Monday, September 26, 2011

With a Cherry on Top

WIP, With a Cherry on Top, collage/acrylic, 15 x 30
Elizabeth W. Seaver

I agreed to help the Fredericksburg Area Museum by being one of 9 artists who did painting demonstrations during their fundraiser on Saturday night.  The paintings were auctioned off, wet, at the end of the evening.

I did the collage and drawing the day before, but decided to try to paint the entire thing in the time I had after setting up--quite a challenge.  And then, the organizers moved the auction time up half an hour to get as many bidders as possible, which made it a super-challenge!  During the painting time, folks came up to talk and ask questions about the process, etc.  The kids were the cutest, one of whom kept an eye on me and said several times during the evening, "You're doing a good job."  I don't think I'd have made it without the encouragement!

The bidding is excruciating for me, so I did not stay in that room for long.  But, the best thing about the evening was that my piece went to friends of my son's.  I love the idea that young people are starting a collection of original art.  That they wanted my piece was a HUGE compliment.  Thanks Jason and Lindsay, you made me so happy!  And you helped the museum, too.  You guys are great x 2!

The part of the evening that I struggled with, even as I agreed to do this months ago, still makes me uncomfortable.  Why is it that artists are the go-to for fundraisers (esp. in our town?)  It is the assumption of those who ask us that the exposure will be so good for us.  In fact, usually the work goes so cheaply that it actually undermines our art businesses.  

Can you guess what brought the highest bid at the auction?  Yep.  Basketball tickets.  Two tickets for one game went for $2500, as much as five or six of the paintings put together.  Doesn't that say something to the organizers?  Their crowd doesn't want art.  It wants sports stuff or trips.  Give them what they want, and raise more money.  Let the artists create for those who appreciate their work.

Here's what I am thinking.  From now on, I'm going to give work to benefit artists and the arts organizations with which I am involved. Period.

What has been your experience?  Any thoughts out there about fund raising or a better way to include some benefit to the artists who generously give their work to various causes?


Anna M. Branner said...

I'm with you Elizabeth. I donate for SPCA fundraisers and that's it. Despite the requests I get from people who simply page through etsy for local artists....(a pet peeve of MINE.)

-Don said...

It sounds like you had a lot of fun despite the pressure. Kudos to you for 'making it happen'.

I understand what you mean about artists and fundraisers, as I've seen a lot of this myself over the past few years. I think artists become "go-to" because they bring a creative light to what could very easily be a boring event. Having artists working there, and having artwork around, both bring a 'touch of class' to the event. This may help bring more people out. I'm not sure.

Early last year I decided to focus my entire art donation process to events that are raising money for children's health related causes, such as St. Judes and St. Baldrick's, to name a couple. Basically, I 'branded' my donation process. Prior to that I had found myself getting drawn into more and more 'charities', some which I realized weren't really to the benefit of anyone except the organizers. It's amazing how easy it is to say, "No" when you then can follow it with a pat response about how the cause may be a worthy one, but it does not fit within the parameters of what I choose to focus my giving towards.

Bottom line, as long as I believe in what I'm donating towards, I don't care how well my artwork does or whether it brings me accolades. If even one child receives help from the money generated by my work, then any blood, sweat and tears that may have gone into the work are well worth it.

And, as you know, after the crazy summer my family had, I can now give testimony to how moneys generated towards cancer research have helped at least one child. Isn't it interesting how my 'tithes' toward these charities paid such wonderful dividends in blessings?!?


Dan Finnegan said...

Excellent post, Elizabeth!

martinealison said...

Toutes mes félicitations...
Je comprends toutefois votre ressenti en ce qui concerne la comparaison avec les billets pour du sport...
C'est une bien triste constatation ! Cela pourrait être un sujet de philosophie...
Gros bisous et moi je vous dis, bravo pour votre oeuvre. Pas simple de travailler devant le public.

Celeste Bergin said...

Really interesting post. I am glad you wrote it. I am always surprised how throngs of people do not care about what we do! haha!

I wish I would have been there, I would have bid on your piece for sure.

These "live" events are wonderful education for people, and I often paint in front of an audience myself...but, like you, I am dubious about putting artists together on seems exploitive and as you wrote, it doesn't really seem to bring in the funds that it should.

My current policy: I give away one large completed painting to a charity auction every year. I make sure it is a really good painting. I don't attend. I let the painting go in my head and heart. Each time I have done this I have found out later that my painting brought in the highest price.