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The Art of Giving + Giving to Art

December 21, 2011

Like a lot of people, I make donations throughout the year to organizations and causes that I love and believe in. I don’t have a lot to spare, but I always try to give some amount each year that feels significant. I have a few favorite organizations that support children in a developing country, adults in need in my own backyard, and abused and abandoned animals across the country. But the giving I like best is the kind that touches people individually in a very direct and concrete way, especially artists. I always feel that if I am lucky enough to make even a little bit of money doing something that I love, I should show my gratitude by giving some of it away so that someone else has a chance to do something they love. Two organizations I love to support are Artist Trust and CERF+.


Artist Trust is a Seattle-based arts organization that supports Washington state artists of all disciplines, and certainly if you are an artist living and working in this area, you are familiar with AT, as it has touched so many of us directly. Over the years, AT has provided financial grants, professional resources and career training to thousands of artists across the state, providing invaluable services, outreach and community to those of us who largely work alone, and helping to launch and sustain successful careers.

Both emerging and established musicians, visual artists, writers, dancers, craft artists, filmmakers and cross-disciplinary artists benefit from the help that Artist Trust provides. Artist Trust‘s motto is “Supporting art at its source,” and that really says it all. The very unique thing about AT is that it is not an umbrella organization that provides financial help to other arts organizations; it’s an arts organization that provides help directly to the artists themselves. As in, a check in their mailbox. As in, hands-on workshops. As in, resources for health care and health insurance. As in, legal, financial and employment opportunities. They really do it all. And do it so well. Their gorgeous website is worth a browse, whether you’re an artist or an arts-lover.

I’m not kidding when I say that almost every artist I know in Seattle has directly benefited from Artist Trust at some time in their careers, including me! A few years ago I received a GAP (Grants for Artist Projects) grant, a project-based grant which allowed me to buy a digital SLR camera, a photo tent and lights to more successfully photograph my own work. Every year AT provides GAP grants to around 60 artists in all disciplines for all kinds of projects which can lead to the development and presentation of new or existing work. The application process is competitive, and I felt lucky at the time to have won a grant, as it truly provided me with critical and timely support for equipment I probably would not have been able to buy otherwise.

Donations to Artist Trust come from individual donors and institutional giving, and also in the form of artwork donations to its annual art auction, its largest fund-raiser of the year. I’ve donated artwork many times over the years, and have volunteered at the auction itself. It’s a great way to support an organization I believe in and see my donations roll forward to support other artists, many of whom happen to be my friends. If you’re interested in giving to Artist Trust and supporting artists like me, you can learn more here.

The second organization I love is CERF+ (Craft Emergency Relief Fund), an amazing organization that provides relief and resources for artist emergencies such as illness, injury and natural disasters. I was touched directly by CERF+ in 2001, when I was involved in a terrible auto accident that put me in and out of the intensive care unit at Harborview Hospital here in Seattle for almost two weeks.  Among my many broken bones was a pelvis broken front and back, and recovery was long and painful, involving physical therapy that taught me how to walk again. I had also broken my sacrum, and it took about four years before I could sit comfortably for longer than an hour. So jewelry making, which involves a lot of time sitting at the bench, was out for a while. I was not able to work for a long time afterward, and applied for a no-interest emergency loan from CERF+ to help cover expenses while I got back on my feet again. The loan wasn’t huge, but it was significant to me, and it allowed me some room to heal and recover while still paying my bills and buying groceries. Because it was a loan, I paid it back in time under a generous and long repayment plan, and was happy to know that as I repaid my loan, another artist in need could be benefiting from those payments.

In addition to providing emergency relief, CERF+ also works to educate craft artists about emergency preparedness so that we are as ready as we can be if disaster strikes. Providing information on health, safety and insurance, CERF+‘s goal is to build safety nets for craft artists, making sure we are ready for the unthinkable. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ike and many other natural disasters such as flooding and wildfires, CERF+ provided relief to artists who had lost their studios and their livelihoods. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to live through a devastating hurricane or fire, let alone what it must be like to have lost everything you owned. What a gift to have an organization like CERF+ to step in when I’m sure it seems like things will never get better.

Like Artist Trust, CERF+ accepts direct donations, but another great way to support CERF+ is to buy an ornament during this holiday season from The Artful Home. Every year The Artful Home generously donates a portion of the sales from its extensive and beautiful handmade ornament collection to CERF+.  To see this year’s amazing selection, click here. If you’re not familiar with The Artful Home (formerly, they represent talented artists in several disciplines across the country and puts their work in the hands and homes of art lovers through its website, catalogs and direct marketing. I’ve shown work with them for several years. You can see my Artful Home page here.

It seems at this time of year we are always thinking of ways we can give. While it’s definitely important to make sure everyone has what they need at this time of celebration and observance, for me it’s equally important to give in the quieter moments of life, knowing that my donations can stave off hunger, emergencies and crises for folks all throughout the year. If you have a moment in this holiday season, take some time to reflect on a way you can donate to an arts organization you believe in throughout the next year. Help support artists in your area or nationally with a gift that will provide sustaining help in the year to come.

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