July 13, 2006
10% for the Arts
by KATHERINE ALMY
Two very fine nature photographers have teamed up for a show at A. G. Edwards office in Eureka. Matthew Filar and Sam Camp's striking pictures of local and wild scenes are on display. So if you're going in to have a chat with your broker, you might want to have a look around at the walls. If you'd like to buy anything, you'll be contributing to the arts in more than one way, because the artists who show at AGE donate 10 percent of all their sales to an arts organization of their choice.
The works of these two men compliment each other nicely. Sam's work is all-color, mostly larger vistas of places like the Trinity Alps, the Sierras, Utah and Arizona. He spends a lot of time backpacking and taking pictures of the high country.
Matthew works in color some of the time and black and white others, as the spirit moves him. His photographs tend to be more local and intimate. One will make locals chuckle and non-locals scratch their heads. He took a great photograph of the new Eureka water tower while it was draped in plastic, looking like something from Star Wars, with the old one in the background and a worker in a hardhat on the ground. I especially like that picture because I was glad that someone else recognized the unique photo opportunity of that scene.
Matthew told me that he heard about the A. G. Edwards gallery when he was doing some volunteer work at KEET-TV. He's been helping out for some years with their on-air auctions doing camera and technical work, and he has donated photographs for auction. A friend told him about AGE and he called and got on their waiting list (they are now booking their 2007 shows).
It's a unique opportunity for artists who want a good deal on gallery space and to do something to help out the arts at the same time. Laura Hussey, branch manager of the Eureka office, started Ten Percent for the Arts in January 2005. Laura, an artist herself and a long time arts advocate, wanted to do something that would benefit the community, so she and her colleagues at AGE came up with a plan, one that is good for the artists and the recipient arts organizations.
The brokerage firm takes no commission on sales, asking instead for the artist to donate 10 percent of their sales to an arts organization. They also pay a large portion of the costs for the mailing of announcements, and they host the Arts Alive! opening. This, and the fact that they keep their shows up for two months instead of one, makes it a really sweet deal for the artist.
They also do something else that I found interesting. According to Matthew, the staff at AGE met with him and Sam prior to the show opening and had the artists speak about their work. In this way, all of the people who would be working with potential buyers would be informed about the work and could answer any questions that an interested party might have. That's something that every Arts Alive! venue should do if they're serious about selling the art, but it's the first time I've heard of someone doing it.
Since they've started this program, AGE has had some big name (local) artists like Libby George, Richard Dunning, Floyd Bettiga and Mel Schuler. They've typically sold at least one piece per show, and when Mel's work was up that meant an $1800 donation to the Humboldt Arts Council. Although the 10 percent donation is a request, they've had full participation so far, with all of the artists supporting the idea.
Mel Schuler was very enthusiastic about his experience showing at AGE and about what they're doing. The building was actually not a perfect place for his larger sculptures (he exhibited some of his smaller works and drawings) and the location is a bit off the beaten Arts Alive! path, but this is made up for by the support of the staff and their commitment to supporting the arts.
The 10 percent donation is a nice alternative way to contribute rather than the very common donation of an artwork to an organization for an auction. While most artists are glad to participate in that sort of thing, it can be taxing to give away pieces to all of the worthy causes that come up. Another problem with auctions is that buyers are often looking for a deal, and while they may be excited to get a beautiful painting for a steal, it tends to devalue that artist's work. This program provides a different route for artists to give something back.
Matthew and Sam's show opened in June, but they work will be up for another month. The A.G. Edwards office is located at 318 Fifth Street in Eureka.
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