An Evening At Toronto's Ritz-Carlton for Art for AIDS


Recently, we were proud to host "An Evening At the Ritz", an exhibit and fundraiser at Toronto's Residence at the Ritz-Carlton. The event featured a new collection of artwork made by young people from across Canada and Tanzania exhibited in the Ritz's beautiful Sky Lobby alongside black and white photography by award-winning photojournalist Dave Chidley, taken during recent Art for AIDS International workshops in Tanzania.

The event was generously sponsored by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) and the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW). We'd like to thank both organizations for their ongoing support and leadership in the community. We would also like to thank our food and beverage sponsors, Ponte Wine and Spirits, Steam Whistle Brewing, and Fare Catering for providing food and beverages for the event, which were enjoyed by over 100 visitors throughout the evening.

Finally, the event would not have been a success without each of our guests who came to learn more about the impact that HIV and AIDS is having in our community and in communities across Africa, and about the work that Art for AIDS International is doing to help stop the spread of HIV through art and education. As a result of your support and enthusiasm, the event raised over $10,000. These funds will help us continue to engage young people across Canada and abroad in our educational workshops, and will benefit directly our partner organizations in Africa, who provide care and support services to women and children affected by HIV and AIDS in their communities.

If you weren't able to join us in Toronto, here are a few of the photos taken by Dave Chidley during the event.

Event Sponsors


OECTA is a teachers’ association that represents 45,000 professional women and men who teach all grades in publicly funded English Catholic schools in Ontario. Through support from OECTA, Art for AIDS International has brought important educational programming to young people from across Ontario and to school communities in East Africa.

About CAW

The Canadian Auto Workers union is one of the largest private sector unions in the country with approximately 193,000 members from coast to coast to coast. CAW has been a close friend and partner of Art for AIDS International since we began working with Canadian youth to raise awareness about the impact of HIV and AIDS in their own community and in communities around the world.

To learn more about upcoming Art for AIDS International events in your community, visit our Events and Exhibits page. You can also contact us if you'd like to learn more about hosting an event or exhibit in your community.

Growing Up With Art for AIDS International

This post was written by Art for AIDS Workshop participant, and long-time volunteer Serena Merucci.

My journey with Art for AIDS International began when I was a fourteen-year-old grade eight student from Strathroy Community Christian School in 2006. Our art teacher contacted Art for AIDS in order to do a workshop for one of our art assignments. Our teacher told us about this organization the week before our workshop was scheduled and we were all quite intrigued as my classmates and I were never fully aware of the AIDS pandemic and how awful it truly is. I clearly remember coming in from recess the day of the scheduled workshop, sitting down at my desk and seeing this strange white-haired man standing at the front of our classroom with our art teacher. When we all quieted down, he introduced himself as Hendrikus Bervoets and began snapping his fingers in a steady rhythm.

“Every time I snap my fingers, someone, somewhere in the world dies from AIDS,” he said in a solemn voice.

We were shocked; there was a dead silence throughout the classroom for a good thirty seconds before Hendrikus starting talking again. He then proceeded to tell us about the AIDS pandemic in Africa and how Art for AIDS International’s mission was to help those affected by HIV and AIDS. After his short speech he told us about how we could help the cause by making collages and selling them in order to raise money for those who needed it most. We were all thrilled that we could actually help and the mood in the classroom changed significantly. Everyone became increasingly engaged. For the next two art classes, we had a great time making collages.

Pieces were then selected from our class’ work to be printed and then sold. We organized a small fundraiser in our school gym after the collages were printed so family members could come out and buy their children’s artwork.

At that point in time I was aspiring to be an artist, and for the first time in my life someone was buying my art. I was so thrilled by the idea that I was an actual artist now, as well as I was able to help people affected by HIV and AIDS in Africa by raising money for organizations that provided them with care and support.

