Buy Art, Help a Community

Matthew Halse, France Cantin and Gregg Blachford were involved in organizing ARTSIDA, AIDS Community Care Montreal’s largest fundraiser. Photo Michelle Pucci

Drinking and looking at art can have a social conscience.

ARTSIDA’s free vernissage last Saturday preceded an auction on Sept. 30 to raise money for programs by AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM), a non-profit organization that supports people living with HIV or AIDS.

The all-Canadian art is probably outside a typical student’s price range—the pieces run from $250 to $5,000—but the event is the organization’s largest fundraiser.

The auction is expensive to put on however, and the organization needs help promoting the event to people with the cash to participate, according to ACCM board member Gregg Blachford.

“We have to get people who are interested in art, willing to pay money for it, concerned about HIV and AIDS and wanting to minimize the impact of it,” Blachford said. “We’re trying in Montreal to find that core group of people.”

“HIV [organization] funding is increasingly difficult to acquire,” said Matthew Halse, a Concordia alum and Executive Director of ACCM. “We have to turn to things like this [auction] to make sure our programs are protected.”

Declining government and pharmaceutical funding have made getting money for research a lot harder.

Saturday’s vernissage also featured 18 pieces for direct sale at around $250 each, including Georges-Adrien de Homa’s Le baiser de la mort rouge, —a dark painting seething rage through metallic lines shaping the face of death, unnatural and out of place on a fall landscape background.

“[De Homa] feels like he’s living with death beside him,” said France Cantin, who helped curate ARTSIDA.

“It’s very powerful. He wants people to understand what it is to live with HIV, that you can have a normal life, but you still have this concern, always following you.”

The auction also features Dionysus in Drag by Jessica MacCormack, a former assistant professor in studio arts at Concordia. Her digital print of Dionysus substitutes their hair garland for a pink wig and adds a dab (or several) of mascara.

“We accept everything for its quality and originality,” Cantin said. “We’re very touched when people are concerned about what we’re fighting for.”

ACCM has 25 programs that benefit from the funds raised at the auction.

“This isn’t for salaries, this isn’t for rent, this is for the people that we serve,” Halse said.

One of their programs is the buyer’s club, a monthly volunteer-run food bank that caters to the HIV-positive.

A group of ACCM members pool $20 contributions to buy meat and cheese. They get donations from places like Costco and restaurants as well. The program feeds about 150 people for 10 to 14 days, Halse said.

“It’s a cooperative model,” Halse said. “The team works together to sort and prepare food, creating a community that helps each other.”

Last month the organization received a large wedding cake that was portioned and given to members. ACCM spends $150 a month on the program for storing the food and other logistics, he said.

Many volunteers are ACCM members—people living with HIV—but the organization also has a large number of interns from Concordia.

“Concordia has a history of community-oriented thinking,” Halse said. About 80 percent of ACCM’s interns come from Concordia.

ACCM also participates in Ça Marche, an annual march Sept. 27 to raise money for HIV/AIDS community groups in Quebec.

The organization works on prevention and education programs and is campaigning against the stigmatization and criminalization of people with HIV.

ARTSIDA Auction // Sept. 30 // 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. // Espace Réunion (6600 Hutchison St.) // $50