Sunday, May 16, 2010

Give and Take

My mailbox has been full of the nicest letters recently.  Mostly from folks I've never met, never heard of and will probably never meet, they're gushingly complimentary.  I can feel my ego swelling just thinking about them.  I am admired, appreciated, adored even. 

And because I am admired, appreciated and adored, wouldn't I just love to donate a piece of artwork to be auctioned off to further their cause?  Gosh, the benefits to me are many.  I'd find a new audience of adore-ers.  I would be really, really appreciated. My donation would benefit all sorts of currently un-benefitted souls.

And if I don't, surely I'll feel like a chump. (No, that's not included in the letter.  It's included in my psyche.)
Ah, jeesh.

It's spring, and it seems that it's the time of year when charities of all stripes are searching for ways to enrich their coffers.  Typically the artist donates a piece of artwork.  An auction is held. A buyer either a) bids generously because they want to help the charity and hopefully understands they're really getting something in return, or b) goes into the auction hoping for a cheap deal. Or maybe c) the charity posts a minimum bid on the work, so that it must be sold for a certain price or it goes back to the artist. And it does. B and C are not much fun for the artist.

Over at LinkedIn, in the Art Group hosted by Alyson Stanfield, there's quite a discussion between artists about the pros and cons of donating art.  By the looks of it, many of them have had some pretty unpleasant experiences.  

Here's my pet peeve: Besides the annoying tax laws that hinder artists in this area, I find it amazing that complete strangers will ask me to give them something that has great value to me (and hopefully to someone else). Really, do I look that easy that you think all you have to do is sweet talk me and I'll hand over the keys to my easel?

Let me help you out a little here. 

Say hello first.  Maybe get to know me a little.  Because maybe I'm a jerk, and you wouldn't want me to give you anything after all. Maybe our values are absolutely in conflict (yes, I eat meat). I dunno, maybe there's another good reason we shouldn't go into business together. You'll never know if you don't establish a relationship first.

Yes, I donate my artwork.  And I limit myself to a certain number of donations each year.  I do that in part so that I can say to complete strangers with a clear heart, "Gee, I limit myself to a certain number of donations each year. Sorry."

It's harder to say that to friends.

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