April Artful Pledge Update: Volunteer!

by Sonya Poweska, Melissa Gobeil, and Katie Wilde

In their article, Volunteers and Donors in Arts and Culture Organizations in Canada in 2010 , Hill Strategies reports that in 2010, 764,000 volunteers contributed approximately 97 million hours of their time to support the work for arts and culture organizations. This amazing contribution of time not only allows organizations like Guelph Arts Council do our work, it also helps create a bridge between our organization and the community.

You may not know that our Board of Directors is made up entirely of volunteers who give their time and expertise to our organization. We also have volunteers helping the in the office with resources, and other arts admin, as well as renewing and revitalising underused space, and assisting us to run major events.

As in previous years, our recent crew of over 100 Doors Open Guelph volunteers were incredible! Welcoming locals and visitors from out of town, guiding them through the sites with tales of history, community, and creativity, they made this free community event happen, and we couldn’t have done it without them.


Melissa Gobeil

While I am not an active volunteer in this community at the moment, I have experienced the benefit of working closely with an amazing group of volunteers while working with the Guelph Arts Council (GAC).

In addition to our recent work with the incredible Doors Open Guelph volunteers, the steady and ongoing support of GAC’s volunteer Board of Directors is a constant reminder that spaces, projects and organizations are fueled by a shared passion, and given lift by the innate generosity of spirit seen amongst these volunteers. Volunteers lend their expertise, time and other precious resources to bring incredible feats to life and it feels about time for me to join their ranks again.

My own volunteerism took place in my twenties when I worked with children in Peru, India, and Ghana; and while I’ve had a long respite, it feels about time to kick something more local into gear. I’m not sure how it is going to look exactly, but I do look forward to finding a group whose work resonates and seeing what I can do to lend a helping hand


Katie Wilde

Although I was sad to have to give up my regular weekly volunteer shift at 10 Carden, I am pleased to still be involved helping the rotating community art program run while the original coordinator is on leave.

When I first moved to Guelph just over a year ago, I hardly knew a soul, and didn’t have a job besides my own work as an artist (not exactly lucrative enough to live on just yet). I needed to find out where the people were! Through the Volunteer Centre of Guelph Wellington, I came across the Host position at 10 Carden, whose motto is “Creating Space for Change”. I have met so many wonderful people through my volunteer work there, from the other volunteers, to the co-workers, event attendees, members, and staff.

It’s been an honour to assist the art program coordinator, and a pleasure to work with the artists who bring in new work each month. Volunteering is a great way to build skills and relationships, while building community.

If you’d like to know more about 10 Carden’s art program, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Celebrating 30 Years of Guelph Studio Tour on guelpharts.ca

By Katie Wilde

This year, the Guelph Studio Tour celebrates 30 successful years. Since 1985, Guelph artists have breathed life and warmth into one crisp autumn weekend each year, by opening their studio doors to the public. Each year, new artists are juried into the Studio Tour group, alongside artists who are long-time members and have become staples of the tour. In 2014, forty diverse and talented artists opened their studio doors.

If you've never been on the Guelph Studio Tour, let Chelsey Rae Hooker, a volunteer with Guelph Arts Council, tell you what it's like:

"To see a piece of artwork hanging in a gallery is lovely. You can appreciate the techniques applied, the subtle nuances, the medium used, and contemplate which pieces speak to you in some profound and personal way. To see artwork within an artist's studio however, you learn so much more about the person who created it. The entire setting is essentially a reflection of their personality and their process as an artist that has taken years to develop. To anyone who has never taken part in the Guelph Studio Tours, I urge you to come out and meet these wonderful individuals in person. I can honestly say that the artists I met throughout the day were kind, welcoming, and genuine people and we should all devote a little more time to supporting them, even if that just means coming out and shaking their hand at an event. To all the artists who opened their doors to the public, I simply would like to say thank you."

