In the heart of Downtown Fredericton, Isaac’s Way occupies the old York County Courthouse. The restaurant was established in 2005 and has existed in its present form since October 2012 after a fire destroyed the original building.
The founders had a vision of community involvement beyond food service. They were contacted by various community organizations for donations but their humble beginnings did not allow for much in the way of charity.
Out of a desire to support the community, the idea of art auctions was born. Founder Tina Lejeune’s plan was simple: local artists would showcase their paintings at the restaurant while patrons and other members of the community could bid via silent auction in the restaurant, the Isaac’s Way Facebook page, or the restaurant website. For the past 14 years, Isaac’s Way has hosted 3 auctions per year each lasting 4 months.
Artists receive a portion of the auction proceeds with an agreed-upon percentage donated to underprivileged children pursuing various arts endeavours.
“Each auction has a singular focus,” says Tabatha Smith, the operations manager. The present auction, which is open until November 28th, focuses on children’s dance lessons. Previous auctions have supported children taking lessons for music, theatre, and art.
Money is distributed to children directly rather than to organizations: “We do not donate to music or dance organizations, but support children directly by paying for their lessons.”
For a child to qualify, there must be a demonstrated interest in an art form and a financial need. For some children this means Isaac’s Way will pay for lessons, equipment, and even cab fare.
With Truth and Reconciliation at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness, the auction is looking to incorporate support specifically for Indigenous children in financial need to learn and practice their traditional art forms.
A typical auction will raise between 6 and 8 thousand dollars and they have recently surpassed the 250 thousand dollar mark for money raised in support of children in the arts.
The Abbey Café, just down the street from Isaac’s Way, is under the same ownership. It also offers an art auction. The Abbey donates a portion of the proceeds to the Fredericton Food Bank.
Both establishments receive no direct financial benefit from the auctions. All proceeds go either to the artists or the charitable organizations. When asked how the restaurants benefit, Tabatha points to their incredible atmosphere.
“The décor is constantly changing. Our staff and customers constantly have a new environment.”
The art auction is marketing in and of itself, costing the restaurant very little to host.
“We essentially receive free marketing from this auction. It just costs us some time.”
The auction is always on the lookout for new, local artists. Depending on the available space, some painting sizes are preferred. Interested individuals may view and contact the auction here.