An auction of contemporary Canadian art was expected to fetch nearly $1 million in Toronto on Tuesday for a specialty hospital that provides care for people living with HIV and at risk.
Art With Heart, now in its 29th year, drew approximately 500 people to the Art Gallery of Ontario. The fundraising effort, which is both a silent and live auction, benefits Casey House, which provides a combination of inpatient, outpatient and community services downtown.
The auction was held for the first time in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It featured approximately 75 works by Canadian artists. In 2020 it was a virtual fundraising event but not an auction, and in 2021 it was a hybrid event in which packages were sent to attendees.
“People are really happy to be back at an art auction, at a party, doing good things for an organization that works very hard to support Torontonians in the city,” said Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House, at CBC Toronto before the event.
During the event, attendees viewed the art and then went up for the auction itself where there were two auctioneers dealing with the bids.
Stephen Ranger, one of Casey House’s auctioneers and board member, said the event started out as a small party but has grown into a major fundraiser supported by many important Canadian artists.
“It’s a pleasure to be back at a live auction,” Ranger said Tuesday. “To be back in person at the AGO is truly amazing. It’s a loud crowd, lots of drinks, lots of fun, lots of bidding, lots of art. It’s a lively band.”
Ranger said artists who participate in the auction know their artwork is displayed appropriately. He added that philanthropy at the auction has a direct impact on people’s lives.
“People relate to the energy of this event. They certainly relate to the Casey House cause and the work we do in our community,” he said.
Artist Bidemi Oloyede, whose work was featured in the auction, said he explores individual identity in his art and photographs “people in our community as a way to solidify their identity in history. “. Photography provides immortality, he added, and his work means he creates a “massive archive” of photographs of people. He said he participated in the auction in 2019.
“I try to give back to the community and help everyone I can help. And that’s one of the best avenues for that,” he said.
Simons said the hospital is seeing more than 1,000 people, there has been more demand for the health care it provides since the pandemic, and people are coming in for a wide variety of services. The hospital recently opened a supervised consumption service for people with addiction issues, and it strives to be inclusive and non-judgmental, she said.
“We really try to treat people like humans and not think about their illness so much as who they are as a person and how we can support them,” she said.
On its website, Casey House states, “We are Canada’s first and only hospital for people living with and at risk of HIV, and we have a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to health and wellness.
“Building on a legacy of advocacy and social justice, we are actively dismantling barriers to care and safe living,” the website says.
“We provide a community and a sense of belonging that connects people to care. The humanity of each client is at the heart of everything we do.”