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Archive for the ‘Artful Giving’ Category

Gargoyle overlooking the solarium pool on Adventure of the Seas

Gargoyle overlooking the solarium pool on Adventure of the Seas

I returned from my cruise through the Southern Caribbean last week just in time to get back to the reality of a full week of work. No complaints from me, though. We had a wonderful time: travelling with good friends; celebrating Valentine’s Day in San Juan, Puerto Rico; great ports of call (Aruba-though it poured!-, Curacao, St. Martin and St. Thomas) to safe and smooth flights to and from and a chance to escape the cold and snow. I was lucky have the chance to go so I won’t grumble about being back.

Promanade Sketches on board during a rainy stop in Orangestaad, Aruba

Promanade Sketches on board during a rainy stop in Orangestaad, Aruba

I have gotten a bit better about taking and actually using my sketch book when I travel. So here are a few thumbnails from the voyage and we have a great many wonderful photos as well.

I look forward to my next vacation break at home with a chance to re-organize the studio and start some Caribbean- flavored paintings from the trip.

Bikini Beach, St. Martin

Bikini Beach, St. Martin

On an unrelated, but time-sensitive, note I want to let everyone know about a bit of local “performance art” taking place this week for a very good cause. As was covered in the Cape Cod Times earlier this week, the Harwich Fire Department, their extended brotherhood and the local community of Harwich have been banding together to raise funds for one of our own, Robert Johnson, a long-time Harwich fire fighter who is fighting his own battle against a brain tumor now.

My husband Richard, a local Realtor http//:www.waystack.com issued a challenge that he would shave his head bald if they could raise an

Even Richard Simmons couldn't resist him with hair.  Who will still love him after Bald for Bobby Friday?

Even Richard Simmons couldn't resist him with hair. Who will still love him after Bald for Bobby Friday?

additional $2000 for it to be done.He either has a lot of friends or a lot of enemies in town—-I’m not sure which. But the end result is he’s taking it all off on Friday, March 6 at noon, downtown inHarwich Port in front of his office. I’ve assured him I will still love him, though I will love him more when his hair, no matter how prematurely gray it is, grows back!

For more information on this and other events for this very worthy cause you can check out the Friends of Bobby J page on Facebook.

This link is so long it probably directly here. Go to Facebook and search for Friends of Bobby J. It’s well worth your time and effort.

http://www.facebook.com/s.php?init=q&q=Friend+of+Bobby+J&ref=ts&sid=11fda777d26e88fe429df16f271dcecb

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On Tuesday we usher in a new president and a new era of hope and change. We also embark on a journey through difficult times with an economy in a death spiral the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression. For many of us who weren’t born during those years we have never experienced such a time in our lives as challenging as this. It is more than a little scary and perhaps hard to start this new year feeling full of hope.

During a tight time such as this, the arts will be taking a big hit and many artists will need to cling to, or go out seeking, alternative work to supplement or replace the income from their creative work. Yet many, myself included, will still opt to donate a portion of what they make to good causes and for the benefit of others who are in need. Some may wonder why.

In a open letter to his daughters published today, President-Elect Obama states

…you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential. Barack Obama

An artist friend of mine, Karen North Wells has put it

As of Jan 1st, 20% of sales are donated to Habitat.
As of Jan 1st, 20% of my sales are donated to Habitat.

this way: “If your hand isn’t open to give, it won’t be open to receive.”

I personally had a sort of epiphany about how and why to justify myself as an artist by using it in this way. I felt very conflicted about the desire to devote myself , my time and my energy – even part time as I am- to the making and selling of art. Let’s face it, making pretty pictures is not a cure for cancer. It can’t feed starving people or put a roof over their head.

BUT, I suddenly realized, it can be a powerful way to do those things indirectly. Just for one example, people are constantly asking artists, among others, to donate to silent auctions and the like when holding fundraisers. By donating work or a portion of profits or proceeds to causes that do feed and shelter and search for cures, I can do the work I feel called to do and make a difference, albeit a small and indirect one. (But enough small drops of water together will still eventually wear away a stone.)

Because affordable housing was an issue of great importance on the Cape and to me personally, I decided years ago to donate a percent of any sales to Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod. As of this January 1st I decided to increase it from 10% to 20%. As they say, “God works in mysterious ways”. Some may say this is poor business practice or even plain crazy. But I am trusting that, as has happened many times before, what I put out there will come back to me in some way tenfold.

Austism has also touched my family and last year I found myself working on raising donations and selling raffle tickets for the first ever benefit on Cape Cod for autism_speaksAutism Speaks. Me, the girl who hated selling Girl Scout cookies as a kid and still am loathe to ask people for money today. But Janet Hart Barbato of the Ocean House in Dennis had jumped in to do it and I found myself jumping in to help, hitting up artists and other friends for donations. Sometimes I didn’t even get to ask before they would offer their goods and services when they heard about the event. Just think of what can happen if every artist , and every person, tries to find just one small way to use their talents to help.

