It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all that’s going on in the world. We know that people need help, but often don’t know how to help them. The amount of information we’re forced to deal with on a daily basis may even make us want to tune out altogether.
Design Hope Toronto (DHT) is a small group of volunteers that tries to reconnect people with community and the idea that anyone can make a difference. Through an annual art auction and gala, we raise money for non-profit organizations that provide life’s necessities to those in need. We involve people in initiatives occurring in their own backyards where they can see the direct results of their generosity.
DHT also uses the event to promote local artists, recognizing the role they play in a healthy society. Artists lay bare the truths of human existence, both the good and the bad. They inspire emotion, which is essential for motivation and action, and are disproportionately involved in social activism. Unfortunately, many fulltime artists also live below the poverty line, adding further relevance to our cause.
We’re not doing anything new by harnessing the power of art to raise awareness for important social issues, but are shining a brighter light on the connection between art, community and activism that’s already there.
Inspired by a similar volunteer initiative that began in Dundas, Ontario, DHT came together in 2005 to plan an art auction, raffle and gala event with the proceeds going to Dixon Hall’s Homeless, Hostels and Housing program. Local artists were asked to donate work inspired by the theme of “shelter” created specifically for the evening. The response was fantastic. Thanks to the help of the artists, volunteers, bidders and sponsors, our first annual event in 2006 raised over $8,000. Seven years and a few members later, DHT has raised over $100,000 for people and programs that need it the most.
Our events may be fun evenings of art, food and conversation, but DHT’s purpose remains very serious. For some people, the most pressing concern is something many of us take for granted — having a safe place to call “home.” Because artists have a unique ability to tap directly into the heart of any issue, we continue to ask for contributions of art that represent shelter. When people come to our events, they see not only wonderful works of art, but reminders of the most essential needs in life.
They also help support important initiatives. This year we are continuing to raise funds and awareness for the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC) who are developing Edmond Place, a reconstruction of 194 Dowling Avenue. Edmond Place will contain 29 units of permanent affordable housing for people who otherwise would not be able to find a place to live.