéus visited Ottawa Art Gallery board secretary Barbara Uteck and her guests, all of whom were connected through Zoom, as well.
Uteck had already gone to view the Give to Get Art exhibit in person at the gallery. She described the experience of seeing the new pieces as thrilling and uplifting.
“It was a feast for the eyes and for the soul,” said Uteck, whose husband, Graham Fraser, was seated next to her. Their guests included John Goldsmith, who’s retired from Canada Council for the Arts.
Hanging on a wall behind Uteck was a portrait, Back from Kandahar, by Ottawa artist Karen Bailey, who was formerly in the Canadian Forces Artists Program. Bailey has a painting in the 2020 Give to Get Art auction.
Dinner host Jane Clark, who’s also on the board of the OAG, dined with her husband, Tom Clark, and their charming daughter Jill Clark, manager of communications at the Rideau Hall Foundation.
Jane spoke about how the Ottawa Art Gallery, which was transformed a few years back into a state-of-the-art facility, is not only an important cultural hub for artists but also builds bridges with diverse communities.
“We do call ourselves ‘the home for the arts’ and we take great pride in that,” she told OBJ.social.
Daughter Jill had her eye on a few pieces, including Fiona Khaemba's City Girl digital print. She relied on a smartphone app to keep track of incoming bids.
“It’s like online gambling,” she joked.
Among their guests were Andre Albinati, principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, and his wife, Corianne Bell. She said the virtual group dinner experience was “refreshing" compared to the bevy of video conferencing she's been doing during the pandemic.
"It’s really fun to see different groups of people on the screen and have entirely different conversations,” said Bell, a therapeutic music consultant.
Art helps to connect people, Albinati chimed in.
Relatively new to the OAG board is Melanie Adams. Best known for her successful career in the healthcare sector, she has an appreciation for visual artists thanks to her children, both of whom are creatively talented.
“To have these kinds of institutions available to us at no charge in Ottawa is such a gift, such a gift,” said Adams, who also commended the OAG for offering positive, social programs for community members. "It really does fit with my personal set of values."
Adams, who was joined by her husband, Steve McBurney, hosted such guests as philanthropists Carey and Nancy Garrett; former Shopify CFO Russ Jones; and Bruce Raganold, director of business development for Welch LLP. He and his wife, Giselle Bergeron-Raganold, are such a fun-loving couple. They dressed in 1950s attire, in keeping with their tradition of getting dressed up every Saturday night.
KPMG tax partner Cliff Taylor, who serves as treasurer of the OAG board, was having a proud dad moment that night. He displayed his 17-year-old daughter's artwork so prominently that he practically cropped himself out of the meeting window. The budding young artist has been taking lessons with artist Katherine Muir Miller, who has a gallery in Perth.
Along with Finéus, the other Critic's Choice winners were Rosalie Favell, Josée Dubeau, Marisa Gallemit and Jake Riseborough of BEING studio with Christopher Griffin. They were selected for their stand-out pieces by a jury made up of members of the community. The jurors were Tam-Ca Vo-Van, director of Galerie SAW Gallery, Rosey Edeh, filmmaker and co-anchor of CTV Morning Live Ottawa, and Linda Grussani, art historian and Indigenous Art curator.
The Give to Get Art auction closes 5 p.m. Friday. As of Monday morning, the auction was more than halfway toward reaching its fundraising goal of $45,000. There’s also an option for bidders, empty-handed or not, to make a donation to the gallery.