Two years then past from my first encounter with Art for AIDS and I never forgot about them. When I was in grade ten at the London District Christian Secondary School, an announcement was made that Art for AIDS was coming to do a workshop at the high school and all who wanted to participate had to sign up. I was sick on the day of the announcement and when I got back to school a friend of mine, who was in the same grade eight class as me, told me about the workshop and I was thrilled. I asked my teacher if I could leave class to go sign up in for the workshop and I was devastated to learn that it was already full.  I rushed to the office and begged to be allowed to participate. Luckily, our kind secretary somehow managed to squeeze me in and I am still forever grateful to her. I was able to participate in the workshop and I made new collages that were printed and sold in the new gallery space that Art for AIDS had recently opened. This was another boost for my artistic aspirations.

It was after this workshop in 2008 that I began volunteering for Art for AIDS. For the next two years, I volunteered regularly at the gallery on a weekly basis and helped run Art for AIDS booths at events and festivals.

I am now in my second year at Western University where I am completing my undergraduate Bachelor’s degree in Art History, Theory and Criticism.

The influence Art for AIDS has had on my life over the past seven years has been dramatic and profound.

Through this organization I have become more confident, not only as an artist, but as an individual as well. I credit Art for AIDS for helping me become the passionate and determined person I am today.

The Great Moon Gathering

The following post was written by Art for AIDS Marketing and Communications Intern Robyn Bell.

Moosonee 2

This month, we were honoured to exhibit at the Great Moon Gathering in Moosonee, Ontario; an annual conference hosted by the Mushkegowuk Tribal Council and Omushkego Education to promote life-long learning opportunities for the Cree community and support cross-community collaboration. The conference brought together educators from the eight Omushkego Education Authorities and the surrounding communities to engage in professional development, and to share resources and ideas with one another. This year's theme was The Spirit Voice... Lessons from the Land.

Over the last few years, Art for AIDS has had the opportunity to host workshops with students in Moosonee and neighbouring Moose Factory, Ontario, which has resulted growing community dialogue about HIV and AIDS, as well as broader related issues, and in the creation of powerful works of art. At the Great Moon Gathering, we had the opportunity to share some of this work with the broader community and engage with other educators about the importance art plays in education. We also hosted new workshops with Delores D Echum Composite School in Moose Factory.

We are extremely grateful to have been invited to participate in the conference and share our work with others. Thank you to Irene Tomatuk, the Director Of Education at the Mushkegowuk Council, and Vic Linklater, the Great Moon Gathering Coordinator, for inviting us to attend the event. Thank you also to the students, teachers, and administrators at Delores D Echum Composite School for their support and fantastic participation. We'll be sharing their artwork online in the coming few weeks!

For more information on the Mushkegowuk Council, please visit:

Teacher Candidates Reflect On Their Art for AIDS Workshop

The following post was written by Art for AIDS Marketing and Communications Intern Robyn Bell.

Windsor 6

On February 1st, Art for AIDS International hosted a workshop with teacher candidates as part of the Professional Learning Series at the University of Windsor, held during the Faculty of Education's 6th Annual Social Justice in Education Conference. The annual conference seeks to encourage students to reflect on the importance of social justice and equity in education. At the end of the workshop, participants had an opportunity to provide feedback on their experience. While we had a fantastic time hosting the workshop, the responses we received were truly heartwarming for our team to read.

This is what they had to say:

"Immensely Enjoyable workshop.  I very much enjoyed the hands-on aspect of this workshop and Mr. Bervoets is visibly passionate about what he does.  The explanation of the motive behind the workshops/organization was also presented well.  It was a very encouraging environment and it doesn't matter if you're an 'artist' or not--I was very impressed by the caliber of work produced! I would definitely bring this workshop to future classes I may teach.  Not only does it raise awareness of AIDS/Social Justice issues, it's also hella fun! A++, Would workshop again!"

- Brian Laine

"This Workshop was very useful and fun.  Its nice to do an activity rather than just listen.  The concept of using our art for a cause is great.  I'm glad I came to this."

- Jenn Ducroix

"This workshop surprised me--I'm not sure if I read the description or not, but it is not what I expected. The Surprise was pleasant.  I particularly enjoyed the message about turning your passion or talent into a tool for betterment and hope.  The activity was great; A wonderful de-stressor after a hectic week! Thank you for coming and sharing your passion with us."

