November 7, 2011 UPDATE: My Trees For Life Painting did sell at this event along with many others. The last tally I read said they had made more than 5,000 pounds for their charity. Not bad. Not bad at all.
I generally do not contribute paintings to black-tie charitable events. There are a number of reasons why, but mostly it is because I do not feel charities in general play win-win with the artists who donate to their event. The artist gets nothing for their donation of time, money, effort except a warm fuzzy and that is a lot to ask when a charity is asking for a significant portion of an artist’s potential gross income.
In the US, the artist can only deduct the cost of materials that goes into a product they donate, in contrast a person who purchases art can deduct the actual value of the work of art they donate. That means a painting that sells for $1000, but which cost the artist $100 in materials to create is only deductible on the aritist’s personal income taxes as an itemized charitable deduction of $100. If the artist does not itemize and they are not incorporated, they get NO deduction for their work.
Some artists only produce a painting a month, or a painting a week. Would you want to give away 1/12th of your gross income for a warm fuzzy feeling? 1/50th?
The charities usually say there is promotional value in the donation, but in my experience it is generally minimal, it is often limited to signage on the artwork at the event. Charities do not usually list artists individually brochure or other places the artist can reference.
There are literally thousands of worthwhile causes clamoring for free artwork; an artist simply cannot afford to donate to them all.
Art can auction for less than it is worth influencing the value of an artist’s other work, which harms the artist’s collectors.
When artists are not paid anything for their contribution, they may be tempted to donate lower quality work or work that does not sell, which reflects badly on the charity hosting the event and the artists who participate.
Not paying artists for their work feeds a bargain basement mentality toward artists and their work in general.
The solution is that charities should pay the artist something for their work-say 50% of the selling price. This solution would encourage artists to donate their best rather than their worst.
All that said I have broken my rule and donated art free. The first was #TwitterArtExhibit in Moss Norway, and recently I have participated in #TreesForLife. Both of these events have hash tags in the event name-these are both searchable events on Twitter. Both of these events came to @dejakester via Twitter. The artists sponsoring and participating in these events widely promoted them via Twitter, Facebook, Posterous and other social media venues. Wow, real promotional value — how nice. Because of the nature of both of these events, the size of the contributed artwork was small, think postcard. The work I contributed to both of these events was on par with my other work, excepting in scale; that meant I substantially scaled down my investment of time and money; also the cost of shipping was minimal as well. Additionally, my current body of work has to do with social media and other forms of electronic communication, therefore the organizing nature of both of these events had direct tie in with what I am doing in my art. For these reasons, I could justify the warm fuzzy donation to myself.
Even so, I don’t think I would want to do a hundred of these kinds of events. I think I will limit myself to one a year.
If you would like to find out more about Trees For Life or purchase donated artwork please visit Trees For Life Charity Exhibition. I also posted a While I Paint album of this work on Facebook, check out TFB WIP if you are curious.
Artist, AKAJake.com Come Experience the Art!
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