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A dinner was held in Toronto to celebrate the opening of Pulse Topology, an art installation by Mexican-Canadian media artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer.Evan Buhler/The Canadian Press

Splash Art Auction and Gala, Vancouver

While events of a more intimate nature have been popping up for a number of weeks, the 500-person gala dinner has remained elusive. That was, until an invitation for the Splash Art Auction and Gala, which supports Vancouver’s Arts Umbrella, hit my desk. In attendance on Oct. 23 were 350 real, live people at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, signalling a major turning point for social events in Canada. An additional 250 guests who weren’t able to snag coveted in-person tickets or who weren’t quite ready for an in-person gathering, tuned in from across the country. This year’s edition of the annual event raised a record $1.5-million, monies to support arts programs that reach more than 24,000 young people from the ages of 2 to 22 in British Columbia annually, 80 per cent of whom access Arts Umbrella’s impressive art, music, film and dance programs through scholarships and bursaries.

This year’s edition of the annual event raised a record $1.5-million, monies to support arts programs that reach more than 24,000 young people from the ages of 2 to 22 in British Columbia annually.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

The evening began with cocktails (guests were asked to wear masks when not sipping) and a closer look at the array of substantive works, by artists including Dana Claxton, Stan Douglas and Angela Grossmann, that would hit the auction block after dinner. Palpable throughout the evening was a feeling of absolute excitement. At first, I attributed this to social beings returning to their natural habitat, but as I cocktail-conversed my way around the room, it became apparent just how special Arts Umbrella, which has operated on Granville Island for some 42 years, is to so many. At dinner, square tables of eight guests dotted the hotel’s main ballroom. I was seated at the table of Paul Larocque, Arts Umbrella’s spirited and visionary president and CEO, who took me on a tour the previous afternoon though the organization’s astonishing creativity-filled central hub, which opened back in April. To my left at dinner was David Aisenstat, president and CEO of Keg Restaurants Ltd., to my right was designer Elizabeth Davey and her partner, artist Andrew Dadson, whose work Black Medic and Foxtail Barley (Medicago lupulina and Hordeum jubatum) Pink, 2019 was amongst the star lots auctioned for the cause. Also at the table was film producer and event committee member Brent O’Connor. Holding court at tables nearby were returning co-chairs, fashion plate Christie Garofalo and lawyer and super art enthusiast Bruce Munro Wright.

The Bentway presents Pulse Topology, Toronto

Utilizing 3,000 lights and touchless biometric technology Pulse Topology reacts in real-time to the pulse of visitors’ heartbeats creating a unique display upon each visit.Evan Buhler/The Canadian Press

A few nights earlier on Oct. 21 in Toronto, a dinner was held to celebrate the opening of an engaging work titled Pulse Topology by Mexican-Canadian media artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Just 60 guests gathered for this sit-down supper, served adjacent to the work, which consists of some 3,000 lights suspended from the ceiling, forming a striking inverted landscape that ebbs and flows like a heartbeat. The work and dinner were presented in a rather remarkable and rarely seen raw space: an enclosed storage area nestled beneath the city’s Gardiner Expressway. The space is under the care of the Bentway, the organization focused on creating inclusive public space by reimagining the swath of land below the highway.

Mazyar Mortazavi, President and CEO of TAS, who chairs The Bentway’s board.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

Lozano-Hemmer’s work is the latest in a growing list of exciting programs the Bentway has served up in recent years. The hugely popular Museum of the Moon, a seven-metre wide touring work by English artist Luke Jerram was up last year, and this past summer an exhibition titled Playing in Public, which explored the intersection of play and public space was on offer. Dave Carey and Ilana Altman, co-executive directors of the Bentway served as the evening’s hosts.

Barbara Macdonald and OCADu's Dori Tunstall. Just 60 guests gathered for this sit-down supper, served adjacent to the work.Nolan Bryant/The Globe and Mail

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