- Tia Papa

"I very much enjoyed this workshop because it was not just a lecture but a hands on experience.  I will be taking and using this within my own classroom.  Thank you."

- Anonymous

"Thank you very much, Hendrikus, for your dedication and the transmission of your passion.  We learned a lot and we learned how to put our heart and compassion into the learning process.  Keep up the good work.  Good luck!"

- Alia Khalaf

windsor 8

Thank you to all of the participants, the Faculty of Education at University of Windsor for hosting the workshop, and Lisa Staley for all the great photos.

How to Make a Great Art for AIDS Collage in 5 Steps

The following post was written by Art for AIDS Marketing and Communications Intern Robyn Bell.

5 steps - intro

Throughout the year, we have the opportunity to exhibit some incredible artwork made by young people from around the world to help raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. There is one question that comes up frequently at our exhibits, however, that we thought we should address: How are they made? Since there are more people out there with the same question, we thought we would just show you.

Recently, we had the privilege of being welcomed into the Montessori Academy of London to host a series of workshops with grade seven and eight students. Art for AIDS International's Executive Director, Hendrikus Bervoets, led students through the creative collage-making process, encouraging independent and imaginative thinking, while discussing the impact of HIV and AIDS on communities around the world. Of course, the workshop also resulted in a new collection of artwork created entirely by the participating students. To show you how they did it, here is the 5 step process that students took to create some beautiful and powerful images:

1. Play

Students at the Montessori Academy started the collage making process by getting their hands dirty and playing with paint. These finger paintings are used as the background for their collages.

5 steps - play

2. Tell a Story

After flipping through photos and magazines, students ripped out some of their favourite pages to use as either background pieces or story telling pieces. Some chose images of scenery featuring hot deserts, blue skies, or calm oceans, while others chose images of people or animals to tell their tales.

5 steps - choose images

3. Tear it Up

Using inner artistic intuition, pieces were cut, torn, and ripped for the next layer of the collage. Background pieces could be torn or ripped, while story pieces were cut out using careful precision.  Whether the students chose colour, symmetry, shape, texture or juxtaposition in their art, they were always encouraged to follow their gut instincts of what looked most personally appealing. The creative process remained entirely in their hands.

5 steps - tear

4. Glue it Down

In the final step, students layered their pieces using the textured finger paintings as a base. Background images were layered next, with the carefully cut storytelling pieces placed last, giving the final punch of colour and expression. All pieces were then glued down.

5 steps - glue

5. Show it Off

Give us a smile, they look great! Every finished piece from Montessori Academy was utterly unique. The final pieces boasted bold colours, engaging story pieces and interesting uses of juxtaposing images. Each collage will be produced as original machine-made limited edition prints to be signed and numbered. After the portfolios are complete, the artwork is exhibited and sold in schools, and throughout the local and global community at special events, in galleries and museums, at concerts, and online.  Funds will then be used to support select initiatives directly that provide care and support for women and children affected by HIV and AIDS in some of the communities hardest hit by the pandemic throughout Africa.

These students all demonstrated a knack for the creative process and saw the beauty of being involved in the global response to HIV and AIDS. We had the fortune to be there while we watched each student beam at their artwork. Together, we were reminded the power of driving change through art.

5 steps - show it off

Art for AIDS International would like to thank the Montessori Academy of London, students, teachers, and supervisors for hosting us. We're excited to share the final prints with you, and the broader community over the coming months!

A Letter of Thanks from Moosonee Public School

This past spring, Art for AIDS' Executive Director, Hendrikus Bervoets, traveled to Moosonee and Moose Factory Ontario for the third time in two years to host workshops with young people covering a range of topics including HIV, discrimination, and social justice. Recently, we were honoured to receive a letter of thanks from one of the teachers involved, which, with her permission, we wanted to share. While we consistently work to ensure that our workshops are engaging, fun, and educational for everyone involved, letters like this affirm that we are on the right track and are a source of motivation for our whole team:

Although some of us may never travel the world, or even leave the little bubble that is Moosonee, I thought it was very educational for the students to meet Hendrkus; a world traveler with a humanitarian spirit.