Many members of the Studio Tour are also members of Guelph Arts Council. We will be celebrating our mutual cultural treasures this year, by featuring Studio Tour members on the front page of guelpharts.ca. We encourage you to visit regularly to discover new artists throughout the year. Click on the mini profile to see more works by the artist, and discover who they are. Then, in the fall, go on the Studio Tour and wish them a Happy 30th Birthday!



March: Learn! An Artful Pledge Update

In 2015, the staff here at Guelph Arts Council aremaking a commitment to stand behind the arts and support the production of creativity, artistic activity, and the cultural sector here in Guelph. Each and every month, we will invite you to join us as we make a pledge to support our community by investing our time and resources into the sector that we know and love.

Don't forget that April is Volunteer and we need you, Guelph!


March was Learn. Here's an update from staff on what Learn meant to us:


Melissa Gobeil, Creative Spaces Coordinator

Your brain is plastic. Well, not exactly made of plastic, but it is flexible nonetheless! Modern research tells us that our brains are malleable organs that continue to grow new neural pathways throughout our lives as we learn and experience new things. We’ve also learned that because of this plasticity, we can heal our brains too.

When we embark upon learning something new and bump up against mental walls, it means we are on the path to learning! That frustration that you feel when learning something new feels too hard, means that you are in the process of making new pathways in your brain. This may feel terrible, but it is absolutely good for you. So, the next time you find yourself frustrated that you can’t get something right off the top, remember that you have challenged your brain to grow and that that is an amazing thing.

In case you need another reason to dance or play music, we also know that frequent participation in these kinds of cognitive and physical-activities can reduce the risk of dementia as we grow older. Activities that require split-second rapid-fire decision making, such as dance, are the best for growing your brain’s neural connectivity, so challenge yourself!

In February, Guelph Arts Council (GAC) president Cynthia Kinnunen hosted a Ukulele Fundraiser for our organization which drew an adventurous crowd. After seeing Owen Pallet perform at Hillside Inside, I headed over to the fundraiser (with my mind blown) and took the black & white checkered ukulele that was handed to me. It was fun, not too challenging, and it felt pretty good.

With all of this brain health on the mind, I decided to continue on my own at home, to see what I could do. I learned a few songs this month and discovered that it’s that it is nearly impossible to be in a bad mood when you are playing ukulele. While I can’t really say why that is, I do know that playing and singing, even if not all that well, just feels good, and that’s reason enough for me

I hope you also discovered something new this month!


Katie Wilde - Office Manager, Membership Coordinator

I am one of those people who wants to try everything. In university, we were supposed to stick to one artistic stream. I managed to weasel my way around this and finished my degree with an exhibition that incorporated drawing, painting, performance, sculpture, installation and media. In the spirit of full disclosure I should mention that it took me an extra year to graduate.

In high school, when I was more involved in music, I mostly played flute. But I wanted to join jazz, so I picked up sax. And I loved grandiose movie music so I minored in French horn. And there was a big string bass that had been lying around unused for years, which seemed like a shame, so I played that too. I was a big fan of Metallica, so in grade ten I got cheap electric guitar for my birthday. Was I very good at any of these? I had a lot of fun, let’s put it that way.

I’m a hoarder of shallow skills. When you have enthusiasm for so many things, it can be hard to focus on one and continue to grow, or to return to something that was the flavour of the week… 10 years ago.

I’m also a hoarder of information, things I’d like to return to later and brush up on. One particular area I’ve always meant to return to is writing music. This month, I settled for writing out music. I had learned how to do this during my high school music education, but I couldn’t remember how to transpose music for clarinet, and sharps still scare me.

So I turned to the internet for help on my idea to turn a Canadian folk song written for piano (which I found in the free bin at the Guelph Youth Music Centre) into a simple flute/clarinet duet.

