Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Donating Art

Filoli Gate © 2008 Dianne Poinski

This is the piece I donated to the Crocker Art Auction which takes place this Saturday. The auction is a fundraiser for the Crocker Art Museum, “the longest continuously operating art museum in the West”. I feel good about donating to this event for a couple of reasons. One of them is selfish – I get to keep 50% of the winning bid. I usually subtract my family membership to the museum from this amount. I also believe that this is an important institution in the Sacramento region and we all know about the difficulties art organizations are having these days.

Through the years I have donated to many charity auctions and feel good about most of them. For example, last year I donated a piece to the SPCA auction in memory of someone who was a regular visitor to my booth at local art festivals and a joy to talk to.

When I started to get requests for donations, I said yes to almost all of them. I was happy that my art had the potential to help all kinds of charities, even if it was in a small way. I learned early that donating would not really help my business and it wasn’t about “exposure”, it was about giving back to something I believed in. It did seem though that the more auctions I donated to, the more requests I began to get. Just this week, I received 2 separate requests for art to be donated.

One thing that most people running these events don’t realize is, as artists we can only deduct from our taxes the cost of the materials we used to create the piece, not the market value. There has been movement to change this law for many years and it continues today. There is a bill in the House right now called the Artist-Museum Partnership Act of 2009. There was a good article on the Etsy blog by Chuck of DownToTheWireDesigns on this subject. He includes a link where you can contact your Representative to let them know how you feel.

The way I have decided to handle this situation is to decide ahead of time what auctions I will donate to. Then, when I get a request I simply say “I limit my donations of art to a set amount each year and I have already committed to a number of charities this year. Please keep me on your list and I may be able to help out next year.”

I am curious how other artists feel about this. I know I can’t save the world with my art but it does feel good to contribute even a little bit.


  1. What a beautiful piece! The Crocker Art Auction is lucky to have it.

    Thanks for the link to the Artist-Museum Partnership Act. Lets hope that such a bill gets passed at last - maybe the 5th time will be the charm!

    Good luck with the auction.

  2. Thank you Katherine!
    Yes, let's keep our fingers crossed that it passes this time.

  3. I do the same - select a few that I will donate to.

    Your image is stunning! The gate is so ornate and I love the white foliage around it.

  4. Thanks Rachel!
    The magic of infrared created that white foliage. I love that effect too!

  5. I have a similar problem with donations. I too limit the donations per year to those that really matter to me. That way I feel good about the gift even if I don't get a business benefit from it.