Hendrkus relayed so many powerful and thought-provoking messages during his workshop; I know that many participants were touched by various things he said. For me, his comments of acceptance were very moving and encouraged me to be less judgmental and more open to the knowledge and experiences of those around me.

I have been racking my brain for months, trying to design a workshop that would prove to be a self-esteem builder while also teaching our students resiliency. As it turns out, all I had to do was have my students attend one of Hendrkus’ workshops! The empowerment, confidence and overall joy in the room throughout the two days was as infectious as it was incredible.

Words cannot express how grateful I feel for having had the opportunity to participate in the “Art for Aids” workshop. Being able to share it with the Grade 8 students of Moosonee Public School makes it that much better. I know that the messages of acceptance, social responsibility and self-worth that were communicated throughout the workshop will go a long way in aiding our students achieve lasting success in all of their endeavors.

A big thank you to our Supervisory Officer, Mr. Tom Steele, who had a vision of this workshop happening months ago and went to great lengths to ensure that it became a reality. And to Hendrkus, who spread a wonderful message of self-empowerment to all our Intermediate students while simultaneously taking them one step closer to becoming caring, informed citizens of the world. I look forward to when our paths cross again.

Emily Samuel
Grade 8 Teacher
Moosonee Public School

We would like to thank all of the students, teachers, and administrators from both the Moosonee Public School in Moosonee, Ontario, and the Ministik Public School in Moose Factory, Ontario, for their support, and the enthusiasm they've shown for our work. We are all touched and looking forward to our next opportunity to work in both communities.

Read about our previous trips to Moosonee and Moose Factory.

Art for AIDS selected as Finalist for Pillar Community Innovation Awards

Each year, the Pillar Nonprofit Network recognizes organizations and individuals that demonstrate innovation, leadership, and collaboration within the not-for-profit sector through the Pillar Community Innovation Awards. This year, we are proud to announce that Art for AIDS International has been recognized as a finalist for Community Innovation alongside two other London-based programs.

Previous Pillar Community Innovation Award recipients include Habitat for Humanity, the Boys' and Girls' Club of London, and Meals on Wheels. We would like to sincerely thank Pillar Nonprofit Network for recognizing our work, and to all other nominees for their commitment and dedication to the London and surrounding community.

The final award ceremony will take place on November 13, 2012 from 6:30-9:30 PM in the London Convention Centre. For more information on the event, or to view the full list of finalists under each category, please visit Pillar's Community Innovation Award website.

Art for AIDS International Travels to Moosonee Ontario!

Driving on an ice road from Moosonee to Moose Factory is just one of the many exciting events in store for Hendrikus Bervoets, the Founder and Executive Director of Art for AIDS International.  Thanks to a wonderful sponsorship from the Ontario Teachers Federation, Hendrikus will be travelling to Moosonee, Ontario from February 9th to 11th to host art and HIV/AIDS awareness workshops with the staff and students at Northern Lights Secondary School. With six different countries and close to 250 schools under his belt, he is pleased to be working with the Moosonee community for the first time.

“For a long time now I have wanted to work with First Nations communities in Canada, and for us to now finally be able to do this puts a smile on my face,” says Hendrikus. “Further, I hope to go back later this year and celebrate our new relationship with the Moosonee Community with the opening of an exhibit featuring all of the artwork that has been produced by the participants.”

While in Moosonee, Hendrikus will be hosting a introductory event, and a series of art and HIV/AIDS awareness workshops for students and faculty from the Northern Lights Secondary School.

Hendrikus and all of the volunteers from Art for AIDS International would like to thank the Ontario Teachers’ Federation who kindly sponsored the event. We are all grateful for the opportunity to expand our workshop program in Canada and work with a group of students who would be out of our reach geographically if not for OTF's generous sponsorship.

Stay tuned for more details, as well as photos from the workshops in the coming weeks. All of our photos will be available on Art for AIDS International's Facebook page.