Buy Art Not Kids

Art has never been this beautiful: How a local art auction is trying to bring down the child sex trafficking industry

According to a public presentation on human trafficking by Joy Smith, MP of Kildonan-St. Paul, child and human sex trafficking is a $32 billion industry that generates a greater profit than Nike, Google and Starbucks combined. And according to Rachelle Kearns, Toronto-based artist and mother, that’s about to change.

Kearns is a mother and an artist — two roles that inspired her to try and put an end to child sex trafficking by launching Buy Art Not Kids (BANK), a fundraising art auction benefiting Ratanak International’s anti-exploitation programs. Gathering donated art from notable local artists for a good cause, BANK not only promotes awareness and raises funds to fight the injustice, but also challenges buyers and participants to rethink the way they’re using their talents.

“Part of the bigger picture of Buy Art Not Kids is asking the question, ‘What are you doing with your gifts and talents, despite these kinds of injustices in the world?’” says Kearns, who has led a successful career in art for the past 10 years. “That’s sort of the over-arching concept to this.”

BANK’s inaugural auction took place last year, bringing in over $50,000 for the cause — a success that motivated Kearns to make the event an annual affair. On Friday, Apr. 4, the second annual auction will be held at Havergal College in Toronto, and this time it promises even more excitement. Boasting live music, performance art, raffle prizes, irresistible culinary adventures and, of course, an art auction, the event has a high chance of topping last year’s earnings.

“We want to switch up the event every year and make sure we do something interesting,” says Kearns. “So this year, we decided to put together an experience. We’ve been able to solicit the talent of chef Matt Blondin, who’s donated an exclusive dinner party for six.”

This prize, Lot #19, has been titled “The Perfect Storm”: The winning bidder will invite six guests to a specially designed dinner by Blondin, held at the studio home of renowned artist Césan d’Ornellas. To boot, at the end of the evening, the winner will receive an original work by d’Ornellas valued at $1,000.

“Together with Césan d’Ornellas, I plan to offer a truly unique package that includes a specially crafted dinner exclusively set in Césan’s gallery,” says Blondin. “The menu itself will utilize seasonal ingredients and will be one of the finest I’ve created. It’s fair to say that the winners of this package are lucky individuals!”

To find out more about BANK, Ratanak International and the event, or to purchase tickets, visit

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Amanda Storey

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