Building a Holiday Art Sale 2020 from scratch

The Holiday Art Sale, a joint virtual fundraiser by the Rotary Club of Bowmanville and the Oshawa Art Association, took place from Nov. 1 to Dec. 7. All funds from the virtual sale will be split between artists and the two organizations. Photo credit: Picture courtesy of rotaryoaa-artsale.ca

Shirley Bankey had a problem.

“All of our fundraisers were cancelled,” says the 67-year old director of the Oshawa Art Association (OAA).

The organization usually holds fundraisers at Camp Samac and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery annually, but the pandemic put an end to them. Then a conversation with two of her neighbours gave Bankey an idea.

“I live next door to two past presidents of the Rotary Club of Bowmanville,” says Bankey, “and I mentioned the possibility of doing an online art show as a fundraiser with them. They loved the idea and passed me onto the head of their fundraising, and we got busy planning it.”

Like the OAA, the Rotary Club of Bowmanville also had trouble raising funds, so “it was a fantastic partnership,” says Bankey. The idea was suggested in July and became a reality on Nov. 1 when the Holiday Art Sale went live on rotaryoaa-artsale.ca. The sale wrapped up Dec. 7.

“Have the sales been out of this world? No, no, they’re good,” Bankey explains, “but I have to say, this year is just not a normal year. People are spending money on needs, not on wants, so I’m grateful for every sale that we have got.”

Bankey faced many challenges when it came to setting up the Holiday Art Sale. After talking to Chris Zelasko, the head of fundraising for the Rotary Club of Bowmanville in early August, Bankey spent many days waiting to hear back from him. Finally, she got in touch and realized his email had ended up in her junk mail folder.

Once Bankey and Zelasko began working together, they faced another technical obstacle.

“The website took us longer to get up and work the hiccups out of than we had anticipated.”

She also had to contact all 150 members of the OAA, as well as help them with photographing their artwork, uploading them onto computers and transferring it to her. The Oshawa Art Association was formed in 1967, and they still have a lot of the members that were in the original group that started the organization, says Bankey.

So she ended up posting short how-to videos to help the technically challenged members with the whole process.

The delay in getting the website up and running meant there was a delay in contacting artists and consolidating all required information online.

“[When we started the sale] on November 1, we did not have very many artists [on the website] and we were a little concerned. But bit by bit it built.”

Ultimately, the Holiday Art Sale had more than 350 pieces of artwork for sale, and Bankey is already looking forward to next year.

“This is the first-ever [virtual sale] but this will become a yearly event. Our website is already built, so it will only require minor changes.”

Funds from the Holiday Art Sale are split between participating artists, the Rotary Club of Bowmanville and the Oshawa Art Association.

“We had 53 artists participating,” says Bankey, “and many of those artists depend on the funds from the sale of their artwork as part of their yearly income, which they spend right back into our community.”

The Oshawa Art Association will be using its funds to continue organizing lectures, demonstrations, and workshops for its members. Until the pandemic began, they held monthly meetings at the Arts Resource Centre, located at 45 Queen St. They’ve since shifted to online meetings. However, the biggest goal of the OAA is to find a permanent gallery where they can showcase artwork.

“A place where our artists can meet and exchange ideas,” says Bankey.

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