Kitchissippi artist auctions off hearts for charity

Alison stands next to a wall full of her hearts. It’s very colourful.
Kitchissippi-based Alison Fowler designed roughly 220 hearts for her show this year. Photo by Zenith Wolfe

(The following story has been updated. You can view the newest version here).

By Zenith Wolfe

A Kitchissippi artist has poured her heart into over 200 canvases in support of Heart Month.

From Feb. 11-13, local art enthusiasts can purchase small canvases decorated with hearts at Wall of H’arts. This annual February sale has been held in Ottawa for over a decade.

It features Kitchissippi-based artist Alison Fowler, who designed the heart canvases for two months leading up to Valentine’s Day. She said similar heart canvases are available all year round on her online shop, but people come to the event specifically to buy unique designs.

This year is also Fowler’s first in-person sale since the start of the pandemic, which motivated her to put her all into the designs.

“I find my hearts are more extravagant, or they’ve got a lot more personality to them, because I know (buyers) are coming to see them in-person,” she said.

Fourteen special canvases are available in a silent auction. As of publication, the bidding price for one canvas, Love Light H’art, is over $300. It’s the only heart designed by another person: Andrew King, Fowler’s partner and a prominent Ottawa-based artist.

A yellow shaped heart with a dark blue background. A figure if a human is seen walking up to it.
One of fourteen canvases in the silent auction, Love Light H’art, was designed by Andrew King. Photo by Zenith Wolfe

All proceeds from the fourteen special canvases will go to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute Foundation. Its corporate donation program will also match all funds raised by Wall of H’arts according to Lindsay Firestone, the director of community engagement for the Ottawa Heart Institute.

She added that these kinds of events help raise awareness for crucial medical research projects.

“The funds raised will help to give people the gift of time,” Firestone said.

All other canvases are available for a flat $60 in a turn-based sale. Buyers receive numbers when they arrive at the venue, Fringe and Foliage, a hair salon and house plant store in Westgate. They are then called on one-by-one to approach the wall of hearts and choose up to five canvases to purchase.

Store owner Tasha Vee said the hearts feel like they belong on the wall of her store, and that they contribute to a warm atmosphere. She said she is happy to help Fowler as both her longtime friend and a supporter of local artists.

“Our whole business is (about) supporting local. This goes with my whole theme,” Vee said.

She added that these kinds of events help bring people together. This sentiment was echoed by King, who said the venue and the affordable price of the canvases make art more accessible to community members. Wall of H’arts is now an anticipated event in Ottawa, he added.

“People really look forward to it. There are people lined up at four o’clock in the cold waiting to get in and get first choice,” King said.

A number of Alison’s hearts are in a row on a wall. The first is a blue heart with stars.
The auction takes place until Feb. 13. Photo by Zenith Wolfe

This was the case for Ashley Brunette. She arrived with her husband at 4:05pm, nearly three hours early, to grab the first canvases on Feb. 11.

Brunette bought three hearts this year: one for her private collection of seven canvases, and two as gifts for her best friend and stepmother.

“Every year (Fowler) comes out with a new sought after heart, so I try to get here to expand my collection,” Brunette said. “They’re the perfect little size that you can create a gallery wall at home the way you want it.”

She also brought another best friend, Kyle Gleason, to his first in-person Wall of H’arts sale. He was this year’s second buyer.

“I started getting them for my nieces and nephews. Now they all have one, which is like their first pieces of art,” Gleason said.

The sale is open until 5:00pm on Feb. 13, and the auction until 8:00pm online.

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