I have a special place in my heart for donations of artwork for a good cause. If you as an artist ever get the chance to support a cause you like in this way, you should jump at the chance.
The first time I did this was in 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
New Orleans has been one of my very favorite cities ever since I visited it on a road trip. I fell in love immediately with the look and feel of the city: the often-extravagant decorations of balconies and yards (as a native New Englander, this still feels deliciously exotic to me every time I encounter it)–everything from curlicued metalwork on the balconies, to pink flamingoes arrayed in a tableau in a yard.
The palette of the architecture–deep reds, salmon, pale pink and orange and green.
The sight of balconies that looked directly over the street, where people could call up or down to each other, and where you were never far from the action.
The historical blend of languages and cultures which flavor everything from the music, slang, architecture, spirituality and food in such different ways.
The folklore: one of my favorite stories is the worship of “St. Expedite”–for when you need something in a hurry. This “saint” came to be worshipped when a box of religious statuary arrived from abroad with an unrecognizable statue inside. On the outside of the box was stamped the word “EXPEDITE”–a shipping instruction, possibly in Spanish–but this was seized on as the name of the statue inside! And he is now revered in New Orleans.
Cemeteries above ground.
The birthplace of jazz.
The best damn drink I ever had.
The languorous pace which allows you the time to savor everything, even the contradictions.
So I was extremely saddened to see the horrible images of what was happening down there in New Orleans, during and after Katrina. I was all the way up in Massachusetts, though I wanted desperately to help. As a student, I had no money, and no skills that would have been useful in an emergency like that. But what I had was art. I got some of my own paintings together, and collected artwork from students at UMass Dartmouth, from faculty, local artists–anyone who would listen to my spiel and agree to help out.
The response was astounding. Students handed in projects to me instead of to their teachers. Established artists told me to get whatever I could for their piece–some specifically requested that it go far above their usual asking price because their collectors would pay more for charity, and some gave me permission to drop the price as far as it needed to go in order to sell, so that they could generate even the smallest amount to send to New Orleans. With all these donations, I organized The Red Cross Art Sale.
I had alot of help–others made t-shirts, posters, staffed the sale tables, and we even were featured on the silly little Paul Revere sign along the highway in New Bedford.
We raised $3575 and sent every penny to New Orleans. That was a drop in the bucket compared to what they needed, but to this day, it is still one of my proudest achievements.
Since then, I’ve also donated artwork to the Gloria Steinem Art Auction, which supported the Women’s Studies program at UMass Dartmouth. This gave me the opportunity to meet the wonderful Ms. Steinem in person, as well as the satisfaction of supporting this good cause.
I’m working on a project right now that will support the New Bedford Art Museum. It’s a piece that’s quite different from my usual work, but I’m enjoying working on it.
If you’re going to donate artwork, make sure you like the cause and that it will be supported sufficiently by your donation to make it worth your while. And, if you’re going to do it, go all out! Make it a great piece, not one that you do in a hurry, or want to get rid of.
The satisfaction that comes from strengthening our community and doing something positive that benefits others is very fulfilling, on a deep level. It feels good to contribute, but it’s even better when it comes from your own personal work.