How to sponsor artists

May 31, 2008

 ..the largest subsidy of cultural life,  ‘comes not from governments, corporations, or other patrons, but from the artists themselves, through their unpaid or underpaid labour’.
-Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists.

(The above was quoted in a unpublished English translation of the book, ‘Confrontaties’ by Joost Smiers).


This is a favorite hobby horse of mine, so hold on, I’ll just plunge right in.

10 easy ways to support artists:

1 If you visit an artist’s studio during a gallery walk or art fair, and you spend more than 5 minutes talking with the artist, BUY something. It can be a card, a print, a catalogue, but return some of the energy that has been freely given to you.

2 Learn what your taste in art is. Collect cards, prints, small drawings from different artists, and after a year or so, review your choices and pick your favorites.

3 Buy directly from the artist or from artist co-op galleries. Galleries add as much as 100% to the cost of the piece. This percentage often goes into fancy gallery space and expensive catalogues. Most often buying directly from the artist will be considerably less expensive, but even when prices are comparable to gallery prices, the money you pay to the  artist will go into supporting them and not the gallery.

4 Learn what goes into pricing a piece of art. An artist pays all her expenses herself, materials, studio rental, living expenses, promotional material,social security, health insurance, etc. These will be reflected in the prices.

5 You obviously pay more than the price of the canvas and a layer of paint. Understand the ‘added value’ in art prices: An artist may work in series, but every original work of art is unique and unrepeatable.  For every work that soars, there have perhaps been 10 or more made that didn’t take off. The artist’s BEST work will be higher priced. Take into account, too, that a work that has specific value for the artist will also have a higher price-tag. Less important to this discussion but a factor all the same is that some artists will have more recognition, which also drives the price up. But ….. If you want to get the most out of your art purchase, buy from the heart.  If you are looking for an investment, go buy a house or a boat instead.

6 Support local artists. Check out what studios are in your neighborhood and go visit. Get to know the artist and their work, it will gain in value and significance for you if you are familiar with the conditions in which it was made. You are actually buying a little moment in the artist’s life.

7 The next time you want to donate to a charity, think instead of ways you could help a local artist. It may not be tax deductible, but it is an act of giving and will bring you fulfilment just the same. Here are some suggestions for how you or your business could help out an artist:

  • donate studio space, either in exchange for art lessons for you or your kids, or just for free
  • sponsor printing/publicity for the artist
  • hang their work in your restaurant or school or other building, encourage people to buy
  • donate used furniture or other goods to the artist for his workshop
  • give money for a specific goal, ie for an easel or more materials or part of the studio rent or an upcoming show
  • become a patron, buy work from this artist regularly
  • lend a car or help in other ways to transport art to a show or elsewhere
  • show regular interest, especially if the artist is having a difficult time. Invite them over for a cup of tea

8  When you next consider buying a business gift, birthday or birth gift etc, think of artists. In artist co-ops you can often find totally unique gifts such as handmade books, small scultpures, mini-paintings, prints, painted furtniture, light fixtures, clocks, mirrors, you name it. These are generally not more expensive than good brand name objects and they can sometimes be personalized.

9 Bring friends to meet the artist, buy or borrow one piece by the artist and hang it in your home or office. Help spread their name around.

10 Try your own hand at painting or drawing, at best it will give you a rewarding hobby, at least it will give you insight into what skills are needed to create art.

Wishing you inspiration!







3 Responses to “How to sponsor artists”

  1. m Says:

    Sarah my great aunt was a chirpodist by day SNP activist by night and along with my uncle a mining engineer ran a literary and artistic salon in Edinburgh in the 1940’s. They liberally lent money to artists inc Hugh MacDaiarmid, bought pamphlets of poetry, built up a collection of paintings, fed and and watered poets, writers and artists, including Anne Redpath when she was poverty struck single parent just returned from the South of France. They didn’t have a huge amount of money but made a big impact

  2. szoutewelle Says:

    Hi m,
    this is so inspiring, what a fine example. Thanks for sharing it here.
    It kind of relates too to ‘Soul of Money’ where Lynne Twist argues that even the smallest amount of money given with the right attitude can have a significant impact.

  3. Dennis Says:

    hello I like your post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: