The generosity of a pair of local artists will help provide a significant boost to perhaps the city’s most artistic fundraiser for the relief of homelessness.
The Unity Project for Relief of Homelessness in London announced on Thursday (Jan. 24) the donation of more than 40 works of art from the private collection of artists Ron Benner and Jamelie Hassan.
The collection, gathered over four decades, includes works by artists Fern Helfand, Kim Moodie, and Susan Day, among a rich list of contemporary Canadian and international artists. The donation is a significant contribution — both financial and cultural — to the Unity Project and its 2013 UPwithART fundraiser, set for April 27, where the works will be sold by silent auction.
Benner and Hassan’s own, original works will also be featured, with a chance to win one of their pieces by raffle draw.
“The UPwithART fundraiser appeals to our activism,” said Hassan. “The Unity Project’s mandate is a compassionate one which addresses inequalities in our community and the urgent issue of homelessness in our city. UPwithART is a brilliant example of the spirit of creativity and generosity—which defines the London we so admire.”
The Unity Project’s emergency shelter and transitional housing facility is located in London’s Old East Village, a neighbourhood with a long tradition of building community through culture and activism. The charity provides participant-centred programming in a homelike environment, with more than 1,000 men and women accessing the project’s services annually.
Silvia Langer, Unity Project development manager, said she was “absolutely thrilled with the generosity shown by Benner and Hassan, who have long been supporters of the Unity Project.
“This is a fabulous idea by Ron and Jamelie to make this kind of donation. UPwithART has always had a strong connection with the arts, with Ron and Jamelie and Old East,” Langer said. “This is a way to give everybody an opportunity to see these works from some amazing artists.”
Last year’s UPwithART event generated $22,000 for Unity Project programs. Langer said with the 40 pieces donated by Benner and Hassan, along with 40 other pieces being contributed to the show by other artists, she is hopeful the proceeds will double this year.
“The artists have always responded to this show with such generosity,” Langer said. “Through these pieces people are able to see how these artists used their art to see the culture of our country over the course of decades.”
Born and raised in London, Benner and Hassan are well known for their art and activism. Each has received numerous and prestigious awards and exhibited internationally. Both artists were also among the founding members of the Embassy Cultural House, which once stood across from the Unity Project site.
“We are awestruck with the significance of the collection, and deeply moved by the generosity of this gift,” said Sarah White, of the Framing and Art Centre, who chairs the UPwithART event. “Now we have to get busy preparing the exhibit for display. It will be beautiful.”
UPwithART was mounted in 2005 and again in 2007 as a grassroots gala to celebrate and showcase the many artists among Unity Project residents, staff, volunteers and founding members. It has grown since 2011 to include a roster of renowned artists joining a richly talented and inspirational Unity Project community.
In future, UPwithART will take place every other year, with a smaller arts-related campaign in between.
This UPwithART event will provide 360 degrees of “arty-party ambiance” inside the art-deco doors of London’s Palace Theatre. Tickets, priced at $25 apiece, will go on sale this February.
Collectors and art lovers can come to the event, bid online or bid by proxy at www.upwithart.ca for pieces from the Benner and Hassan collection as well as some 40 more works from renowned, youth and Unity Project resident artist contributors.
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