It’s amazing how fast I was able to find helpful charts and tips to determine the key signature, tell me how much to shift the notes, and what mistakes to look out for.


march learn music transposed

Learning a new skill, or building on a dusty old one can be as easy as picking a small challenge for yourself, and seeking out the resources. Sometimes, these resources are as convenient and free as Googling from your couch. Other times, it’s much more valuable to sign up for a class or workshop, and learn directly from an awesome teacher while making new friends.

Now it’s time to try out the duet with my friend, who hopes to return to her clarinet after many years of it collecting dust on the shelf.

Go forth and learn!

There's Got to Be a Better Way (or 10)... To Raise Money with Art

By Katie Wilde

In a recent conversation, one of our members was describing the experience of "donor fatigue" a phenomenon that can occur when artists are repeatedly asked to donate to art auctions.

Artists are some of the most socially conscious and generous people in our community. They are also some of the lowest income earners, by a wide margin. This artist told me she could no longer afford to continue giving her professional work away for free, but had had recent success switching to a 50/50 split. She told me if somebody asks her to just donate, it has to be a "no". If they're willing to do a 50/50, it moves to the top of her priority list. She’s not the only one talking about this.

Clearly, it's time to rethink how we as artists, arts organizations, and non-arts charities approach arts-based fundraisers, so that they can develop into something that is more sustainable for fundraisers and fair to artists.

On December 3, 2014, CARFAC, the national arts advocacy organization, hosted a Charitable Fundraiser Panel discussion on the subject, which was held at CUBE Gallery in Ottawa. I highly recommend reading the full transcript. Led by passionate, intelligent, and level-headed arts professionals, it's a fascinating and important read. Please take a moment to read it or download the pdf to look at later. CARFAC is developing a set of overarching best practices for charitable fundraisers taking donations of art, which will be published and easily accessible for reference online. In the meantime, we've borrowed from their panel transcript to compile a summary of the issue, including ten strategies for improvement.

Artists earn an average yearly wage of $22,700. For visual artists, this number drops to $13,976. Compare this to the average of $36,300 for all Canadian workers. This is a significant gap, and puts artists at or below the low income point depending on their field. "In any other context, repeated donation requests from individuals identified in this position would be unconscionable and outrageous," said one of the panelists, professional artist Barbara Gamble. She goes on to say, however, that she continues to support charities, private and public galleries and artist run centres, but sets reasonable limits to protect the value of her work and the strength of her relationships with clients and galleries, all of whom have a vested interest in the "consistent, stable value of [her] artwork."

It's important to remember that art auctions are often a major fundraising piece on which charities, galleries and artist run centres rely to keep their doors open and their programs serving the community and the arts. Gamble cites the Ottawa Art Gallery's auction model as one worth emulation. Many of their approaches as well as two other excellent non-profit arts centres in Ottawa, SAW Gallery and Gallery 101, are explained in more detail in the list below.

Here are ten ways to make charity art auctions both successful fundraisers and sustainable practices that are fairer to artists. These ideas can be explored in various combinations to find what works for you and the artists in your community.


1. Split the funds

"…Fundraisers can either keep the amount that is paid above the reserve price or set an agreed upon percentage. This reduces the loss of income to the artist to a more manageable level." - Barbara Gamble (B.G), Panelist and Professional Artist


2. Boost the valuable exposure to the artist

You might wonder, isn't any exposure good exposure? Well, not if the art is being sold for so little that it undermines the market value of the artists’ overall practice, weakening their business and that of galleries where there work is sold. Gamble related during the panel, "I've had the frequent experience of someone saying to me,' I love your work, I really want to get one someday'.... and then they've acquired my work at auction for below the stated commercial value of the piece. I get it - I appreciate a bargain too. Sadly though, to my knowledge, only one of those many people has come back and bought another artwork of mine at a gallery. A number of them have however, purchased a second and even a third work of mine at other auctions."

In cases like this, auction 'exposure' does more harm than good by turning someone who could have been a loyal client into an auction-deals-only type of purchaser, resulting in little to none of the funds from these sales ever reaching the artist.

