Contribute your talents to a good cause

Art has found its way into the Tour de France. Depending on your definition of art, it may have always been there (Fans’ costumes! Crop sculptures! Handmade signs and banners!). But now Lance Armstrong, in his first Tour in four years, has teamed up with Nike to enlist the talents of 30 of the world’s foremost contemporary artists for an exhibit entitled STAGES, which opened in Paris last week.

As far as I can tell, the exhibit consists of a few Trek bikes that were decorated by the artists. (Yes, this recalls visions of Cow Parade and its infinite clones–artists working with the surface of an existing form.) Other works were created specifically for the show.

After its Paris debut, STAGES travels to New York, Los Angeles, and Portland. The artists’ works will be sold with proceeds benefiting Armstrong’s foundation to fight cancer. You can’t argue that the artists are making a contribution.

I’ve written a lot previously about donating art to charity events–cautioning you against donating too much or feeling obligated. But there comes a time when your passion for a cause is so deep that you would regret not using your talents to help out. Rather than wait for the requests to come to you, organize your own charity event by teaming up with a nonprofit organization and at least one celebrity. Lance Armstrong might be out of reach, but there are probably celebrities in your town that would be willing to lend their name to a good cause.

You could donate work that you already have available, but you’ll get more publicity if it’s work created around a theme. I hate to say that because I’m not crazy about themed art, but I know what gets picked up in the mainstream media. If publicity is a goal (and it should be if you’re trying to raise money!), a theme might be the way to go.

Let’s look at some of the local celebrities and nonprofit organizations you could team up with.

Celebrity Chefs + Food Bank + Artists
Purchase plain aprons for artists to decorate and then sell or auction the aprons at an event that features the chefs’ creations while raising funds for the local food bank.

Newscasters + Literacy Program + Artists
Ask artists to create artists’ books. Exhibit the books at local libraries and galleries before holding a sale and having a party at a bookstore with proceeds going toward a literacy program. Bringing in the bookstore (a retail space with its own following) is a bonus to the partnership.

Sports Stars + Inner-City Sports for Kids + Artists
Ask artists, or pair up artists and sports stars into teams, to decorate baseball caps, footballs, jerseys, or anything else associated with your celebrity’s sport. Ask a sportscaster to be the MC at the party and sale. You’re likely to get TV coverage on the sportscaster’s station.

One final note of interest: Lance Armstrong is said to be riding a few of the artist-decorated bikes in the Tour de France, including the bike by Damien Hirst to the finish line in Paris.

KNOW THIS———-~> Making a contribution to a cause that’s important to you is extremely gratifying.

THINK ABOUT THIS—~> The more people you include in your event, the more publicity you will receive and the more money you will raise for a worthy cause.

DO THIS————~> Contribute your talents to a good cause. Bring in a local celebrity (or celebrities) to help attract attention. Be diligent in your research to ensure your nonprofit is in good standing and well thought of in the community. There are many charity watchdog organizations out there. Try http://charitynavigator.org as a starting point.

Also, understand that–at least for now–when you donate your art, you (the artist) are able to deduct only the cost of your materials for U.S. tax purposes. See more about working with a nonprofit and donating art in my book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio!, pages 219-222.

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2 comments to Contribute your talents to a good cause

  • Michael fromcar donation

    I’ve read an article about MINI that created a one-off 2009 MINI Cooper S inspired by George Harrison’s customized 1966 Cooper S to celebrate it’s 50th birthday. The car was then donated to charity. I think we should let artists customize cars that will then be donated.

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