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...

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