Artist Diane Tamblyn of London peeks through an easel while arranging works at the Unity Project's headquarters.

UpwithArt is about more than showcasing local talent and raising money to combat homelessness. The April 5 art auction is about giving everyone a chance to be part of the community, organizers said.

“Last year, we saw people who experience homelessness become equals in that room (where the art was being sold),” said Chuck Lazenby, general manager of London’s Unity Project. “What we want, is healthy community engagement … to give them an opportunity to actually take part in something where it’s not about (being) homeless … not about (being) poor.”

UpwithArt netted $12,000 for the Unity Project in 2011, and organizers are hoping for about the same result this year. Proceeds go toward initiatives such as a shelter and drop-in programs for people who are homeless.

The auction will feature more than 70 works created by artists ranging from award-winning professionals to former Unity Project clients like David Lewis.

Lewis, 47, of London spent several weeks at the nonprofit’s shelter about 16 months ago. While staying there, he learned about the New School of Colour, an art studio that offers free workshops. Soon after, Lewis discovered his passion for painting.

Donating a work for UpwithArt was a no-brainer.

“Words can’t express the gratitude,” he said, describing how the Unity Project has affected his life. “This is a way of giving back.”

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