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Art Beat

July 15, 2004


Banking on the arts


I received a letter from the Humboldt Arts Council last week regarding a new partnership they've formed with Redwood Capital Bank (5th & G, downtown Eureka) called "Serving Community Interest." Here's how it works: If you open an interest-bearing account at the bank, you can arrange to automatically donate that interest to the Arts Council, or another local nonprofit organization. Convenient, straightforward, simple. There are so many good things about this arrangement, I hardly know where to begin.Photo of a pillar at the Morris Graves Museum of Art

First of all, I think a lot of people would like to support their favorite charities, but either never get around to it, or donate on a sporadic basis. This kind of program makes giving automatic and, since it's offered by a bank, you'll have records of your donations when tax time comes around. Additionally, it appears to be a very egalitarian plan -- if you have a lot of money in the bank, you give more to your charity. If you're poor, you give less.

Most importantly, if partnerships such as this one turn out to be successful, they can provide consistent sources of funding for local nonprofits, independent of who's sitting in Sacramento or the White House, or whether the Dow or Nasdaq is up or down. This is particularly important for our local art community because nonprofit arts organizations unquestionably provide the bulk of support for creative activity on the North Coast.

[Pillar at Morris Graves Museum. Photo by Linda Mitchell]

Just flip through this year's Palette magazine. Listings for nonprofit organizations outnumber private galleries and groups by a substantial margin (probably to an unhealthy degree, but that's a subject for another story). Nonprofits are providing networking opportunities for artists, sorely needed exhibition space, art competitions, festivals and events, marketing assistance, funding and resources for educational programs in schools, and on and on.

Public and private grants to these organizations have always ebbed and flowed with economic and political vagaries, but times are currently even tougher than usual. Nobody has any money. Of course, artists are accustomed to living on the financial edge, so all this may seem like business as usual, but unless some of our most vital organizations can come up with reliable, ongoing funding sources, the structural underpinnings of our art community may well tumble like a house of cards.

Take Eureka, for example, arts central on the North Coast. Consider what would happen if just one of the town's three Arts Alive! anchors -- HSU's First Street Gallery, the Morris Graves Museum, or The Ink People -- were to fold. Bad, right? Now imagine them all folding. Couldn't happen, you say? Think again.

Just in the last year or so, the Humboldt Arts Council, the governing board behind the Graves Museum, has laid off half its employees and reduced the museum's hours as well as the overall number of programs and shows it presents. And remember that dire headline in the Times Standard last fall -- "The Ink People to Close on Tuesday?" Only last minute community support has temporarily kept the wolf from blowing down the Inkers' doors. And how about the First Street Gallery? HSU just laid off a heart-rending percentage of its workforce. How long do you think a "nonessential" program like the gallery (which is training the next generation of museum and gallery professionals as well as providing much-needed exhibition space), can avoid the chopping block?

Programs like Redwood Capital's "Serving Community Interest" are a step in the right direction and worthy of public support, but other opportunities to support the arts in a more organic way exist as well. For example, Artist Interactive (, based in Denver, is an Internet service provider (ISP) dedicated to the visual arts. If you sign up for service with them, they'll give back 10 percent of your monthly Internet usage fee to the arts organization of your choice. Ten percent! For a service most people are already paying for anyway, I might add.

If anyone is aware of similar programs offering long-term, systemic funding opportunities for local nonprofits, or has other creative funding solutions to offer, please feel free to e-mail them to me and I'll pass the information along.


If you haven't yet seen Empire Squared's new "Playing Card Show" at the Humboldt Carpet Gallery (2nd & G, Old Town), try to check it out before the end of the month. It's a real visual extravaganza and yet another reminder of how serious these talented kids are about creating art. The painted cards are all priced at 30 bucks, so it's also an excellent chance to pick up a mini-masterpiece for a song.

Sadly, the Humboldt Arts Council will soon be losing their very talented exhibitions manager, Cory Gundlach, who is heading off to Boulder, Colo., where his girlfriend, Kerry Doyle (the Graves' soon-to-be-former museum store/volunteer coordinator), has been accepted to grad school. Cory says he'll pursue his own art, do some skiing, and take some well-earned time off before deciding his next direction. You'll be sincerely missed, Cory.

Linda Mitchell can be reached via



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