Donating Artwork

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Casey Matthews “Containment Issues” (30×30) 2015

 

I recently donated THIS original painting to The Douglas Anderson Theater Department Boosters.  Douglas Anderson is an artsy magnet school (like FAME!) in Jacksonville, Florida.  The arts in schools enrich all human endeavors by bridging differences among people and teaching creative and critical thinking skills.  Apparently, these days, PE and band are considered electives in most public schools.  (No wonder the drop-out rate is so high!)  So if you like this painting and/or want to support art in schools (like I do!) this painting can be yours for only $1!  This painting is being raffled off instead put in their silent auction in an attempt to get more attention (and raise more money) outside of North East Florida.  You can buy a raffle ticket HERE, you can buy as many or a few as you like, and if you are not local it will be shipped to you free of charge – so go for it!

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I have had the best year of my career, and it has been amazing to be able to give back to a few worthwhile causes that are important to me.  Each year, I am inundated with requests to donate work for all sorts of causes/organizations, and unfortunately this year I have had to tell more people “no” than ever.  A few years ago, I decided that I really needed to have a clear mission/objective when donating artwork, and if the organization did not fall in a certain category – it was an easy “no” (which is easier said than done.) I have been put in an awkward situation (more than once) and could not articulate reasons why I did not think it was a good idea for to give a piece of work (not that I even need any) and I ended up fumbling my words and sounding like a complete ass-hole.  I now only donate to causes that are close to my heart, and/or are local – and I also put a monetary cap on the donations.  Once that is met, I’m done.  When I do donate something it is usually a new-ish painting that is representative of my current style. I normally donate work that is a decent size:  24×24 – 36×36, which is essentially $1000-$2000+ in value.  Why do I do that? I don’t know – I guess because my reputation is important to me (even if I do complain) – but if I give you some tiny painting then you won’t really make any money for your organization – and if I give you some older work, the painting might not sell, that would be fairly humiliating (no good deed goes unpunished.)  If I care enough to donate something I go all out.  More often than not, the people who are exposed to my work at these auctions – it is the only time they will ever see my work. Part of me wants to leave a good impression, while the other part of me realizes that it should not matter – because even if they proclaim to LOVE me/my work, they never seem to visit my studio, even for the casual monthly Art Walks.  Art auctions have bidders that are preconditioned to pay less than the fair market value  – and that does not do me any favors (or the galleries that represent me;) selling my work for much less than retail cheapens my business, and devalues my product.   Some people claim that “your donation, will be good exposure,” and “so many high-end collectors will be there” or “its a great form of advertising,” as it is displayed at their event; an event that you do not even get invited to.  Some people can even be so pushy or insulting when you say no – and those are the douche bags that ruin it for everyone.

So the purpose of this little vent is to help educate a little, so you know the philosophy behind donating artwork.  I have found that most artists are fairly generous, especially if you woo them throughout the year and let them how appreciative you are. Most artists love to have their ego stroked, and will respond to praise, year-long support, and thanks.  Remember, they are basically getting nothing from this – so try to sweeten the pot a little. If you ever want to request a donation from an artist, here are some suggestions to manipulate the situation to your benefit:

  1. Write your local State Representative and request a change in the current tax laws regarding donated artwork. Contrary to what most organizations believe, artists are not entitled to deduct a fair market value of the artwork they create and in turn donate. Most people who solicit art donations are unaware of this. Ask your friends, family members, and other people on the donation committee to do the same.  People have been trying to get these laws changed for years.  It is in your best interest to get them amended, so you will get more donations.
  2. Take the artist to lunch or coffee before you pick up the artwork. Artists like free stuff/food.  Pretend you are taking them on a date and you want to have sex later.  Except the “sex” is a $2000 painting.
  3. Take the time to explain your organization and cause.  Believe it or not, some private schools constantly ask for donations, but never really even state what the auction proceeds are specifically used for.  I mean, you are privately funded, can’t you just raise tuition to cover your needs?  Be specific.
  4. After your event, please provide the artist with an official thank you letter recognizing the art donation, the current market value, as well as the name of the purchaser, and final offering. Believe it or not, this is rarely given to the artist – if at all.  Artists like to know who their patrons are, so they can add them to their mailing list.
  5. Visit the artist in the studio or at an art opening at least once during the year to show support.  You will not be forced to buy anything – I promise. You can even help promote the artists events on social media throughout the year.  If you are nice and supportive to the artist, they will be nice to you in the long run.
  6.  Offer a free ticket(s) to your event, and be consistent about it.  Don’t offer tickets to your fancy gala a few years, then quit. You will quit getting art.
  7. Offer to split the proceeds with the artist. Or let the artist set the minimum bid and whatever the final offering is above that, you can keep.
  8. Publicly recognize the artist as a benefactor or patron throughout the year.
  9. Advertise or publicize the donated artwork on your website or social media prior to the auction, in order to garner support and attention.
  10. Consider asking for a donation in the spring or summer, even if your benefit is in the fall or winter.  Don’t ask too close to tax time, but don’t ask too late in the year when everyone else does.
  11. Don’t ask every year.  Artists can’t possibly donate to all the people/organizations that ask every year, and it is painful to have to say no all the time.  Space out your requests.
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