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So here’s the challenge to artists and anyone who wants change and hopes for better days ahead: How might you “paint your wagon” and what are you going to hitch it to?

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I once attended a seminar at “Making Art/Making a Living” where I got a lot of good, sensible business advice about running an art business.  Most of us will acknowledge that many artists and “artsy types” are the first to admit that they are not good at the business end of their work. Some are virulently opposed to admitting that it has to be a business at all.  And often this is why they are not more successful, regardless of what their own definition of “success” may be. 

             I don’t consider myself one of those.  I have had the good  fortune to have had two great mentors-one who is an artist and one who is not- who taught me a lot about marketing, promotions and all the general ins and outs of being business like and professional.  I do believe you have to be business-like, that you have to do the other work besides making the art and I have been pleased with the modest level of success I have achieved in the past five or six years since that seminar.

            But one thing that really struck me and with which I just can’t agree was advice regarding donating to causes.  This artist, who is quite successful in many ways, advised that one should limit (and quite dramatically, I thought) the number of donations to only one or two a year, if at all.  When approached by others throughout the year, one was advised to simply say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I  have reached the yearly limit on what I give”.   This person actually went on to caution about giving art or even discounts on it to family members!

            Maybe I’m not the hard-nosed businesswomen with an eye to the bottom line that I should be.  And maybe that is why I haven’t made the leap from part time professional artist and full time art teacher to full time artist and part time teacher by now.  But as my good friend and mentor, artist Karen North Wells puts it: “If your hand isn’t out to give, your hand can’t be open to receive”. (http://karennorthwells.com ) I truly believe that the more I have given of my art to help causes, the more I have gotten opportunities to sell it and made money doing what I love.

            Because part of my philosophy is also that art should be affordable to everyone, I do sell reproductions, art tiles and note cards of selected images of my work (See my etsy shop http://www.bernadettewaystack.etsy.com ).  So the cost of what I generally give away is kept to a minimal amount with a standard 16” x 20” print that I mat and package myself.

             I don’t generally give away original work.  I have found that to be unwise as the work at auction will often go for bargain basement prices. Hey, let’s be honest, we all go to auctions to get a deal!  And one does have to protect current patrons who have paid far more for similar pieces by not letting the work be devalued.  On rare occasions I will donate a very small study that I feel is not a strong piece but not so poor as to hurt my reputation.  I will also entertain the notion of doing a piece especially for an important cause, kind of like a special commission, to be raffled off to make a large amount equivalent or above its value.  But generally, I will donate a matted print or sometimes even frame it inexpensively for a special event.  (I’m amazed every year when the bidding wars at the Toast of Harwich start over my framed matted print of Boardwalk at Bank Street and it goes for more than 30 times my cost!!)  Lots of wine plus art makes for rollicking good charitable events!

            Boardwalk at Bank Street, matted to fit 16 x 20 standard frame

 

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I just wrote a long overdue check to Habitat for some little and big sales that had trickled in off and on (some as long ago as last summer…shame on me!).

 

I made the commitment several years ago when I began seriously pursuing art as a (part time) profession that I would give 10% of whatever I earned to Habitat.  It all came about with the fact that first of all I had a very secure day job and was not in any position for the foreseeable future to chuck it all and live the life of the starving artist. Much as I might like to, and as real a long-term goal as it now has become, there are other family members and their welfare to consider at present.  And, more to the point, I actually was very conflicted about how I could feel so  drawn to “grow up to be an artist”.  After all “making pretty pictures” does not cure cancer or feed the hungry in Ethiopia or anything that seems a more worthy vocation in life.  But suddenly it dawned on me: ”I can use my art indirectly to help worthy causes”.  People are always looking for donations for charity auctions, etc.

 

So I went one step further. Since affordable housing is an issue that had mattered greatly to me personally and deeply affects so many right where I live here on Cape Cod, I basically “vowed” that if I were fortunate enough that people would be willing to pay for what I can create, I would give a part away to the cause. Sort of like the way some people tithe to their churches, I guess.

 

What bothers me now sometimes is how easily I can forget to “tithe, as I get more used to the idea of making part of my income from my art and trying to keep a business like approach regarding the bottom line…or at least breaking even on the art business.  But in the end,  I have a rather “karmic” attitude about it in that I do believe deep down that if I stick to my promise to conduct my art business on this philosophy it will produce more art business in the end.

 

There are varying thoughts on this subject, I know.  And I have just realized that I will need to have a Part 2 on this topic to cover some of what I’ve heard in opposition to “giving away the store” as it were.

 

But I’ve rambled on enough for a Part 1 and would appreciate hearing back from anyone as to their thoughts on making art that makes a difference.

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