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Bookish Decor Sets Literary Tone at Toronto Gala

Books and a black-and-white color scheme added a literary feel to this year's Walrus Gala.

Photo: Tom Sandler Photography

On January 23, the Walrus Foundation—the nonprofit behind magazine The Walrus—hosted its annual gala at the Fermenting Cellar. With a “Literary Life” theme, the evening drew a sold-out crowd of 420 guests and explored the art of storytelling.

The Walrus is known as one of Canada's premier destinations for thoughtful, intelligent writing [in] fiction, poetry, memoir, and journalism. Because of that, and because our supporters include many of the country's finest writers, the 'Literary Life' was a natural [theme],“ said David Leonard, the foundation's manager of events and special projects. “It let us embrace text in a fun way and allowed us to [celebrate] the 10-year history of The Walrus magazine as well as [our] writer supporters.”

Decor included what Leonard described as “the literary life sculptures,” which were commissioned from Toronto artist Kalpna Patel. Each table held a stack of books with handmade paper covers topped with what Patel referred to as “exploding books"—pieces that had pop-up letters carved from the pages that spelled out titles of iconic Canadian novels or sponsors' names.

At each place setting, guests found a takeaway notebook from sponsor Moleskin. “We wanted a gift for our guests that was usable, and more than a branded throwaway,” Leonard said. “With the theme focusing on living the literary life, what better gift than a blank notebook for our guests to write in?” The books were personalized by the magazine's staff: its art director created a black-and-white band for the book that tied into the event's color scheme, and other staffers finished the books by embossing them with one word of a quotation from author and new Nobel laureate Alice Munro.

To recognize other sponsors, Blue Ant Media created a unique video. As the foundation's executive director typed out “thank you” on a vintage typewriter at the podium, sponsor names appeared on screen and typewriter sound effects filled the room.

The event also included a silent auction that focused on Canadian travel, art, and books. Lots included artworks from Jeff Molloy and Edward Burtynsky plus literary-inspired trips from partners like Air Canada. The gala raised $443,000, the highest amount in six years.


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