Those who knew Gordon Smith personally describe him now as exceedingly generous, encouraging and continuously effervescent. Those who never had the pleasure of meeting Smith in person knew him as an innovative and clever painter, printmaker, and sculptor. Whether on a personal or professional level, the impact of the English-born, Canadian artist was felt by many.
Smith died in 2020 in the months preceding what would have been his centennial birthday, and just a few short months prior to the onset of the pandemic.
As a result, the artist was never honoured with an immediate celebration of life, but the time between then and now has ensured something even bigger, and better, could be created. The Brilliance Gala, set for June 15 at the Pipe Shop event space at The Shipyards, will celebrate the enduring legacy of Smith while supporting a cause he cared about most: art education for all.
“Here we are, three years later, and we finally have something that will embrace this shared affection and respect that we all have for the work and vision of Gordon, an occasion to support his continued legacy,“ said Patti Glass, who will co-chair the event alongside Yoshi Karasawa and Ian Wallace.
Not a memorial in the traditional sense, the Brilliance Gala instead will be a large-scale fundraiser that will auction off some of Smith’s most acclaimed pieces, including signature work Barkley Sound II, valued at $65,000, to raise cash for his own art education venture Artists For Kids.
“I hope people come away from this event thinking ‘wow, I’ve just supported something that could change someone’s life,” said Glass, adding how the goal is to raise $300,000 in funds.
Alongside Smith’s own pieces will be works contributed by more than 50 artists who were personally impacted by Gordon’s guidance and life work, either as his own former students, or those who have benefited from his Artists for Kids program.
Fellow artist and friend Wayne Eastcott said Smith was "genuinely excited by the possibilities of everyone" regardless of where they were in life.
"Especially students and children with their never-ending curiosity of all things visual. This, of course, reflected Gordon’s own amazing attitude, not only to art but to life in general," he said.
"His generosity, excitement, and energy was contagious and affected everyone he came into contact with and, perhaps even, changed their life.”
Anyone can participate in the fundraising auction at Brilliance Gala 2023, while a few seats remain for anyone who wishes to attend the fine-dining dinner tribute June 15. Tickets can be purchased at brilliancegala.com.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.