UpWithArt auction offers 'critical' support to London homeless helpers

·3 min read

It's where Billy Bert Young got his start – and confidence – as a London artist.

The UPWithArt fundraiser supporting Museum London and the Unity Project for Relief of Homelessness became an annual event 13 years ago, about the same time Young graduated from university and moved back home.

"I actually sold my first work, post-secondary, at that event," he said. "It was the boost of confidence I needed to keep going."

A decade later, Young still offers his talents to support the 13th annual fundraiser to tackle homelessness in London. His piece, Study for Self Portrait, is one of 60 pieces up for auction until May 6.

"Every year, it's just wonderful to see the organization and the scope of this event grow," he said. "At the same time, the housing crisis is also growing. So it's more important now, more than ever, to be a part of this."

The auction features work by local and national artists, plus contemporary and historical pieces donated by collectors.

"I think people will be impressed by the range of works," said Julie Bevan, executive director of Museum London. "I'm particularly impressed by the generosity of local artists in London and seeing the way people really rally around this particular project."

While online bidding began Thursday, works up for auction are being exhibited at Museum London, 421 Ridout St. N., until May 5.

The week-long event wrap May 6 with a live celebration, dubbed arty-party, from 6-11 p.m.

The party "is an amazing opportunity to bring everybody together, to celebrate, to raise money, and to really acknowledge the contributions of artists. Without them, this place would not be here," Bevan said.

With $100,000 already raised by Thursday night, organizers are on their way to hit this year's $200,000 goal.

New features and highlights of UPwithART include:

A limited-edition T-shirt titled Seeing Double by London-born artist Jason McLean

Four unique works made by 12 artists using Exquisite Corpse, a method in which participants draw a section of a body on a piece of paper, then pass it to the next person for contribution

Winescape auction with 12 artworks, each concealing a mystery bottle of wine

A raffle for a maquette, Dolphins, by local artist Tom Benner

A door-prize draw for event ticket holders for a $2,000, five-course tasting dinner for eight, courtesy of North Moore Catering Co.

Money Now donations directly to the Unity Project

The Unity Project for Relief of Homelessness provides emergency shelter, supportive housing and related services to help unhoused adults and youth.

UPwithART is a "critical event" for the agency, which largely depends on fundraising to support its operation, said executive director Chuck Lazenby.

Demand has skyrocketed during the last five years, she said. "Things just escalated to a level of crisis in our community that I haven't seen in the two decades I've been involved. And there's no end in sight.”

In past years, the agency helped about 400 people a year, but that has shrunk to about 200 because more people are staying longer and can't afford to leave.

"We can't move people out of shelter into housing right now, quickly, because the housing isn't there. Nor could people afford it, even if it was there,” Lazenby said.

“Although we are still trying for the shortest stays possible, the shortest days are much longer than they ever used to be."



The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

What: UpWithArt fundraiser and live arty-party in support of the Unity Project and Museum London

When: Auction artworks on show at Museum London until May 5; Bidding continues until May 6, with the party held at Museum London from 6-11 p.m.

Where: Museum London, 421 Ridout St. N.

Online: Visit upwithart.ca to register, bid, view art, buy T-shirts, raffle and event tickets, or for more details.

Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press