Painting the town red at Ottawa Art Gallery’s Give to Get Art Auction

Proceeds from signature fundraiser help toward maintaining free public access, educational programming at downtown municipal art gallery

Editor's Note is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors and Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties. Read their stories here.


The opening night gala for the OAG’s Give to Get Art Auction painted a very rosy picture of our city’s arts and cultural scene Friday as hundreds of art lovers and collectors turned out for a night of bidding, imbibing and lively banter.

The signature fundraiser for the Ottawa Art Gallery has become our city’s art party of the year since its inception more than 20 years ago. The benefit was back in person for the first time in three years and featured more than 95 pieces of donated art from regional artists. 

Nobody was more jazzed about it than OAG director and CEO Alexandra Badzak. “It’s great to see everybody out here tonight,” she told at the start of the night. “We’re going to have a full house, and that’s exactly what we were hoping for.”

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There was a positive energy and excitement in the air. “It feels like there’s a pent-up demand from people who really want to see and feel art,” said OAG board chair Mark Schaan, associate assistant deputy minister at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

“The OAG is really about community in so many ways and, while you can do some of that online and the art still looks beautiful, it’s so different when you can actually be amongst peers. Artists can meet patrons, patrons can meet artists. You can discuss the art, you can bring your friends.

“It’s really about creating those relationships, which is what the gallery is all about.”

The art auction, which continued throughout the weekend with online bidding, sees half the auction proceeds go back to the artists and the other half go toward maintaining free public access to the gallery, exhibitions, workshops and artist talks, ongoing public and educational programming, and the care and preservation of the OAG’s collection, as well as opportunities and supports for artists and artisans from the Ottawa-Gatineau area. Give to Get Art achieved its goal by raising $110,000 from ticket sales and the art auction. 

The OAG also hosted a weekend-long Give to Get Art Market that transformed the building into an art market. 


When selecting pieces for Give to Get Art, organizers looked for artists at different stages of their career, such as emerging, mid-career and established. They also chose artwork that reflects the diversity of the community, said Badzak. “We certainly check our blinders in terms of who’s out there.”

Sasha Suda, director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, attended, as did outgoing Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, who has listed the completed expansion in 2018 of the Ottawa Art Gallery and Arts Court as a project he’s particularly proud of during his time as mayor. Also seen was Andrew Peck, who’s about six months into his new role as executive director of the Downtown Rideau BIA, which considers the OAG an important part of its neighbourhood. “This is such an incredible hotspot for creativity,” he said.

Peter Tilley was there from The Ottawa Mission, a nonprofit organization located kitty-corner to the OAG. It feeds and shelters the homeless, as well as offers programs and services. Its social enterprise, Chef Ric’s, was helping to cater the opening night gala for the OAG, which has been known to run art therapy classes for service users of The Mission.

Don Masters, president and creative director of Mediaplus Advertising, and his wife, Lynn Buffone, were among the patrons who’ve been attending the annual art auction since the beginning, even participating in last year’s virtual option (they were highest bidders on a Christopher Griffin painting).

“I like this event because it supports local art and, honestly, we’ve decorated a lot of the walls in our house with artwork from this event,” said Masters. “We’re running out of space.”

Familiar faces included Lindsay Taub, wife of Shopify president Harley Finkelstein, Studio Sixty Six gallery director Carrie Colton, former TV journalists Don Newman and Tom Clark (his wife, Jane Clark, is on the OAG board), and Engel & Völkers real estate agent Sarah Grand, who was among those on day seven without power due to the recent deadly and destructive storm. Urban landscape artist Eryn O’Neill, who had a piece in the show, is starting her Master’s in Architecture at the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism at Carleton University this fall.

Artists also included Don Kwan, recent recipient of the Ottawa Arts Council’s Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award. He was there with his brother Ed Kwan, who’s a performing artist in his own right as China Doll.


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