Emily Moores, Home, monoprint and watercolor on paper, 10″ x 6.25″, 2010, unframed, $100
When we become parents, watching the news can be hard. Knowing the amount of pain and suffering in the world and that we are raising little beings that will soon inhabit it can be overwhelming sometimes.
At the same time, being a parent can be so all-encompassing it’s hard to get out of our little bubble. Time is such a commodity and volunteering is often out of the question. Heck, sometimes even getting out of the house with a shower and brushed teeth is a challenge when your kids are really little. What can we possibly do to make a difference?
Enter Austin mom and artist Jennifer Chenoweth and Generous Art, a business venture she launched last February with Virginia Fleck to support both nonprofits and artists. Jennifer is a single mom to 2 boys, ages 5 and 7, and fixture in the local art community. A graduate of UT’s MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program and the owner of Firsterra Studio, Jennifer has taught art and creative entrepeneurship, served as a panelist for Austin’s Art in Public Places program, opened her home each year as a stop on E.A.S.T and mentored and employed countless aspiring artists.
Sydney Yeager, Under the Influence, oil on canvas, 60″ x 60″, $6,250
Jennifer receives 30-40 requests each year to contribute art to fundraising events. “I have some causes dear to my heart, and just donating a piece of art to their auctions isn’t enough,” she explained. “I can’t afford to write the kinds of checks that I would like as a self-employed artist and single mom”.
As a person who has run and attended a dozen silent auctions, I have solicited art from a friend, only to see it go for a fraction of what it was worth. Usually, art is mixed in with jewelry and other random items, and most likely not displayed as it would be in a gallery. Under these conditions, the artist receives little, if any, benefit and the charity rarely receives market value for the contribution.
Karen Maness, Spankdance Duet, oil on masonite, $1,250
Generous Art began as an effort to maximize the benefit to the buyer, artist and community. Potential buyers can access the online gallery anytime, from anywhere, to select a piece of art. Generous Art even offers gift registry services and sells gift cards. When a buyer selects a work of art, 40% of the purchase price goes to the artist, 40% goes to a charity of the buyer’s choice and 20% goes to sustain the business. From the first sale, which was a studio sale of Jennifer’s work last June, through December, Generous Art has sold 46 pieces of art, which generated $4,166 to 19 nonprofits.
“…this is the way I can really make an impact in my whole community to make what I value sustainable. It’s like building a safety net that threads us all together.”
Generous Art currently features 23 local artists and 31 participating charities. Jennifer looks for works that have been exhibited and are in the artists’ inventory. She works with artists to select the pieces from their collections she feels will be the strongest for the gallery. There is no requirement for the participating artists or charities to be local, and Jennifer plans to expand Generous Art on a city-by-city basis. Both artists and charities can apply online.
Jade Walker, Puberty Near, fabric, cotton stuffing, found objects, 24″x20″x24″, $750
Generous Art also provides opportunities for potential buyers to see gallery items in person. Jennifer hopes to organize four studio sales and one group show each year. The next studio sale will feature works from Emily Moores. Emily’s art will be on display online from January 21st-February 12th and can be seen in person at Texas French Bread from 3-6pm on Sunday, February 5th. The next group show, where Generous Art takes art on easels to nonprofit fundraising galas, will take place at Citizen Generation’s Charity Bash Masquerade Ball on Saturday, February 18th.
Was Austin a particularly good place to consider launching this type of business? Jennifer responded with a resounding yes. As she points out, “we have an unusually tight network of nonprofits, thanks to organizations like the Austin Community Foundation and Greenlights for Nonprofit Success, Austinites are particularly cause-oriented and are quite culturally literate and our artists are quite generous and talented.” That said, she is eager to take Generous Art to other cities and continue to “spread the love”.
I know I’ll be virtually cheering her on.
Written by: Nicole Basham