I have been thinking lately…
How can these three come together to support the efforts of others and build a better world for all?
What role can art play here? What role can I play?
I had to really sit with this for a while as I found both advocacy and philanthropy to be intimidating. I am not a philanthropist. Some of my clients are philanthropists. And to be an advocate….it just seemed like such an official role. A space I could not fill. I have always privately supported charities or causes with a check, and just as often my time or knowledge. But never publicly. But in thinking about these words for the last couple of days, I realize that I can be an advocate for others, and that the community of people my website and gallery brings together can help, too.
I feel there is a strong desire to reach out from our distanced lives and make these connections. I certainly have benefitted from hearing others talk about the causes they care deeply about.
Artists have certainly let their politics be known. From Delacroix and Goya to Theaster Gates, Ai Weiwei and Banksy, art has spoken to the political situation.
Politics and business never seem to mix well, but there are good causes we can all agree on. And the arts have always been a place where people can come together in a way they do not in other spaces.
At this time in our history, it seems that we all must advocate for and even support financially, as best we can, others. No one can wage these struggles alone. And things which may have benefitted from good government policy or support now seem to depend on the support of individuals. We seem to hold the power and resources that the states and cities cannot muster at the moment.
The skills required to get through school, build a career and acquire the trappings of a bourgeois life no longer seem as relevant. My own social distancing has only highlighted the often-unspoken disconnection we live with all the time in our 21st-century society. Our real duty and challenge is to use our skills and our platforms to help others, and in doing so build the better world we hoped we could build for ourselves.
I remember during the Great Recession of 2008-2009 (although it was really much longer) people would say “I’m doing enough to pay my bills…I guess that’s the new normal”. And while many of the same underlying problems were present at that time, that was marked as an economic crisis and so people always talked in terms of how they were doing financially. And there is certainly no shame in working hard and adhering to commitments and taking care of your family. In fact, there is honor is this.
I was talking to a colleague the other day and they said almost the same thing….”Not doing as well as we were last year, but we’re paying our bills”. They sounded resigned. I felt depressed. I had been enthralled by the stories of battles and knights and edicts, learned to speak French, studied History and Literature at Harvard, and worked tirelessly for 30 years as an art dealer to be satisfied with simply paying my bills?
I can only speak for myself, but there has to be more. And I believe there is.
I would like my business to advocate for and donate to causes I care about. And not just me. I’d like people to support the gallery because they know that with that support will come some support of others. For me, that would be a legacy worth building.
I think we have an opportunity to bring art and advocacy and philanthropy into every life, into every practice. Whether we actually give money or not, we can alert people to the opportunities to help and serve our communities.
If we do not assist our world in growing, it will die and all of our effort to bild a noble, rich and just life — even a simple one based on hard work, study, ethics and compassion — will also die.
In the coming weeks, we will advocate for several institutions and organizations working to improve the world we live in. They are encouraging, nurturing and educating those who will carry the torch forward. They are providing opportunities we can all delight and engage in as we see their efforts blossom.
And we’ll be doing this with art and conversation and philanthropy. I look forward to hearing from you.