Portraits of Caring: Celebrating Local Youth

Nathan Smith by Elfrida Schragen; photographed by Schragen.

In the not too recent past, Elfrida Schragen, a renowned local artist, painted a series of portraits of Our Place Society; portraits of “family members,” people in the community who worked for, volunteered, or used the services of Our Place. The portraits were mounted in the dining room and there they remain.

Fast forward to the winter of 2020. Elfrida reached out to the Manager of Special Events & Corporate Philanthropy at Our Place, Steven Seltzer, with an idea of supporting Our Place with a fundraiser through her art. The two brainstormed the concept of Portraits of Female Leaders in our Community.

“We researched and came up with 47 amazing women who made a positive difference where we live. We came up with leaders in arts, businesses, education, politics and even got support from Dr. Bonnie Henry,” says Steven Seltzer.

Each person was photographed and interviewed by Elfrida and the plan was to mount the portraits in the Bay Centre as well as online. However Covid hit and it quickly became a virtual campaign.

“The public were invited to purchase a portrait or donate to the one(s) that they most admired. In the end, we raised $47,000, ” says Seltzer.

Not one week after the campaign ended, Elfrida asked Steven “what’s next?” 

The two planned The Portraits of Caring campaign to celebrate local youth, immortalizing 25-30 young people (ages 18-29) who are making, or have made significant contributions to social services by improving nourishment, hope and belonging in the Victoria region.

This initiative was a little tougher to plan out as they had less connections and less of an awareness of local youth leaders. 

“We reached out to youth groups, business groups, community associations, schools etc. We also asked our portrait subjects to suggest other youth leaders they worked with or heard about,” says Seltzer.

In the end, the biographies of the participants this year proved to be just as inspiring as last year’s campaign; moving stories of 18-29 year olds who have already made an impact with the environment, race relations, education, seniors programs, arts, business and more.

“Meeting and painting these young people who are so strongly involved in multiple ways to make their world a better place, has been inspirational and fills me with hope for the future. Using the sale of these portraits to support Our Place, gives an even deeper value to the project,” says Elfrida.

Steven and Elfrida had planned for it to be another online campaign but when the COVID-19 numbers began falling in May, Steven reached out to potential locations to consider hosting at least some of their portraits. “Hillside Centre returned my call immediately and provided the wonderful store space that we how have until the middle of July.”

Ned Taylor painted by Elfrida Schragen. Photographed by Elfrida Schragen.

“I feel quite humbled to be a part of this campaign. It still seems a little surreal seeing the portrait of me on display in the community. I’m so pleased to know that all of the portraits are raising money for Our Place and those in need here in Greater Victoria. There are good people in this world doing good things, and this campaign acknowledges them in a way that hella others too. It’s an incredible campaign that’s been put together by Our Place and I’m honoured to be a part of it,” says sitter Ned Taylor, Saanich Councillor & CRD Director.

As with their Admired campaign, Our Place are asking people to either purchase a portrait or donate to those that most speak to them. All donors will receive charity receipts and the money goes directly to the vital programs and services we deliver to the most vulnerable members of our community.

“It’s amazing that we can use this initiative to promote not just Our Place but the work of incredible citizens of our community,” says Seltzer.

“I’m just waiting for Elfrida to ask me in a few weeks, “What’s next?”

To purchase a painting or donate, head to: https://hibid.ca/events/portraits-of-caring

Asiyah Robinson by Alfrida Schragen. Photo by Alfrida Schragen.