After almost 2 months of planning following the summer’s painting project at Hong Fook, on the 23rd of October, the 1000 Candles final exhibition was held at the Fairview Library Theatre in North York. According to the numbers we received, over 100 people turned out for the event, which had two separate programs – one at 3:30 pm, the next at 6:00, to accommodate both daytime and after-work crowds.
The first showing was the more elaborate, with Bonnie Wong, Hong Fook’s Executive Director, and Loree Lawrence, officer for the Ontario Arts Council’s ‘Artists in the Community/Workplace‘ grant which funded 1000 Candles, both headlining as speakers, along with myself. Loree also helped us distribute awards to the client artists whose work we saw, and to pick out 2 winners for the event’s Lucky Draw (the prizes being art supplies, naturally). The first showing also contained interviews with 2 of the client artists who made this project such a success.
Both showings opened with live piano music provided by a HF volunteer. We also had the opportunity to debut the short documentary video twice, shot and edited by summer student Wendy Xie. This was quite a magical experience: just after the video had ended, the screen on which it was projected lifted to reveal the host of easels set up on stage behind it which propped up the show. Some we purchased, but most were generously donated to us by Tropicana Community Services.
The lobby of the theatre itself was quite a spectacle in its own right, with super cool balloon sculptures, tables set up with other arts and crafts for sale, food and drink (of course!), a sign-in table where guests could write messages on small cut-out stars, and on the rafters, the products of August’s youth Umbrella Project hung, finally complete (this was neat for me to see, since a few of our youth artists had not finished by the time my two sessions with them were up!) Both before and after both shows, there was a definite buzz in the air as people mixed and mingled here, leaving no question as to the enthusiasm of the community for what we had achieved.
I admit to being somewhat nervous at the beginning of the day, as the 1000 Candles show is by far the most ambitious and large-scale show I’ve ever initiated. There is absolutely no doubt that without the help of countless individuals, this project would have been simply impossible. I am grateful to Annie Tse, Senior Mental Health Worker at Hong Fook, and my mentor since July 2014 when I started up there. Doris Yang, Self-Help Program Team Leader, was also invaluable in overseeing the numerous logistical details of the sessions and show. Wendy Xie, as I’ve mentioned previously, was a fantastic help to me throughout the in-class sessions and produced for us a top-notch video, which I’ll be sharing with all of you very soon. Elizabeth Pang volunteered her time to arranging the marvelous catalogue containing all of the works seen at the exhibition. Beyond this, there are so many volunteers, helpers, workers, translators, client assistants of various kinds, too many to name. A sincere shout out to all of you!
And of course, a hearty thank you to the Ontario Arts Council for making this all possible!
We were blown away to find out that 11 of the 18 works on display did end up selling (on last count, and this was over a week ago…). All funds will be transferred back to the artists themselves, although I understand that some of them so value Hong Fook’s services that they may be donating back some of these proceeds. Now that our fancy night out has finally passed, the works have been installed at the Riverdale Library in Chinatown East, where they will remain on display until the end of November. I hope you may find yourself in the neighbourhood and swing by to check out these masterpieces and sign our guest list!