Saturday, March 23, 2013

10th Annual Toronto Timeraiser

Timeraiser is one of my favourite events and I attend religiously every year. The concept is both simple and genius: Timeraiser pays fair market value for local art pieces which are then auctioned off to do-gooders at annual events across Canada in exchange for volunteer hours. The evening includes a networking/volunteer matching session with 10-20 agencies, a silent auction for the artwork, and an entertainment portion. The winners are announced at the end of the night and those people have a year to complete the volunteer hours they've bid on the pieces before picking up their art at next year's event.

I have gone to Timeraiser for the past four years and will continue going for as long as it's offered. I already do a lot of volunteering, so getting a chance to win some local art is just icing on the cake. The first year, I brought a friend and neither one of us won any art (most pieces go to maximum bid - capped at 100-120 hrs - at which point it becomes a draw among all those who submit matching max bids). The second year, I brought another friend and we both won art. Last year, neither one of us could bid as art winners but we brought yet another friend with us who also won art. This year, our third friend picked up her art and couldn't bid; we were both excited to be able to bid again but, unfortunately, didn't win anything.

Both my friend and I agreed that, while still great, this year the event was not as good as in the past years that we have attended. They moved to a new location at Artscape Wychwood Barns and while stunning, it didn't quite feel the same. The evening felt like more of an event at the Distillery, where it used to take place. I don't know if it was the layout, the remote location, or people coming in from two different entrances, but something just felt a little odd. Perhaps we just need another year to adjust since we really did love the Distillery location.

With respect to the art, I personally felt like this year I didn't love many of the pieces as much as I did in years past. There were still pieces I enjoyed tremendously but in prior years those stood out to me more and it felt like there was more variety. I also felt like there wasn't as much art this year as in the past strictly numbers-wise. Perhaps this was simply en impression created by a bigger space and a much more spread out layout, but I couldn't shake that feeling.

I found the opposite to be true about the agencies - there were a lot more present on site this year, however I found these predominantly concentrated in the social services sector and lacked variety. Many of the agencies at this year's event offered similar services and I was already familiar with them (and in fact had seen some of them at prior Timeraiser events). I would love to see much more variety at next year's event, particularly considering that this event draws many repeat attendees who are not newcomers to volunteering. I did make one great connection with a new organization that caught my eye, but would have loved more chances to explore.

That's just me nitpicking, mostly. Despite a slight sense of disappointment, I still love the event and will continue attending every year (and encouraging my friends to jump on board). If you haven't been to one of these yet, I highly recommend checking it out. The cause is fantastic, the concept is genius, the crowd is well-meaning, and the catering is always fabulous. The Toronto event always happens in early to mid-March and sells out each year, so be sure to get your tickets early and arrive in time to participate in all portions of the event.

WHAT: 10th Annual Toronto Timeraiser

WHERE: Artscape Wychwood Barns, 76 Wychwood Ave

WHEN: March 22, 2013 - 7:00 pm

COST: $20

INSIDER DETAILS: The Toronto event sells out every year, so be sure to get your tickets early or you will miss out. Also, be sure to arrive at least an hour before the bidding opens so you have a chance to talk to all the agencies you are interested in. A list of participating organizations is usually available online before the event, so you can check them out beforehand if you so wish. Finally, if you are bidding on art, be aware that many of the pieces will go to maximum bid and if you are bidding on a few, the last few minutes before the auction closes can be a nail-biter. You can only submit the matching bid cards once the piece actually reaches the maximum bid "price", but this might not happen until the very end. Figure out what you want to bid on, get some matching bid cards from the Timeraiser volunteers, and pre-fill the information on the cards in advance. That way, if the bidding sheet reaches the maximum bid point at the very last minute, all you would have to do is slip the card in instead of stressing over getting all the fields filled out in time.

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