Monday, June 20, 2016
The Art of Giving
Generosity and hospitality are core values for me. Those values animated my gallery work: creating welcoming spaces for viewers; offering generous no fee help for emerging and established artists.
Last year I began to think about generosity in regard to my own art. Like all artists I not only have a stash of materials, but I also have a stash of older work that needs to find a home. It is a real problem for all artists...famous ones and not so famous ones.
So, I wondered, "What would it look like if I gifted my remaining artists books to public collections?" "How would it feel to give the work away?" "What are the risks and benefits?"
I started informally, by contacting Minnesota Center for Book Arts, with whom I have had a long relationship. One afternoon, Jeff Rathermel and I went through everything I could find. (I was not yet organized for the project.) I kept unearthing things I had completely forgotten about! It was a surprise and a delight. When Jeff left with all the boxes, I gulped a bit...but then I felt so much lighter!
It was exciting and fun to give the work away! It helped to make sure than when I am gone, my hard work will live on.
After that initial afternoon I got a little more organized. I sent an email to a couple of of my existing collections about gifting books to their collections. And I waited...
I think I waited only a day for the first excited response from a librarian at University of Colorado at Boulder. She was in Paris at a book show when she received the email and responded right away! They wanted one of everything, if that wasn't too much! Oh my! I was so pleased to complete their holdings of my work so it could be shared with students.
Then I got even more organized. I named the project The Art of Giving. I did a rigorous inventory and condition check of the remaining books. I got together the addresses of more public collections who already held my books ( 8-10 places.) With the help of Danielle Moler, my current intern/assistant, I crafted a letter, made a "for collections eyes only" website, burned CDs, printed documentation and sent offers to my existing collections. And I waited...
It felt a little risky and vulnerable to send these packets.
More collections responded...most positively. Of course there were silences and demurs as well. But, I sent out more books.
Now Danielle and I are sending to collections that have never held my work. The silences are more pronounced, but the occasional "yes" is so rewarding. As a result, I now have work in the Getty and the Cleveland Institute of Art.
I have more than doubled the number of collections and the number of books represented in collections. I went from 10 or 11 public collections to 23 public collections, so far. I don't remember how many pieces were placed before I began this project, but something like 110 artworks are now in public collections.
So, how do I feel about all of this? proud, of course. But it did open up a new wiggling can of worms...