CANMORE— A group of musicians and artists have rallied together to craft an evening of inspiration and hope that will raise money for those who have been affected by the Australian wildfires.
Australian and local photographer Camille Santiago organized Art for Australia set to take place at Canmore Brewing Company on Feb. 19 from 6-9 p.m.
“Watching all the news of the bushfires from over here [Canmore] it’s really difficult to watch and be that far away,” Santiago said, describing that how images left her feeling powerless.
“One morning after seeing some particularly heart-wrenching posts on Facebook about burnt animals— I was really compelled to do something.”
Santiago began speaking with her friends to rally together artists for the Art for Australia fundraiser exhibition.
“I’m really grateful everybody is being really creative and really on board,” Santiago said. “It’s really amazing for everyone to be giving up their time.”
The fundraiser will feature an art exhibition, raffle and silent auction paired with live music from local bands the Ramblin' Hey, Ho, Ha's and Elk Run + Riot.
“I don’t want this event to feel all doom and gloom, that’s been a lot of what I and a lot of other Australians are feeling— a little bit of the helplessness and powerlessness,” Santiago said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could come together for a night and have a good time and build a sense of hope about this. It’s a really tragic event, really shocking and definitely one that will be forever etched on the pages of history.”
Local artists Emily Beaudoin, Justin Becker, Alex Biggs, Brandon T. Brown, Pauline Brennen of Wild River Artwork, Kayla Eykelboom, Nikki Goodwin of Nak Creative, Becky Hill, Kahli Hindmarsh, John Price, Georgi Silckerodt and Santiago will all have featured work in the fundraising exhibit.
“From what I’ve seen in Canmore it just doesn’t surprise me that the community is able to band together like this,” Santiago said. “That’s what I really love about Canmore. When people in the community need something the community does tend to come together.”
The Bow Valley has a unique connection with Australia, she added, because of the number of expatriates living in the community.
“Nearly everyone is friends with at least one person from Australia— I think that really runs deep in our community,” she said.
Santiago came to Canada three years ago from Brisbane, Australia where her parents and brother still live. While the fire has minimally affected her family, there are many others whose lives have been turned upside down as the wildfires have ravished the country.
“That was really difficult seeing news come in that half of our national parks have basically burnt down, over a billion animals have perished,” Santiago said. “What really strikes me to the core is how devastating that is for our ecosystem— there’s no way that we would recover from that.”
More then one billion animals have been killed so far and the fires continue to rage, she said, leaving her questioning the future of the ecosystem in Australia and how it can recover.
While the fundraiser is a celebration of local artists and musicians in the community, Santiago said, it can serve as an opportunity to continue the conversation about the ramifications of climate change.
“Events like this will continue to happen… if we don’t do anything to mitigate the effects of climate change— or at the very least slow down the process,” Santiago said. “This is Australia at one degree of warming, but who knows what going to happen with three or four or five degrees of warming— It's a talking point about climate change awareness and education.”
She added that it is concerning when contemplating looking to the future if the warming trend continues. Santiago said she hopes that the fundraiser will spark people to be more active in dealing with climate change while acknowledging the hard work of recovery the country now faces.
Garry Gonis of the Ramblin’ Hey, Ho, Ha's said the fundraiser is a unique opportunity in the Bow Valley because of how it will meld music and art in support of Australia.
“I think it will be very engaging, I think it’s really a good gathering of artisans to help out,” Gonis said. “Hopefully this will be calling to come to check out the interesting art— it’s more than just fundraising.”
Gonis highlighted how the fires could easily happen in the Bow Valley and added that he hopes people will reflect on the potential of a similar disaster striking the community.
He added that the event is a chance to start a dialogue on what we can learn and what we can do to prepare in the case of a similar disaster.
“Hopefully this will be calling to come to check out the interesting art— it’s more than just fundraising,” Gonis said. “We should learn from this and be prepared if something like that happens here.”
All funds raised at Art For Australia will be donated to the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife and Australia who in turn will channel the funds towards wildlife care, rescuing and rehabilitating animals in the country.