Saturday, September 24, 2011

To Donate or Not to Donate

There's been a spirited on-line discussion (some might call it a heated debate) about a call for donations which was presented via Friday's SAQA e-bulletin.  Karey Bresenhan, a former SAQA board member, asked SAQA members to consider donating a small art quilt that could be sold through the shop of the soon-to-be-opened Texas Quilt Museum.  Prices for the pieces would be between $100 and $200.

It seemed like an innocuous request to me, but really got under the skin of others.  As I understand it, there were two reasons why:

1) The pricing was too low.  Objectors felt such pricing was devaluing art quilts in general and would limit public perception of the value of our art.

My rebuttal: For many of us, at this point in our artistic careers, a $100-$200 price tag is appropriate for a small piece of our work and, therefore, doesn't devalue it. There are certainly some artists who are much farther along in their careers and who likely don't have a great deal of artwork that fits into that pricing category. I accept and respect their decision not to contribute something with a prescribed price.  However, there are also other artists who want to support Karey and will donate something, even if they could sell it for a higher price elsewhere.   That's okay; that's their choice.  I don't think anyone should feel guilty or be chastised for donating if they deem it appropriate to do so nor if they choose not to.   How and where an artist chooses to sell, donate, or present their artwork is a personal decision to be made in accordance to their personal goals and values.

As for pricing, I believe that Karey knows better than most what the market can bear in her area for small art quilts. (For clarity, let me note that I think something up to 12" x 12" can be considered small.)  Pricing varies throughout the country; what may sell for $100 in Texas may sell for more in New York and less in Louisiana.  That's simply economics.  The point of a museum shop is to generate income.  Therefore, stock that doesn't sell, either because it doesn't appeal to buyers or is priced too high, will be of no use.  Remember, these are mostly impulse purchases that strike an emotional chord with the purchaser.  Karey's goal, then, is to offer pieces that are going to relatively fly off the shelves because they can't be resisted; attractive artwork at a fair price point will hopefully do just that.  As pieces sell, the market will likely tolerate higher prices; Karey just doesn't believe we're there yet.  I'm going to trust her judgement on this one.

2) SAQA's e-bulletin should not have been the delivery mechanism for the request.  Objectors felt is wasn't appropriate for SAQA to be part of an effort to support or endorese what appears to be a museum more focused on exhibiting traditional works.  In addition, many felt SAQA should have policies in place that will dictate what kind of material can be sent to the membership.

My rebuttal:  I don't disagree that a Board discussion about this situation would be helpful.  I imagine no one thought twice about presenting the membership with an opportunity from Karey Bresenhan to sell via a museum shop.  However, I can see the validity in concerns that the lack of guidelines could lead to a slippery slope.  A future discussion should outline basic principles at to who can "speak" through SAQA bulletins and for what purpose.  However, I believe a thoughtful application of the rules should be employed, as opposed to a rigid one.

And here's an additional point I don't think anyone has mentioned.  If I'd read my emails sooner, I would have liked to bring it up in the public discussion, but I feel it's too late to chime in now.

The mission of SAQA is as follows:
Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc. (SAQA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the art quilt through education, exhibitions, professional development and documentation.

I think placing the request in one of SAQA's e-bulletins is in accordance with that mission.   Offering artwork through the museum shop immediately places a value on them, something that a more traditionally-minded audience might not otherwise do.  It seems to me that the museum's target audience at the moment is one more inclined to traditional quilts.  Well, we certainly can't expect the museum to host an art quilt exhibition just yet.... nor can we expect these folks to visit an art quilt gallery show, either.  But offering items through the gift shop is, I think, a wonderful way to introduce them to art quilts.  Here's an audience we might not otherwise reach because they aren't currently attracted to our art form.  They'll discover there's more "out there" by seeing our pieces displayed.  Perhaps a shopper will be captivated by a piece, buy it, and be intrigued enough to look up the artist on the internet.  Look, we've started to educate a consumer and that's very much in line with SAQA's mission.  This may be a novel approach to raising awareness, but I don't think it's any less valid than other ways.  With that in mind I think the SAQA e-bulletin was an appropriate vehicle for this message.

Now, as folks become more familiar with and more informed about the diversity in our art form, I hope shop pricing can go up.   Hopefully Karey can broaden her audience and visitor pool enough to support  art quilt exhibitions.  In the mean time, I hope to create something worthy of a museum gift shop that's compelling enough to be purchased.  At this stage of my game, I think this is worthwhile.  Besides, I never would have gotten started with art quilting without the Journal Quilt Project; I can try to give something back.  And who knows where a patron may come from?  

--- Please feel free to leave rebuttals and comments.  A thoughtful dialogue is always a good idea!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Getting in the Way of Art

The school year's started and though I hoped it would spell more time for art, that hasn't been the case. Sadly, I've been occupied with Goblin, our beloved black Lab.  He was suddenly lethargic and didn't care to eat much.  After trips to the vet, ultrasounds and x-rays, and discussions with oncologists, we've reached the conclusion that Goblin has a very aggressive form of cancer that won't be resolved with surgery and doesn't respond to chemotherapy.  As a family, we've decided to keep him spoil him for the time he has left with us.  I'm getting a little comfort in my belief he's sure that he's a much loved dog, but my heart still aches for the time I wish we still had.  I was counting on years and years; it's hard to realize it's likely only going to be a couple of months.  Still, I marvel that in the midst of his discomfort, he can be the silly, fun-loving dog just a short while after being strapped down and shaved for an ultrasound.  This dog has spirit.

On the art note, Goblin and some school snafu's have occupied my time and little has happened up in my studio.  I'm please to report that my article, Do I have to journal? is part of the Fall 2011 SAQA Journal.  I'm curious to see what hoopla it may generate since I take the tact that I haven't successfully integrated journaling into my art process .... sort of goes against the grain.  You can read the article on-line and read it again, when you get your copy.  I'm excited.  Also included in the issue is my interview with featured artist, Patty Hawkins.  Oh, does she make beautiful art!  I found it fascinating that she still felt she had so much to learn, even as successful as she is.  Wow.

And finally, this Saturday is the artists' reception for our FiberArt Northeast group.  The exhibition is called Fiber +Thread=Art III: A Colorful Show.  The exhibition will be up through the month of September at the Mahopac Library Gallery and showcases our monochromatic art (with an accent).  My piece, Rex Ray Gray,  is hanging in the exhibit, along with works by Natalya Aikens, Jane Davila, Cindy Green, and Norma Schlager to name just a few.  Here's the cover art of our postcard as a tease.  Stop by if you get a chance; I'm sure you'll see something that catches your eye.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

What are the odds?

What are the odds that we'd be in San Francisco when there was an earthquake felt in New York?  Well, that's exactly what happened.  We were on vacation in California when the earthquake happened.  My husband and son were playing golf and the girls and I wandered around Chinatown on an unusually clear day.  Oh, the riot of colors!  Here's one of my favorite photos of the day, filled with the lanterns that adorned many of the balconies.

Of course, we did make it back to New York for the hurricane.  Now, things are getting back to normal, though our house will be emptier since we won't have friends stopping by to take showers.  Everything's getting ready for the start of school -- I can't believe it's already September.

I hope you had a good summer.  I certainly did.