Fine Art of Support

Nate Gervais knows what it’s like to be living on the street and needing a little help.

So on Saturday, the 47-year-old Londoner will be giving back to the Unity Project at the eighth annual UPwithART arty party and silent auction at the Palace Theatre.

It’s one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for shelter on Dundas Street near English Street that offers “home-like emergency shelter and transitional housing shelter” for men, women and youth aged 18 and older, as well as a life skills program.

Gervais is one of three clients paired with London artists to create art for the auction. He collaborated with Leslie Putnam. The other collaborators include artist David Merritt with Marshall Custus and Jason McLean with Don Krauskopf.

“Staff and others observed that I was always painting or drawing and carrying around art supplies and asked me if I’d do it,” said Gervais.

“My grandfather was a graphic artist and artist and, so, I was seven when I first had a palette knife in my hand and I received a lot of encouragement. I’ve always enjoyed working with other artists, especially people on the street. There are some accomplished artists on the street. The Unity Project helped me out and this is something I love and I know I’m good at. I felt I had to go through with this because art is a defining element of me.”

Working with Putnam “was a good fit” said Gervais.

“She was watching me paint things and writing things throughout the day and was picking up stuff I was discarding – sometimes even with X through it – and then we talked and she put it together,” explained Gervais of their piece titled Conversations.

“It was truly a collaborative effort.”

Gervais has struggled with mental health issues and has lived mostly in shelters and on the street for about the last seven years, but has worked previously in retail, an art store and in the construction industry. He attended Western University, Fanshawe College (for architectural technology) and San Francisco’s Academy of Art University.

When he paints or draws, Gervais said he will do portraits, drawings of anatomy and other images of the “street and urban environment.”

Putnam often has lent her talents to raising money for the Unity Project and other causes.

“It’s local and you see where your money is going,” said Putnam, adding she enjoyed working with Gervais.

“It was great to work with another artist – a talented artist – and someone you’ve never met before. It was nice to collaborate. We found a way to put our two voices together.”


UPwithART includes the four collaborative pieces, art donated by London artists, and art donated by London collectors, all to be sold in a silent auction.

Last year’s event raised more than $81,000 for the Unity Project, which organizers hope to exceed.

The event also includes door prizes, raffle items, hors d’oeuvres and a mixed media live performance including spoken word, music and imagery featuring Franklin Davis Jr., Emma Wise, Cory Downing and Jason Rip.

There also will be a winescape micro-gallery where art works on paper conceal 12 bottles of wine up for auction; an auction of ceramics; a raffle to win a Harold Town painting, Toy Horse #263, valued at $4,500; and, a door prize featuring a painting by Maurice Stubbs.

“There is something for everyone at UPwithART, whether you’re a seasoned collector and someone just beginning to collect,” said committee chair, Brian Meehan, executive director of Museum London.

“The breadth of work, the calibre of artists, the accessible prices and the party atmosphere all provide a unique opportunity through which to experience the London art scene and support a most important cause.”

By Joe Belanger
The London Free Press