Past Comments

March Issue 2004
by Tom Starland

A Tale of Three Fundraisers

Each month I never know where this commentary is going to take me until it's time to write it. Events that happen during the beginning of the month that I think deserve some attention either hold up over time and out last current issue or fade into the fog. This month's theme seems to be fundraisers dealing with the visual arts - art competitions and art auctions.

We receive lots of notices about fundraisers dealing with art - we print some in the paper, some go on the website and some go in the trash bin - where they belong. We tend to only deal with those that take place in our own backyard - the Carolinas.

Here's some comments on three examples offered this month in our Call For Entry section.

First, we have the Hospice of Charleston's (Charleston, SC) 6th annual Joys of Life art auction. In 2003, more than 125 artists helped Hospice raise nearly $30,000 through their generous contributions of art. The auction includes the usual preview reception and then silent and live auctions. Participating artists can set minimum bid prices for their works as well as share in commissions of sales. Hospice of Charleston is a worthy cause which delivers hospice and home health care to persons living with a life-limiting illness throughout the tri-county, including Berkeley, Charleston, & Dorchester Counties, since 1981.

I'm no fan of art auctions. They undercut the art market, but are a fact of life in today's art community. I would prefer for artists to sell their work at full price and make a donation to organizations and take the full tax deduction for their donation - but...

I asked some contributing artists about this auction, checked out the auction catalog, and even checked out the Hospice website. I got positive feedback from all sectors. Most of the time the group hosting an auction can't even produce a list of artists participating - they just want the free art and the money they get for selling it - way below market retail. Not the case here. So, I guess if you feel it's easier to give your art instead of cash to participate in a fundraiser - here's one that's better than most and willing to listen to advice on making improvements and making their artists happy.

Next, we have the SC Aquarium's and the Gibbes Museum of Art's (Charleston, SC) Amazonian Photography Contest, for children ages 8-12. Participants are "encouraged" to visit the Gibbes Museum of Art to view the nature and landscape photography including In Response to Place an exhibition of 48 photographs of the exhibit The Nature Conservancy's Last Great Places. Then visit the SC Aquarium to take actual photographs of their new exhibit Secrets of the Amazon featuring amazing creatures such as anacondas, electric eels, four-eyed fish and piranhas to name a few.

One winner will be selected by a panel of judges; and will receive a free membership to the Aquarium and the Gibbes Museum of Art, a disposable camera with film and film development. The top twelve winners will be featured on display at the Charleston County Library and on the Aquarium's website.

Now, there is no fee for this photography contest, but on one (only one) of the three press releases I received on this event it stated that - regular admission prices will be charged at both facilities. This means that it will cost each participant (plus accompanying adult, in many cases) $7-$14 at the aquarium and $3-$7 at the art museum. It's like a back door fee.

All press releases only suggests that you visit the Gibbes, but one states that you must take your photos of the animals in the SC Aquarium's new exhibit, while others only "urge" that you visit the exhibit at the aquarium. I don't know what to make of this.

The contest is promoted as a fun and interactive way to learn about photography, but it seems more like a way to boost admissions.

If this event is supposed to be an educational experience you would think some arrangement would have been made to offer free admission to those wishing to participate in the competition. I'm sure that's at least the wish of some of the parents who will learn about this event from an excited student bringing a flyer home from school. Oh thanks - another educational opportunity that cost me money!

And, I just can't pass up the opportunity to pose the question - what is an aquarium that is supposed to be a resource about SC's environment and animals doing promoting exotic animals such as anacondas and piranhas? What county in SC has those animals?

Finally, we have the Redux Contemporary Art Center's (Charleston, SC), 3rd Portrait Knockdown - where artists test their skills at creating portraits - head to head - until only one is standing. The Knockdown starts with 64 artists who paint, draw, sculpt, or otherwise produce portraits of each other head to head within a time limit. A winner is decided by a fabulous panel of jurors. The winners then move on to the next round. Six rounds will determine who is the portrait grand champion of the world! And, who will walk away with the $1,000 grand prize. Entry Fee is $40, which includes free lunch and beverages for both days. The event is open to anyone wishing to participate. Just show up with entry fee and talent. It's a 64:1 chance of winning $1,000 for an investment of $40 and two days of making portraits - and, lots of free critiques!

Here we have a creative, fun, educational and spectator oriented fundraiser. Even the "non-winners" will learn something about portraitmaking - besides consuming all the food and beverages you can consume in two days.

So there you go - three different examples of ways to fundraise using the arts - plus my little spin on each. All three present different kinds of opportunities for artists, children, and the general public. All three depend on the visual arts. I guess we have something of value to offer. Which ones you prefer to participate in are up to you. I'm just the messenger with an opinion.


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