'They're not alone': Seniors get unexpected gifts from Canadian artists during pandemic

What began as a call to local artists, asking for donations of Canadian artwork to seniors' residences, has blossomed into a countrywide message of support to let the elderly know they haven't been forgotten during the coronavirus pandemic.

Artwork donated to retirement homes to comfort isolated seniors during crisis

Toronto seniors get unexpected gift from Canadian artists

2 years ago
Duration 2:31
CBC's Zulekha Nathoo reports on a call to local artists that has transformed into a national movement to help seniors coping with isolation

What began as a call to local artists, asking for donations of Canadian artwork to seniors' residences, has blossomed into a countrywide message of support to let the elderly know they haven't been forgotten during the coronavirus pandemic.

Finding a way to help

Toronto-based artist Margaux Smith and curator Tatum Dooley wanted to find a way to help seniors who have been among the hardest hit during the crisis and isolated from loved ones.

When they began asking artists on social media last month for works of art that could hang in a resident's room, they were overwhelmed by the response.

Artist Margaux Smith, right, drops off dozens of artwork to the Fudger House Long-Term Care Home in Toronto on April 28. (CBC)

Artists answer the call

Among the Canadian artists who donated work is Toronto-based Ibrahim Abusitta. 


'Bit of time-travelling'

This painting called Dancing Couple was among Abusitta's six offerings.

"It is meant to look like a nostalgic era, maybe the '60s, maybe '50s, so I was hoping there would be a little bit of time-travelling in viewing the work and distract from the present time," he said.

(Submitted by Ibrahim Abusitta)

Showing care

At her studio, Smith gathers piles of donated artwork — some of which were done by seniors themselves — and places them in frames.

"I think it's just one of many ways that you can show care," she said about the project.

(Ibrahim Abusitta)

Seniors helping seniors

Toronto artist Carolina Gajardo, 66, jumped at the chance to help fellow seniors. As a former refugee from Chile, she said, "I hope that they receive a message that they're not alone. I think that is critical in any difficult circumstances that people don't feel … they are left behind."

(Submitted by Margaux Smith)

First recipients

Fudger House, a publicly funded seniors' facility in Toronto, received the first batch of art donations on Tuesday. A sign outside reads: "We love health-care workers."

(Submitted by Carolina Gajardo)

Making connections

Smith and Dooley, who are receiving artwork from across Canada and around the world, plan to donate to other seniors facilities as well.


Opportunity for friendship

Some have included handwritten notes, like this one from artist Brenda Forbes, and even return addresses to encourage a letter exchange.


Art finds new home

Dooley holds up a framed piece of art by Gajardo, part of a series called Spring and one of five alcohol-ink works she donated.

(Tatum Dooley)

Taking precautions

During the delivery process, Dooley and Smith maintain physical distance from staff members and wear masks. Staff sanitize what enters the facility before distributing the special gifts to seniors.


Special delivery

Gajardo's print makes its way into the hands of Maureen Law, one of the residents at Fudger House. A reminder that even if isolated, she and her fellow residents are not alone.

(Tatum Dooley)

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