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Photo from SAW Gallery's Facebook page.

Hidden treasures at SAW Gallery + the rise of the fundraising party

By Maria-Helena Pacelli on December 27, 2016

Every year, SAW Gallery hosts its annual SKETCH fundraiser, which invites local artists to donate artworks that are sold in the context of a fundraising party.

The fundraising party is a brilliant format that blends a live concert with a bargain-basement art auction, then culminates in a dance party. If it wasn’t just for a fun evening, art lovers from around the city of Ottawa have a chance to look at the works of other artists, and buy them at bargain prices.

This is part of a growing trend of rethinking how fundraising works.

Unlike previous generations’ family-friendly fundraising events like bake sales and car washes, fundraising parties distinguish themselves by catering to millennials in the city who want to enjoy a night out and would much rather spend that money supporting their local scene, the arts and culture sector or non-profit organisations instead of forking all the money over to a bar.

Ottawa is the home of the Nature Nocturne parties that fill the Nature Museum once a month where it is possible to see exhibits in a context like no other – with strobe lights and between drinks on the dance floor. There have also been similar fundraisers like Cards Against Misogyny, hosted by OCTEVAW, and the long standing PROMdemonium fundraiser that gives back to the community with their PROM fund.

SKETCH is doing something even more interesting by tailoring this to the context of a local artist-run centre and making art available at prices that are designed to make the works fly off the walls – and it’s all profit for the gallery since the works are donated.

As an artist, I generally support pricing works high enough so that artists can make a living wage, and am very selective about giving away artwork that could otherwise represent income or at the very least was costly to produce both in time and resources. However, many talented artists don’t sell their works at the price they would like for them, or end up having works sit around for some time before finding the right home. This is especially true when the right home is another artist who is a collector or art appreciator but who has limited income to devote towards supporting other artists.

In fact, I donated three of my own works to the fundraiser and also bought two pieces that caught my eye. It felt great knowing that the artist had wanted their work to support SAW Gallery and that by buying it I am doing just that – and by facilitating this exchange between artists, SKETCH is not only raising funds to support the artists and the centre, but it is also fulfilling its mandate of connecting artists with one another, building the arts scene and engaging in a micro-economy within the arts.

Best of all, you never know what treasures you might find, even if you’re just going to enjoy the show.

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