Photo by batega.
Yes, there are Torontoist writers who remember York’s 2000/01 CUPE walkout a little too well. So when 2008 rolled around, and students were once again barred from classes for the duration of a ridiculously protracted strike, certain impressions of a scholastically bereft university flooded to mind: lots of beer, lots of hangovers, tumbleweeds blowing through Vari Hall, and a gleeful student body celebrating sweet, hedonistic sloth.
And on some level, that was probably the case from November 6 through January 29, when the provincial government put an end to the third longest faculty strike in the history of any Canadian university. But for a few students and alumni, the long, frustrating interruption of the academic year brought opportunity, a chance to focus their academic pursuits on making a substantial contribution to the community beyond the Keele Street campus—you know, the whole idea behind higher education in the first place.
With month after lecture-free month, a plan was tossed around to assemble members of Winters College’s fine arts community, employing their collaborative talent in support of cancer victims and survivors. The end result—Saturday’s Cuttin’ It For Cancer Benefit Gala at Comedy Bar—is both a fundraiser in support of cancer research and a vibrant, eclectic tribute to those waging the fight of their lives.
Funk band Cool Man Cool is one of the acts performing at the Cuttin’ It For Cancer benefit gala. Photo by Scarlet O’Neill.
“The Benefit Gala brings together two different aspects of fundraising for cancer research against a background of emerging Toronto talent,” writes Shera Everett-Singh, Treasurer and Co-ordinator of Media Relations for the event. And “by creating a not-for-profit event,” she continues, “the CIFC committee hopes to give more exposure to young artistic and community-based initiatives, and illustrate the benefits and rewards associated with the arts and local talent.” Meg Maguire, co-chair of the Gala, further illuminates the partnership that came about in the wake of a shuttered York. “Steph [Law, co-chair] and I have both wanted to do this for a while,” she says, “and when we mentioned it to our friends, they also wanted to get involved. Cuttin’ It For Cancer grew out of brainstorming and seeing how we could all use the best of our talents together.”
As the billing implies, Saturday’s event features hair donations to Pantene Pro-V’s Beautiful Lengths program, aiding those suffering the hair-loss effects of chemotherapy. Pledges raised by hair donors, along with the proceeds of the event’s silent auction—offering items donated by MAC Cosmetics, Steamwhistle, and Second City—will go towards meeting the Gala’s stated goal of a hefty $10,000 gift to the Canadian Cancer Society. Additionally, the auction will include items from the city’s emerging and established artists, including handmade jewellery, paintings, prints, sculpture, claywork, and photography. Performances by jazz musician James McEleney and his ensemble, as well as funk group Cool Man Cool, the Second City Alumni improv troupe, DJ Ghaleon, and djh will highlight the evening, showcasing a whirlwind of talent from north of Finch.
“In creating this event,” Everett-Singh told Torontoist, “the CIFC committee hopes to provide an example of what can be accomplished post-graduation.” Citing the frustration and exhaustion of trying to establish oneself in a frenetically competitive scene, she adds, “Our message is simple: if nothing exists in which to share and develop your art, then it means something must be created. There is no point or accomplishment in inactively complaining.” And at a university with its own colourful verb for particularly rough, unfair treatment—”Yorking”; being “Yorked”—an instinct for helping others sometimes comes with that $40,000 piece of parchment.
“Coming right after the most recent strike of CUPE 3903 and the frustration everyone on that campus felt,” says Everett-Singh, “I hope that as alumni, we can shed some light on a dark patch.”