Thank you so much for your time and for being part of these incredible groups. I know that collectively, you are each making a big difference in our communities and I hope you know how much your donations mean to small, local organizations like ours.
A few months ago, I spoke to the 100 Men and 100 Women to tell you about our organization, Art Not Shame.
We were absolutely thrilled to be selected as a charity for both groups, AND selected as a finalist with 100 Women in April. As a small, grass roots local organization, every single dollar goes directly toward our mission and we are in a very exciting stage of growth this year.
Located in downtown Guelph, we are a community-engaged, multidisciplinary arts organization serving youth and adults in Guelph and across Ontario. Art Not Shame was founded in 2017 from the belief that we all belong, we all deserve and need community, and we all have something unique and creative within us.
The organization was created to address the lack of informal and welcoming spaces and sense of belonging in a community that play a vital role in our sense of ourselves, the health of our communities, and our collective mental health and well-being.
It was inspired, in part by the memory of my brother James, who died by suicide 23 years ago. On the surface, James had everything. When he died, it was a shock to our family, his friends, and the wider community, and it devastated us all.
We ran a golf tournament in his memory for 17 years. And that golf tournament created a beautiful and supportive community that offered the permission to be vulnerable, and perhaps most significantly, the space to show up in our grief and humanness without apology.
When the golf tournament ended, I took what I knew about mental health, the arts (I am a self-taught photographer), community work, belonging (I have a PhD on love and belonging, but the real learning was in the living), and launched our first workshops series in 2017.
I wanted to create spaces and programs that welcomed people as they are, in their whole humanness, without need for apology, in the hopes that it would make the world a more inhabitable place for those who suffer like my brother James did.
From that first program in 2017, we’ve reached over 5,650 people (from Guelph and virtually to participants across Ontario), collaborated with 40 community organizations, employed 38 artists, and grown our team from 1 full-time position to 4 full-time equivalents (all through individual donations and one-time grants). Our revenue has grown year over year since we began.
We’ve seen a 557% increase in our reach annually since March 2020. And most importantly, we typically see between 75 and 90% increases in well-being measures as a result of participating in our programming.
This year, together with many partners and friends, like you, we are thrilled to be in the process of transforming a vacant street-level storefront at 119 Wyndham St Guelph into 2,602 square feet of permanent, fully accessible space for Art Not Shame programming and other community organizations and arts practitioners working in the service of well-being who have been priced out of downtown.
The donation from 100 Women Who Care is vital to making this happen. Your gift will go directly towards making this space and our programs truly accessible and welcome with the purchase of 8 flip top tables around which people will gather and create, and 4 height adjustable tables and workstations to meet the diverse needs of the people who will use this space.
We can’t wait to welcome you to our new space once it’s ready. Our renovations have begun and we have a tentative opening date this fall.
I will share additional updates as our new space emerges and our expanded programming begins. You can follow along on our website as well, or stop by and peek in our windows at 119 Wyndham St N.
Thank you so much for your time and your heart. With deep gratitude from the entire Art Not Shame team, we thank you.