Then there was The Argument.
The big facebook disagreement.
I bit my tongue for as long as I could but no more.....Many artists may relate to this "discussion" on artists donating or giving to charity. Obviously, this is up to each one of us to give as we are able to whomever we choose, but this discussion went beyond just giving, it became downright heated about artists' self worth and value and cost and expense and on and on. I personally would give everything away if I could. This person would give nothing and sell at the highest possible cost. Obviously we are at opposite ends of a moral dilemma, so why did I engage? after much thought, I assessed and asked myself why am i a giver (besides the fact that I was raised to be that way by my mom) so here is my story.............
I have a reason why I never say no when someone asks me for a donation of my art. This is a good story, and actually involves one of our members (my local art group) although I'm not sure if she remembers me, because (shamefully) I never properly thanked her.... 6 years ago, during my first job as an art teacher out of college and a single mom with no extra money to spare, I took a job in Lorain Ohio for the Boys and Girls Club heading up their after school program. I've never seen such desperate need as I did in this program, most kids were hungry, ill clothed, and dismal home lives....I ran a program that served at least 100 kids after school. Right after I started, the regional club announced a fundraiser and wanted donations for their silent auction. I wanted to teach the kids self reliance and pride in creating something that benefitted them, as well as others....I wanted them to feel the sense of pride that comes from earning their way. (an aside note: I started working when I was 11, picking blueberries with my siblings on an orchard in Vermont in exchange for the rent my mom had to pay. 10 months out of the year we lived in an old barn designed as a small dorm for migrant workers....the 2 months during harvest we were on our own, one of those years we spent in a one room schoolhouse with no running water or facilities....this was in the early 80's by the way, not the 1800's.....but I knew what hard work meant, and my mom set the bar high by her example.) I had fixed it in my mind that fused glass pendants was the answer, having seen them at the local art shows earlier that year. Through happenstance I learned the name of an artist in Findlay that might be able to help me out. To this day, I can't believe what I asked of her, because in hindsight the request was huge, but I was new to glass art and at the time I didn't realize the value of what she gave. She offerred supplies, several hours of her time, (with all her children happily running around while we chatted) and would fire the finished pieces for me since I had no kiln and didn't know what I was doing....I took a lot and she recieved nothing. The project was a huge success, and the pieces sold for a total of over $2,000....plus the kids all got to keep one for themselves. Years later, at a show in Whitehouse (a town 2 hours from where I worked) I was selling my own fused glass and a customer (who was an english teacher) showed me a piece she was wearing and told me this incredible story about a boys and girls club director in Lorain who brought such pride to the wayward kids at this school where she taught, showing them how to make fused glass and selling it....at first I was just being the polite artist, smiling and nodding and listening to her story, but then nearly choked when I realized she was talking about ME. I was very humbled that day. However, it made me realize that I never thanked the one person who helped me get my start. Kelly Crosser Alge gave alot of materials and time when she helped me, and never knew the outcome of her gift....well there it is, not just in dollars, not just in the lives of those kids who would never know that kind of art, but now in the lives of those that I give to because of her example. I always tell people that I give to or donate to, that someone helped me get started once, when I needed a hand up, and if they ever find themselves in the position to give, that I don't need payback, but to pay it forward, So even though I said I was done talking about this topic, I feel like this story needed to be shared. Sometimes you just don't know the impact a small gesture can be, and that alone has no pricetag.
By the way, if you ever want to buy the most gorgeous fused glass around, check out the work of Kelly Crosser-Alge. I know this, because she was my teacher.