“Love, Artists” and “Entartete Kunst”

exposure bucks parody image
This awesome image is by Sarah Lawrence.

There are always a fair share of questions that arise when any non-profit begins planning a fundraiser. Most of these evolve from the need to reach financial goals while supporting the mission. Arts organizations are always looking for exciting new ways to engage donors, often using art sales, pin-up shows, or silent auctions to reach those goals.

Credit: pearleden.deviantart.com
Credit: pearleden.deviantart.com

These methods have all proven to be great opportunities to support an organization’s mission while cultivating donors, but what consideration is given to the artists who provide the art that makes all that possible? Is exposure really enough?

As C4 Atlanta began the process of planning for ArtoberFest 2016 there were many questions which needed to be answered. We knew we wanted to provide more than just musical entertainment for the evening, but we struggled with what it meant to ask artists to provide work for our fundraiser.  As an arts organization, people expect something “artsy” at our fundraisers and events. There were many deep conversations which arose at our conference room table including:

  1. Who are we serving? – with the fundraiser and in terms of mission

  2. How does the fundraiser align with our commitment to Equity?

  3. How do we leverage our assets to better serve our community?

  4. What are we giving up? What do we hope to gain?

  5. How do we raise enough money to offset what we need to charge for classes and other services?

entartetekunstThe night before our ArtoberFest planning meeting, our Executive Director, Jessyca Holland, texted me letting me know there was a documentary she just watched called “Degenerate Art: The Nazi vs Expressionism”. This documentary covered Hitler’s infamous art exhibition entitled “Entartete Kunst,” or Degenerate Art. This exhibition opened to the public in Munich in 1937 showcasing 650 pieces of art which Hitler felt insulted German feeling, destroyed or confused natural form, and unveiled an absence of adequate manual or artistic skill. Over a million people showed to see these this exhibition which consisted completely of modernist artwork. Nazi Germany had now branded modern artists as enemies of that state and a threat to German culture. Hitler’s disdain for not just the art, but for the artists themselves ran deep.

Jessyca wanted to question the system today. In a very small way, we want to challenge the system by celebrating, not art, but artists.

Individual artists are undervalued by society, in comparison to art itself: while 96% of Americans value art in their communities and lives, only 27% believe that artist offer value to the communities in which they live.

*Society perceives making art as frivolous or recreational. Many artists report that people have no sense of what artists’ time or products are worth and often expect them to ‘donate’ both for nothing. – Urban InstituteInvesting in Creativity- A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists. 

Those numbers don’t sit well with us.

“Love, Artists” was conceived out of the desire to demonstrate that artists are valued people. They are certainly valued by our organization, the staff, the board and our donors, but they bring tremendous value to their communities. Artists are humans, sisters, brothers, moms, dads, spouses, partners, friends, PTA members, volunteers…workers.

This post is not a judgement on other events, fundraisers, etc. but it is an exploration of how C4 Atlanta can better enhance our mission of serving artists. We work with many artists who gladly donate to arts organizations for events such as fundraisers, auctions, etc. Giving back is an ethos we support. This show was a challenge for us and is, in a way, a curatorial endeavor.

We did ask our members to submit images of themselves working for the show. In essence, they are donating work. We are not selling the photos during ArtoberFest. If an artists wants to sell his/her image, that is their prerogative, and they may keep all the money from that transaction. However, ArtoberFest’s financial success is not dependent on the sale of art. We will earn from the sales of tickets and alcohol. We have many generous sponsors that will make this a successful event.

Artists are donating a print of themselves working. The art is the process.

Unsolicited, photographer Cindy Brown, volunteered to take photos for artists who needed her expertise. She, too, is interested in the subject matter–an archive of sorts of Atlanta area artists. We have such a generous community, and we thank Cindy for her gift of time and talent.

We are fortunate to have a Board of Directors who also believes that artists contribute significantly to our society. So come party with us!

This blog was co-written by Chelsea Steveron & Jessyca Holland, C4 Atlanta

*This study was published in 2003. There have been some updates to the body or research, including a 2016 report conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Center for Cultural Innovation.

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