Being an artist resembles performing a high-wire act in a circus. It requires balance, skill, hope, risk and commitment, as well as lots and lots of practice.

It also helps if there’s a net beneath you in case the unthinkable happens and you fall.

Compared to Canadians who are employees, artists – like the majority of other self-employed people – are left unprotected from illness or other tragedies. Self-employed artists have no paid sick leave or Employment Insurance.

Yet artists are usually the first to donate their work to fundraising efforts for all kinds of causes.

Now the Artist Relief Fund Society will fill in part of this missing safety net. The newly formed society is raising money to provide short-term financial assistance to artists when debilitating health issues or personal tragedy leaves them unable to work.

Years ago, when fellow Yukon Artists @ Work member Patrick Royle fell ill, Harreson Tanner and Jeanine Baker took part in organizing [email protected] fundraising to help him out. They realized it would be better to have something in place that could help artists quickly, instead of organizing a fundraiser under pressure after disaster struck.

Since then, [email protected] has also supported Baker with fundraising in times of need. Tanner, Baker and Royle are all on the board of the new society.

M.J. Warshawski and Craig Hougen have also taken a generous and organizational interest in the cause. A fundraising event requires a certain amount of money up front – in this instance, to print booklets for the event and buy the canvases for the artists to paint.

Then there is staff time needed for research, organization, processing ticket sales and acquiring the fine wines they plan to sell to raise money for the fund. Business community support in these areas greatly increases the power of this artists-helping-artists endeavour.

Using a fairly simple form, artists in extremis will be able to apply to the board of the society. They can request a maximum of $1000 at any one time, to cover the basic expenses of life while they recover.

The amount is fairly low to keep the application simple. The grant will be paid out of the Society’s raised funds. There may be more than one fundraiser a year, depending on the demands on the fund.

The first fundraising event is called “Canvas Confidential.” Sixty 12-inch square canvases have been distributed to artists around the territory and beyond.

Canvases will come back to the Yukon from Ireland, painted by Cathy Henderson. Two well-known ex-pat Yukon artists, Ava Cristl and Janet Moore, will send paintings from Victoria and Halifax respectively.

Joyce Majiski has sent one from Colorado. Sculptor Bud Young has contributed a canvas. Jackie Olson and four others sent work from Dawson. Jackie Irwin from Faro and Dennis Shorty from Ross River took part. And I painted one too.

Ah, but who did which one? There’s the fun. The canvases are signed on the back. Established painters have been encouraged to disguise their look. Many artists who are not painters are also creating canvases. Audience members will get to enjoy the puzzle as they view the work.

There will be 60 “Art and Fun” tickets sold to this event for $175 each, and 50 “Just for Fun” tickets at $75.

Ticket holders will be met at the door with a glass of champagne and a booklet so they can make notes of their favourites. This will be especially important for the “Art and Fun” ticket holders, who will be assigned a number.

Those attending can round out the considerations and comparisons with flights of wine accompanied by specially matched cheeses. What’s Up Yukon wine expert Peter Turner joined forces with Craig Hougen to select the night’s fine vintages.

A jazz trio will underscore the event, with Gord Miller on guitar, Anne Turner on acoustic bass and Duncan Sinclair on saxophone, wafting a spicy mix of jazz through the ages throughout the Old Fire Hall.

At about 8 o’clock, as each “Art and Fun” ticket holder’s number is drawn, the individual will have a limited time to select a canvas they want to take home before the next number is called.

At 10 o’clock, the artists’ names will be paired with their canvases. Supporters who score one of the canvases by established painters will be heading home with something well above the value of their ticket.

In addition, Steve Brewis of Northern Frameworks has offered a deep discount on framing for these works.

Tickets are available at Coast Mountain Sports.

“Canvas Confidential” will be held May 14 at the Old Fire Hall, starting at 7 pm.