So what counts as valuable exposure? To suggest a few:

  • displaying the artwork to the general public before or after the auction online
  • including professional artists on the jury
  • giving artists free entry to the event as respected guests/donors/professionals


3. Rotate the artists who are invited to participate annually

"I think one of the strongest things I remember, and that I experience, is that it’s always the same people at [and contributing to] these events." - Laura Margita, Panelist and Director/Curator at Gallery 101 (G101), Ottawa.

"One Newfoundland Labrador CARFAC member reported having received no less than 9 donation requests in 66 days. That amount would have represented close to one half of his annual artistic production." - B.G.


4. Let the artist set reserve bids 

Returning the art to the artist if it doesn't sell for a minimum amount "ensures that making a donation to a fundraiser doesn't devalue an artist's work or compete unfairly with the local market." - B.G.


5. Prominently post the retail value

This helps bidders understand the difference between the market value and what they're paying (whether it's above or below retail), and helps prevent false deflation of the retail value of the artwork.


6. Facilitate personal connections between buyers and the artist when possible

Striving to make the auction a legitimate opportunity for an artist to grow their client base and professional network will help offset the financial hit of donating work that would otherwise pay the bills. In Ottawa Art Gallery’s auction model, it seems artists are as much a part of the show as the work., “I am able to get the name of the purchaser of my work… Professional artists are always included on their jury, artists are given free entry to the event and treated with great respect. The Gallery often displays the artwork to the general public before or after the auction… All these things bring promotion to the artists involved... The OAG has listened to artists and at the same time raises excellent proceeds to sustain our municipal gallery. Their event is a model worth looking at." - B.G.

"We also put an image of the artists themselves so there was a familiarity with the patrons. We have a VIP event before the auction starts that allows for a collector group to meet artists." - Alexandra Badzak (A.B), Panelist and Director and CEO of Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG).


7. Encourage donations of small, less costly, or experimental work

Again, charity auctions can be more attractive to artists when they aren’t being asked to sell the major work that is their bread and butter. This model can be especially useful to fundraisers as an alternative to reserve bids, particularly for risk taking (and often risqué) artist-run centres/galleries such as SAW Gallery and Gallery 101, whose audiences are not necessarily made up of wealthy art collectors.


8. Try a Timeraiser

The only arts charity auction model that pays artists 100% of the value of their work. The organizers buy the artwork outright and sell it for volunteer hours. Find out more about Timeraiser here.


9. Ticketed Event with Small/Inexpensive Artworks

Small works valued at roughly the price of the ticket (perhaps $100-$200) are donated by artists, who are then guests of the event. Attendees draw numbers to see who gets first pick from the artworks, all of which are roughly equal in value and were not too expensive to donate.


10. "Buy it Now” - A Shortcut to Securing a Must-Have Artwork

At the Ottawa Art Gallery, "One community member… came up with the concept of ‘buy it now’, which allowed auction goers to pay market value right away. You didn’t have to wait for the closing of the gallery, which is the typical silent auction strategy; you could get it if you were willing to pay the market value and that’s been extremely successful." - Alexandra Badzak, Director and CEO of Ottawa Art Gallery


Thank you to the panelists and hosts of the discussion that made for such an interesting read. We really look forward to seeing the fruits of this research borne in an overarching set of best practices for charity art auctions. In the meantime, here are the takeaways I learned:

Artists: Remember to value your work and those who believe in and rely on the value of art. By standing up for the value of your work you help spread awareness, avoid donor fatigue, and maintain the health of your arts business. Your charitable efforts will have a much more positive effect all-round.

Arts groups/nonprofits/artist-run centres/galleries: Fundraising isn't easy. No organization fundraises unless they have to, so keep up your efforts, and just remember to explore all the ways to be fair to those you ask to donate work. When you make it worthwhile to the artists, you may find you're running a more successful fundraiser for everyone involved!






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