Courage and Strength

As an artist, I get many requests to donate my work to various charities. Sometimes it’s hard to say no. Each cause has its merits and promises exposure, although exposure can be hard to measure and hard to use with the bill collector. As much as I want to help, it’s not possible to accommodate everyone. Because of this I set a personal and professional limit to 3 charity groups who I either donate my artwork or my time. For me it’s The Wabano Center for Aboriginal Health and The Boys and Girls Club which I am involved with through the National Capital Network of Sculptors. Both of these groups benefit from my time where I run free workshops or help coordinate public installations as well as benefit from my supplier contacts and product donations. The third group is flexible and I’ve worked with Crohn’s & Colitis, Ottawa Hospital and Cancer Research as well as the Rotary Club.

Last year I was asked to participate in an event for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and to create a special piece for the Gatineau chapter’s biggest fundraising event, La Robe Rouge Gala. The creative challenge was exciting but I also have a personal connection to this cause – Me!

I was born with a congenital heart defect that affects only 2% of the population and at some point in the future I will need surgery for a new aortic valve. I hope it will be very far in the future but as my cardiologist reminds me, it’s not about “if” it’s about “when” I will need the surgery. I am encouraged by new techniques in laparoscopic surgery that will make the process less invasive. In the meantime it means I have a little trouble keeping up on brisk walks and climbing a lot of stairs or anything aerobic. I was very lucky it was discovered early. Most people with this condition don’t know they have it until they experience their first heart attack. So with a little medication and supervision things continue to be stable for me.

What I’ve learned is that heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada – 5x more than breast cancer! 53% of women who experience heart attack symptoms have them go unrecognized because many times the symptoms are different than for men yet 2/3 of all heart disease and stroke clinical research focuses on men. You can learn more about this at

Let’s get back to the Red Dress Gala. The challenge last year was to create a special figurative sculpture that embraced the “Red Dress” theme with the key word being “Courage”. Here is a photo of my submission. “Courage” was a big hit with the audience and after a quick and lively auction brought in $3,000 for the cause. Not only that, but she won the “Social Consciousness’ award in an international art competition and was featured in two Art Doll publications last year.

The next Red Dress Gala takes place in February 2024 and because of the success of including art in the fundraising experience, 12 artists have been selected to participate in this next event. The selection process for the event started at the end of 2022 where artists were asked to submit sketches or photos for the jurying committee to review. Below are the sketches I submitted, from which the committee selected “Strength”.

At this point she was just an idea. I worked on the sculpture over the next 5 weeks and submitted the final sculpture in mid February. She was officially unveiled along with the work of the other artists at the NAK Gallery last night. Tickets are being sold to win her along with the other 12 artworks. Tickets can be purchased at with all proceeds going to the Heart & Stroke Foundation.

Now that the official unveiling has taken place, I can share her with you.

Here she is – 28″ tall, polymer clay, resin, textiles and wood-

powerful, resilient and courageous –


About mariasaracino

Figurative Artist
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6 Responses to Courage and Strength

  1. Barbara says:

    She’s fabulous, Maria! I will buy a ticket for sure.

  2. Sharleen Beresford says:

    She is beautiful! Another masterpiece!

  3. Debra McCormack MD says:

    What can I say, you are so talented and she is so beautiful. I am happy to call you my mentor and friend !

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