The Orillia Museum of Art & History (OMAH) hosted its first Winter Gala on Saturday night at Hawk Ridge Golf Club — an event that raised more than $25,000.
OMAH executive director Ninette Gyorody says the last time the organization did a major fundraising event in person was in the early months of 2020.
“Being fully back in person is exciting,” Gyorody said. “It’s pretty significant for us.”
The event featured a raffle for six different pieces of art created by local artists. Funds raised from the event will go towards continuing regular programming at OMAH, children’s programs, and the organization's endowment fund for long-term sustainability.
The theme of this year’s event was ‘A Celebration of Canadian History’ featuring guest speaker Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell, Lakehead University’s 10th chancellor.
Shelton Deverell, a member of OMAH and long-time Oro-Medonte resident, says she was happy to be the guest speaker at Saturday’s event.
“I think OMAH is a fantastic organization for the community,” she said. “Because this is a fundraiser and an attempt by the museum to offset some of its own costs for programming over the next year, I’m happy to cooperate.”
The theme for Shelton Deverell’s speech was ‘honouring thy neighbour’s histories', which delved deep into the conversation around diversity.
“The best course of action is not to say we are all the same because really we are all different,” she said. “That is what is to be respected and honoured.”
Shelton Deverell is well-educated on the topic of diversity. She was born in 1945 in the Houston, Texas Negro Hospital. She attended Jack Yates High School, the same high school as George Floyd, although about 40 years earlier.
Today, Deverell serves Lakehead University as a member of the president’s council on truth and reconciliation in addition to being an adjunct professor of education.
While working as the head of production for VisionTV, Shelton Deverell says she purposely built her production teams to represent as many ethnic, faith, age, and groups as possible.
“I wanted that diversity of story around our planning table,” she said. “It’s not a new topic for me but a topic that surfaces in different ways depending on what I’m involved in.”
For Shelton Deverell, she enjoyed sharing her experiences and knowledge with a near sold-out gala at Saturday night that featured a very receptive audience.
“Since the discovery of unmarked graves near former sites of residential schools, and since the murder of George Floyd, many people have wanted to know more of those stories than they did before,” she said. “I am seizing the moment that they want to know.”
Deverell thanked everybody who supported the event and OMAH on Saturday.
“We are going through a period where arts and cultural industries are very stressed economically,” she said. “Arts and cultural industries heal us faster than many other treatments. It’s important to our health that we have such a place.”