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Donor Story: Taking Good Steps Towards A Greater Cause

May 10, 2022

Interview by Rhea Tony
Marketing and Communications Intern
SCHC

Image Source: Artist Shye Zhang’s small studies and paintings that were auctioned in June 2020. Some of the pieces are still available for purchase on her website.

Shye Zhang is a Toronto based artist who donated proceeds to SCHC from her fundraising auction held in June 2020 during the pandemic lockdown.

What Motivated you to start this fundraiser?

Food banks, growing up, my family relied on them. And especially during the pandemic I thought it would be nice to give back and since I found that I like to involve the community for small things. I also do a lot of paintings on little studies and collections that just becomes all this junk in my room. So, I decided to auction them off to raise money. I planned it out for a week and then extended it for another week. That is where the idea originated actually. Since I do portraits and artworks, I couldn’t get a hold of any live models because of the quarantine lockdown and so I did a lot of still life and they were just basic items I had at home.

Please tell us more about your work and what kind of art style you adopted?

It was actually quite different from my usual style which is mostly color-based work and if you’ve seen my usual work, you’ll know that this is unique and a new twist to my regular art style.

They are these colorful studies and are quite small. I think that’s what people liked and were motivated to donate and pitch in because they weren’t a big ask and the paintings were small enough for anyone to just put up on the wall themselves very easily.

What does are mean to you personally? How do you choose what to draw and paint? Is there a process and inspiration?

Currently, I’ve been choosing on a whim, basically doing what I am interested in and since I was at home the entire time they turned out to be still life images. One of the painting, I have currently is a bunch of goldfish crackers. I think at some point, all of us have been there, just staring at random things around the house trying to stay focused and not worry about the ongoing situation.

I didn’t do anything too deep. I painted nail polish bottles and lipstick, as I mentioned crackers and pencils. Just finding little ways to keep myself busy. I tried to draw and paint one item a day just so I had personal target. Keeping creative and finding beauty in little things became my own way of connecting with reality via these small items.

Approximately how much did you raise to donate to SCHC from this initiative?

Almost $300 with only some of the paintings! My big number was only $100 but I’m surprised we went over it. It was very rewarding and encouraging to see people raise funds for a good cause. And in a sense if I hadn’t done this, I would still have all these little pieces taped to my wall forever for the rest of my life or however long I live here.

It was nice to see people appreciate art and see it become bigger than “I am”. During this time (quarantine) to look at the bright side of things. And not be so bogged down with worries.

I think at some point, all of us have been there, just staring at random things around the house trying to stay focused and not worry about the ongoing situation.

I can’t really change the world, but I can do something small, something like this and that’s a good step towards a greater cause.

or What made you choose to donate the proceeds to SCHC

The whole experience of giving people art and seeing them encouraging everyone to create and do new things and spread the word. I’ve lived here all my life, grown and raised here and local fun communities. I believe in funding your local communities, making sure whoever you interact with is happy and healthy. I can’t really change the world, but I can do something small, something like this and that’s a good step towards a greater cause.

What would you suggest to others looking to do third party fundraising events?

If you plan on holding an auction, I recommend good marketing. It helps so much! I would say you want to offer something in exchange for their generosity, and in a way, art is easy since it could be something small, but people still respond to it with love and praise. It is universal.

This was my first auction ever – it was nerve-wracking. I was nervous, and it was scary but that’s how everything you do for the first time will feel. And whoever plans on fundraising, you have to do it from a good place because people can tell. They know if you’re doing it for fun or for attention, and that if you’re genuine enough. I just happened to get in lockdown with my family, paint these small household items and chose to auction it off instead of having them on my wall because I could do something better for the community. I don’t have  any experience aside from this first try and honestly the encouragement and positive response I received helped me gain confidence.

Are you planning on holding another fundraising event anytime soon?

If I do end up doing art again for a fundraising or hold an auction, I think this time I would end up doing something focused towards the cause. For e.g.: if I did something for the SCHC food bank, I would probably draw milk and cookies or something along those lines. Something to connect with the cause and bring in more donors and people.

It can be tricky to feel present and if doing something you like as a hobby can help you feel better, then do that.

You can find unsold artwork by Shye on her website here: https://www.shye.ca/ or take classes and workshops at her studio ​https://www.shyestudio.ca/

Make your impactful donation today to SCHC right here: https://www.schcontario.ca/donate-now.html