After purchasing a house last year, teacher Ben Shedden and his wife, Eden, a full-time student, didn't exactly have a stash of cash with which to adorn its "drab" bare walls.
So the Winnipeg couple went to a silent art auction and successfully bid on two paintings by local artists.
The Sheddens worked a combined 160 hours to pay off their bid but they never spent a penny, because at a timeraiser art auction, time really is money.
Instead of bidding dollars, attendees bid volunteer hours to agencies and organizations that need their labour and skills.
Ben and Eden volunteered together at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, while Eden also helped out at Villa Rosa, a pre- and post-natal residence for young, single women.
"Volunteering so many hours was easy," says Ben. The event itself, he adds, was an opportunity to enjoy a bit of high-brow culture.
"To see the kind of pieces that were available, meet local non-profit organization reps and eat fancy hors-d'oeuvres while drinking wine and bidding on art made us feel like high-society."
On May 30, Winnipeggers will be able to spend their most precious commodity on original works of art while helping community causes. The third Winnipeg Timeraiser takes place at Manitoba Hydro Place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and available online at www.timeraiser.ca or at the door.
The event, described as "part volunteer fair, part silent auction and part night on the town," aims to raise 4,000 volunteer hours for some 25 different agencies while also investing around $10,000 in the careers of local artists.
"It supports artists, non-profits and volunteerism -- a win-win-win for everyone," says co-chairwoman Janellyn Marcial.
How it works is that over the course of the evening, attendees will chat with reps from community groups -- such as Fort Whyte Alive, Spence Neighbourhood Association and West Central Women's Resource Centre -- and match their skills to the organization's needs.
"It's kind of like speed dating," says Marcial. "But we try to promote skilled volunteer positions, so it's a little bit more than filing or administrative work."
Once a match has been made, would-be volunteers are then eligible to bid on 25 or so paintings by Manitoba artists -- which were purchased at fair market price (up to $800 per piece) for the auction.
The winner is the person who pledges the highest number of volunteers hours, which they will have one year to complete. A minimum bid of 20 hours is suggested, although Marcial says that last year, all but two artworks went for the maximum bid of 100 hours.
You don't have to bid on a work of art to pledge volunteer hours, of course. If you do make a winning bid, you have 12 months to pay it off. Until then, your painting will adorn the office wall of a timeraiser corporate sponsor.
The timeraiser was born in 2002 after a group of friends in Toronto brainstormed for ways to find more meaningful and relevant volunteer opportunities. They are currently being held in 10 cities across Canada.
Since 2003, timeraisers have generated a reported 114,000 volunteer hours for 550 non-profit organizations and invested more than $700,000 in emerging artists.