Great Art For A Great Cause

If you’ve never bought art before, it can be hard to know where to begin. Some of the best advice I’ve heard is to forget about expert opinion and buy what moves you. Now a new art event may just give you a chance to support a cause that moves you, too.

Buy Art Not Kids (B.A.N.K.) is a new charity art auction in support of Ratanak International, a Canadian organization aimed at rescuing and rehabilitating victims of child sex trafficking in Cambodia.

Artist Rachelle Kearns, whose piece Joy in the Wilderness is pictured above, was inspired to create the event after learning about the plight of Cambodian children through her friend Lisa Cheong, who left a Bay Street finance job to work with Ratanak, sharing the stories of sex-trade victims through her blog. Kearns and her husband, Steve, were “heartbroken” by what they read in Cheong’s blog. “The idea popped in my head, ‘I can do something about this,'” says Kearns, who was determined to use her love of the arts and community of friends to help Ratanak give young people a way out of the sex trade, and the support to build new lives.

Thanks to a committee of 13 women comprised mostly of other moms on her street, the inaugural B.A.N.K. auction will take place Thursday, April 18th. The event is hosted by Erica Ehm, of MuchMusic fame, now publisher of the popular website Yummy Mummy Club.

B.A.N.K. takes place at Toronto’s Havergal College. “We had the idea to partner with a girls’ private school to connect girls of privilege to the situation in Cambodia,” says Kearns. “It’s a somewhat difficult topic and I was very impressed with the school’s courage in that regard. The girls in the school are really elevating themselves and becoming more involved.”

The auction is co-curated by Kearns and artist Marjolyn vanderHart, whose piece Pathfinder is pictured above. The two set out to find established artists to donate pieces, first creating A-, B- and C-lists of desired contributors they hoped would donate pieces. “We wanted art that was inspirational in one way or another. We were looking for artists that we felt aided the viewer in looking differently at things, or celebrating an aspect of life. We definitely wanted uplifting pieces and were looking for a positivity in the work. Everybody on our A-list said ‘Yes.'”

There are 31 pieces by established Canadian artists for the event’s live auction. But what makes this event unique is that there will also be 37 pieces by senior art students at Havergal available through a silent auction, putting art on offer at a variety of price points. “Most of the art auctions that I know of are somewhat inaccessible to the average person who might want to take a stand against child sex trafficking,” says Kearns. “Our idea was to make this art auction a little more accessible to someone who might not necessarily attend art auctions on a regular basis.”

Nava Waxman, who recently participated in the Verge Art Fair in Miami, is contributing her encaustic piece, Figure and Bird, above, to the event. Some other artists of note include Michael Levin, whose work is included in Hasselblad’s upcoming 2013 coffee table book titled Victor, and Emily Filler, an up-and-comer who has burst onto the Montreal and Quebec scene with great success.

Asked about the light shed on human trafficking through a recent Toronto Star investigation into sex tourism, Kearns says, “It feels like there’s a groundswell of support and awareness happening across Canada.”

She hopes that support is reflected with attendance at the B.A.N.K. auction. For tickets, visit the B.A.N.K. website here.

Photo credits:
1. Joy in the Wilderness, Rachelle Kearns
2. Pathfinder, Marjolyn vanderHart
3. Figure and Bird, Nava Waxman

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