Each + Every turns to art to help fund harm reduction

· The Pulse

A collective of businesses seeking to reverse the drug poisoning crisis has launched an ongoing art auction to help fund harm reduction groups.

The auction, organized by Each + Every: Businesses for Harm Reduction, is a way to engage with the arts community and advance conversations around safe supply and compassionate drug policies, said executive director Euan Thomson.

Bidding has now opened on Weather Balloon by West Coast artist Grant Mercs. The piece in ink and acrylic "was inspired by the risks of getting high now in his city of Edmonton, and how that compulsion leads to fatal outcomes."

It is the second piece of art to be put up for auction so far, after CMYK Pain Relief by Adrienne Tollas, which sold for $290. The proceeds will be split between the artists and a fund to support harm reduction groups and initiatives.

"There are a lot of people right now working in Alberta on a volunteer basis doing street outreach and overdose prevention work effectively without a roof over their head," said Thomson. Organizations like 4B Harm Reduction Society, AAWEAR, and Street Cats are doing this work "to alleviate the drug poisoning crisis in a way that goes completely unrecognized by the provincial government" and often without reliable funding, Thomson noted.

"There are people saving lives every day out there. We wanted to find ways that get some more resources into their pockets, while also helping to advance the issue of safe supply in the province," Thomson said, adding that the real solution is for the Alberta government to start replacing the toxic drug supply with regulated versions of the substances people are currently using, which it has refused to consider.

A drawing in black ink called Weather Balloon, roughly in the shape of a poppy seed pod, floating in the sky

One of the pieces up for grabs in Each + Every's art auction is Weather Balloon by Grant Mercs, which he said was inspired by the risks of getting high in Edmonton. Bidding is open on the piece until Nov. 12. (Grant Mercs/Each + Every)

The inclusion of the artistic community in the work of harm reduction is important because artists have the power to create lasting symbols and influence social change, and because that community itself has been hard hit by drug poisoning and overdose, Thomson said.

The loss of beloved artists like Taylor Hawkins or Mac Miller can be a way to introduce the issues of safe supply and drug consumption to the general public.

"We've all lost somebody, whether it was an important artist in our lives or somebody that we knew within the art community itself," Thomson said. "As a result of that pattern of drug use within the artistic community, the arts community has suffered enormously."

Each + Every is a Calgary-based organization, but a number of Edmonton-area businesses are among the 170+ organizations that have have signed on, including Bent Stick Brewing, Kaden Ave Communications, Park Power, Kind Ice Cream, and Knifewear.

Each + Every plans to run the art auction continuously. It is still seeking original submissions from artists inspired by substance use and harm reduction.