July 15, 2004
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on the arts
by LINDA MITCHELL
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.
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
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 (www.artistinteractive.com), 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
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
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