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Austin Post: Generous Art

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Buy One Painting, Support Two Causes

By Jackie Stone / Feb 17, 2012

It’s a rare artist who can make a living entirely off creating art. Most artists struggle to get their work sold through galleries, online or by pounding the pavement, while still having to pay for supplies in time to create new works.

And in Austin, where the high concentration of creativity is paralleled by a nonprofit and charitable scene that is one of the biggest in the country, artists are often asked to donate works to be sold at fundraisers around town.

“I knew so many people in town asking me to donate to fundraisers and it was like, I can’t donate 30 pieces a year when I only sell two,” said Jennifer Chenoweth, a sculptor and painter who has been working and creating on the Austin scene for more than a decade. “We (artists) don’t have a lot of expectation for commercial gain here. A lot of work here beautifies Austin for free, like how musicians play here.”

Last February, Chenoweth’s launched a nonprofit called Generous Art to help artists earn money for their work while also helping the nonprofits in town that regularly ask for aid from artists.

At the website, Chenoweth lists the names of the 25 artists she represents and around 30 nonprofit partners who stand to benefit. Chenoweth takes unsold artwork from the artists’ older inventories and sells it online, at charitable fundraisers and at Generous Art shows throughout the year. Whenever a piece is sold, 40 percent of the sale price goes to the artist and 40 percent of the sale price goes to one of Generous Art’s nonprofit partners.

After the Generous Art website was launched, the nonprofit sold 46 pieces of art between June and December of 2011, and sent $4,166 to 18 local nonprofits and one out of state nonprofit. Chenoweth said the biggest palm beach atlantic pharmacy school local nonprofit recipient has been SafePlace, and new nonprofits have recently signed up to get the benefit, including Con Mi Madre, a nonprofit which works to send Hispanic women to college.

Chenoweth said starting Generous Art came from a combination of wanting to help funnel money to charitable organizations in town, as well as giving artists another way to sell in the art business.

“When we show, it’s about an aesthetic experience – As an independent artist, it’s hard to message sales without compromising your art,” Chenoweth said.

Meanwhile, an artist who does get their work shown in a gallery has to put forward all the costs up front, and doesn’t see any return until or unless a piece is sold. And Chenoweth said in her own experience, when pieces don’t get sold in a gallery, they are sometimes returned damaged without any compensation.

“People understand that we’re starving artists, but they don’t understand why,” she said. “We deserve to afford healthcare and to feed our families.”

Generous Art will host a group show in September benefitting all the artists and nonprofits, and hosts three to four studio shows a year. But most frequently, Chenoweth takes individual pieces on easels to sell at charitable fundraisers around town. Last week, Chenoweth was at a fundraiser benefiting the Capital Area Food Bank. Any pieces bought at that event benefit the Capital Area Food Bank, but when buyers purchase a piece through the Generous Art website, they can chose which of the nonprofits to support with 40 percent of the sale prices.

On Thursday, Generous Art will be at a screening party for a story about the nonprofit done by KLRU, which has recently signed on as a charitable partner. The event will be held at The White Horse on East 5th, doors at 7 p.m.

Check out Generous Art online.