Where art and justice meet: A silent auction for Lawyers Without Borders

On March 28, the McGill chapter of Lawyers Without Borders (LWB) hosted its fourth annual Art Sans Frontières silent auction. The event showcased pieces by local Montreal artists that had been donated to raise funds for LWB Canada, a non-governmental organization with a mandate to promote human rights, access to justice, and the protection of minorities in countries around the globe.

Caroline Parent-Harvey, VP Events for LWB McGill, explained that the profits from this event will go to LWB to support its mission of providing legal support to those in need and to finance the group’s international operations.

“This event […] is our main fundraiser, and all the funds go directly to help LWB and the lawyers that are working for them, […] helping out in countries that have […] less developed justice system[s], and, so, we’re really lucky to be able to participate in that,” Parent-Harvey said.

The work displayed at the auction centred around the theme of international activism. The organizers were appreciative of the participating artists and their contributions to the event.

“Without [the artists], there would be no event,” Parent-Harvey said. “We really make sure to put the artist at the middle of this event.”

Gabrielle Landry, VP Communications for LWB, described the importance of the event and its connection to the mission of LWB Canada.

“We want to promote something that’s local to help on the international level, so we want to have a kind of […] bridge between what we have going on here and LWB Canada. Here [in Montreal], even anywhere around the world, access to justice can be an issue,” Landry said. “People should be more in touch with their rights and how the justice system works anywhere around the world.”

Participants joined local artists at the Conseil des arts de Montréal Atrium in the historic Gaston-Miron building to take part in the silent auction. The Conseil des arts de Montréal supports and recognizes excellence in the arts, contributing to many artistic companies and collectives in the city.

“We even chose this [hall] because it’s actually owned by the Conseil des Artistes Montreal,” Parent-Harvey said. “All the profits related to this room are also going to help artists, so we’re really happy about this partnership.”

The LWB McGill team also partnered with Regroupement des Artistes en Arts Visuels du Quebec (RAAV), a professional association that represents visual artists and helped solicit donations for the event. RAAV General Director Bernard Guérin expressed that the organization was particularly enthusiastic to offer assistance to a student-run initiative.  

“[This event is an] interesting way [to] contribute to a very nice cause, ” Guérin said. “ [I am] very […] impressed by the idea [and] by the […] McGill students [who organized the event].”

Francesca Trop, whose work was on sale at the event, is a Montreal-based artist whose paintings often depict courtroom scenes. As a former lawyer who practiced for 15 years, Trop explained that her experience in the legal profession motivated her to donate her work to the event.

“It was very important for me to give a contribution,” Trop said. “[This event] is related to what I have to say, and I know I will reach out to the public that I am talking to.”

Much of Trop’s multimedia artwork highlights the theme of legal writing, and her pieces on display at the silent auction incorporated real legal documents. Trop explained that the intention behind her paintings is to reveal the creativity in mundane objects such as paperwork.

“I always try to show the hidden poetry […] in everyday objects or everyday acts,” Trop said.

Through similar events, the organizers hope to contribute toward LWB Canada and promote its values and goals in Montreal and international settings. By the conclusion of the event, LWB hoped to have concurrently uplifted creative voices and attracted the McGill student body to join in their mission of equal access to legal support services.

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