Art, Advocacy & Philanthropy

September 21, 2020
Art, Advocacy & Philanthropy
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.



John Scanlan on September 22, 2020: I applaud you and wish you great success. John


David Kirsch on September 22, 2020: Hi Aaron… Thank you for sharing your thoughts… We throw the word around a lot, but we truly are living through an unprecedented series of challenges to our social order. Late entrepreneurial capitalism has turned up the flame under so many long-simmering pots. Surely we need creativity and its many manifestations to make sense of these times *and* to reassert our dreams and values through our creative expression. Eager to hear more about your ideas and to support collaboration intended to bring these ideas forward. Sincerely, - david k. '87


Joseph Riggs on September 22, 2020: One of the only things that has helped me get through the pandemic has been reaching out and helping other people. Prior to the pandemic, I had worked with some elderly Santa Fe artists to assist them in their struggles with getting older. I became a member of the Santa Fe Artists Medical Fund, and I am now the Advisory Committee chairman. Take a look at our website - to see what we do.
Early in the pandemic I saw a segment on PBS about a California artist that was painting flower paintings and giving them to people upon request. It struck me that the members of the Santa Fe Artists Medical Fund could paint flowers for Santa Feans in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. I learned that friends and family members could not send flowers or live plants to people in the hospital. I got busy and reached out to our artists and within a couple of months almost 90 artists and painted over 500 flower paintings. We gave them to the hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities and asked nothing in return - just pure gifts. . We had virtually no contact with the recipients and I never had any contact with any more than a couple of the artists. We did it all while trying to quarantine and stay socially distanced. Many artists painted many paintings. The medical facilities were absolutely thrilled to get the paintings because their residents have been on lockdown in their rooms for many months. Images of the paintings can be found on the Facebook page of the Santa Fe Artists Medical Fund posted since early May.
Many of the artists, who I've never met, wrote me saying that the project is the best thing to help them get through the pandemic. We got virtually no local media coverage, but did not need it. We wanted the feeling and we got the feeling that we were helping others, while protecting ourselves and the recipients from spreading the virus.
From this experience, I've learned that giving (even when it is virtually anonymous) is one of the best feelings possible. Love and caring and sharing does not require recognition to be fulfilling. I think that Santa Fe artists made many lives just a little brighter and brought joy to all.


Elizabeth Dunham to Joseph Riggs: Bravo! Thank you!! to Joseph Riggs! Beautiful, wonderful story. This is why all this is happening. We take care of everyone. We're all connected. Because, we're all ONE!


Nancy Park on September 22, 2020: Hi Aaron - I love your new thinking. Just right for now. Thanks so much. Nancy


Pamela Thompson on September 23, 2020: Community, connection, service & advocacy… powerful! Looking forward to hearing more.


Jason Schoen on September 24, 2020: Very well stated. The arts are needed more than ever. This includes very smart, literate, and passionate art dealers. At the top of my list is a very smart art dealer with the initials A. P. I dislike being obvious.
Aaron Payne: Thanks Jason. You started my day with a big smile when I read this. I appreciate that!
Michael Broder on September 24, 2020: New entries on your blog have become one of the things I can look forward to reading. And that's no small thing these days! Thank you.

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Aaron Payne

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