A celebration of art and friendship

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As art made its way into the hands of proud new owners, members of the McGill community dropped cash for a worthy cause at McGill Students for Best Buddies’ third-annual art auction on Jan. 25.

Best Buddies is an international non-profit organization that promotes the inclusiveness of communities to people with intellectual disabilities. They are partnered with the Miriam Home, a Quebec organization with goals that align with Best Buddies and which provides rehabilitation services to children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Students involved with Best Buddies build one-to-one friendships with adults in the community with intellectual disabilities.

“[The Best Buddies program] makes the connection between two groups that wouldn’t otherwise necessarily meet,” Kirsty Coulter, co-director of McGill students for Best Buddies, said. “Students and the population of adults with intellectual disabilities are really separated […. The program] gives you an idea of the challenges facing the population that you wouldn’t necessarily think of, and also [gives you] a friend.”

The auction, which took place in the SSMU Ballroom, is Best Buddies’ largest fundraiser, raising approximately $1,400 this year. The proceeds funnel directly back to the organization and help fund other events for the buddies.

“We wanted to do a fundraiser, but we wanted to do something to promote inclusion in the community,” Coulter said.

While most events are tailored for the buddies, the auction is one of the program’s few events that are open to the public. The artwork up for auction was either created or donated by students, buddies, or other members of the Montreal community, including several pieces from students’ grandparents’ collections.

Among the artists was Alivia Dlugopiat, a long-time buddy who has regularly participated in art classes at the Young Men’s-Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YM-YWHA) Jewish Community Centre. Dlugopiat expressed that she was proud to show her work at the auction, and was eager to have those attending bid on her creative piece, titled “Pop Art.”

Jason Goldsmith was another donor for the auction. Goldsmith paints designs inspired by his son Ellis’ drawings onto framed pieces of glass. Goldsmith started the Big Blue Hug project, which took off when he discovered that he was best able to communicate with Ellis, who has autism, through drawings. Beyond being a family business, the project serves as a means of educating others on using ‘picture talking’ to aid communication.

The staggering diversity of art—from cartoons and greeting cards to oil-painted landscapes and more abstract pieces—embodied the inclusion that Best Buddies hopes to foster.

“[Art] is something anyone can do and you can express yourself in your own way,” Best Buddies Co-Director Micah Flavin said. “With my buddy, we’ll sit down and draw, or just write. It’s something that really has this therapeutic effect [….] It’s a nice event because it has all sorts of threads coming in together and you can see the different styles of art. ”

The event has come a long way since 2012, with the number of pieces in the auction doubling since last year. There were other additions to the event this year as well; to keep the crowd entertained, two craft tables were situated in the middle of the room.

Music also accompanied the afternoon event, including performances by a quartet of McGill music students  and the glee club from the Gold Centre, an organization funded by the Miriam home.

“[The art auction] has grown exponentially the past two years, so it’s really exciting to see what it’s turned into,” Coulter said. “It’s a good display of work done by us, done by our buddies, and our community members.”