What is the point of art? There are possibly as many answers to that question as people asking it, but one is simply: to make the world better. Making and looking at art can make the world better simply because creativity releases ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain and distracts from anxious thoughts. Goodness knows my use of art as self-therapy over recent months is proof of that. But there is also the charity aspect.
Art can also make the word better by raising money. Art itself might not provide housing or food or medical treatment or the other basics of life, but the process of adding value to materials with creativity and selling them on can benefit many people who don’t have the privileges in life that we as artists have. That is why Leah Higgins and I feel it appropriate to use our forthcoming Traces exhibition to raise money for good causes.
Leah has written a blog post here about her donations of 15% of her sale prices to Shelter.
Regular readers will know that because of the peculiarities of my day job, by the time my art gets to a gallery for sale I no longer own it having already sold it to an intermediary for a charitable donation. I pay for my own materials and it is offered for re-sale at the gallery and I do not receive any proceeds from the show itself. (I do of course still get the immense pleasure of attending the shows and seeing my art go off to good homes). However, I am delighted that the third party offering my work for re-sale has also agreed to donate their re-sale proceeds to charity and 15% of sales of my art at The World Of Glass will also go to a good cause close to my heart.
Chris Carberry is a young man, just turned 22 who is now suffering cancer for the third time. He was a keen member of my golf club and had a handicap of 8 when cancer took his leg. He is now seen, golf clubs in hand with a prosthetic leg. Sadly, he is now in a position where he needs to fundraise to meet the costs of lifesaving trial medical treatment which cannot be provided on the NHS or indeed in the UK. I am proud how my community – both the golf community and the town community are rallying around him to assist. As the exhibition is in his own home town, it seems right that 15% of the resale price goes to The Next Step for Chris.
Choosing a charity for each of the works I sell to the intermediary is a hard task. There are so many good causes and needs in the world that it is heartbreaking to have to choose. Indeed, being able to donate to more is a motivation to me in finding the time and energy to keep making. I am painfully aware that the more I make art and the more therefore I sell for charity the more I feel the need to find time to learn more about how best to choose projects. Which causes are the most effective? Which the biggest ripple effect? On what criteria should one choose? Is it better to be faithful to one big international or to spread amongst small charities?
Giving need not be entirely selfless in my view and I confess, I enjoy the system I have, whereby my contracts of sale require payment by a Global Giving voucher. This means no money touches my account and so there are no tax consequences but I still get the pleasure of looking through all the small innovative projects and picking as many as I like to support. I amuse myself by trying to match projects with the subject of the art I made. Plus I get in some armchair travel as I browse projects world wide.
That said, I sometimes struggle though with the need to announce which charity it is my work supports. Or indeed even that I am giving sale proceeds to charity. I am concerned that it looks like bragging. Or that when I say ( as I must ) that my job requires it, it looks like I would not have given something anyway.
From the artistic point of view, I have been told that I ought not to mention the charity donations because it I have low enough confidence in my work as it is! It was suggested that I ought to be able to know that the work sells for its own sake and not because it was for charity. I sometimes shy from overtly stating the charity giving because I feel that charity giving is sometimes best done in private so that one does not appear to be distastefully boasting about generosity. Or because I don’t necessarily want to be seen to favoring one cause over another. Although of course no one, except the exceptionally rich, can support everything! There can be a concern that one artist donating overtly skews the wider art market and puts pressure on other artists who cannot afford to do the same.
On the other hand, naming a charity can be a very good way of selling more art and benefitting the charity both with cash and with publicity. Public generosity can set off a chain reaction with other charities also benefitting. It is also a way to ensure that it is crystal clear where my original sale proceeds went and not just the re-sale proceeds to comply with my job requirements.
It’s a tricky business! What do you think? I would be genuinely helped to know your views if you left a comment below.
Meanwhile, this time I have decided to announce the charities I supported with my original sales of all art going into the Traces exhibition. I picked them for the connections to my own creative activities and their innovative ways of thinking
Hope Centre Uganda is building a centre to teach art and literacy and more to marginalised groups: girls, refugees and LGBQ youths. I love the idea of having a brick with my name painted on it by a child in an arts centre in Uganda!
Fundacao cafu is a project in Sao Paulo keeping low income kids of out trouble by giving them activities.. including graffiti projects!
Himalayan Human Rights Monitors are using graffiti in the most innovative way. They are placing graffiti in schools and mass transit areas to raise mass awareness about human trafficking.
African Angels provide art classes to disadvantages township children in South Africa.
Mmbabara Raise Foundation is providing cake baking, bakery management and other means of employment training to 100 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people in Western Uganda that have lost or been denied employment due to their perceived or real sexual orientation and gender identity.