In a time when funding for the arts is a struggle, Gallery System Art Displays has launched an award to improve the art display capabilities of programs which provide exceptional support for the arts in their communities. One of the recipients of the 2013 Gallery System ArtsUp Award was The Creative Center at University Settlement, a New York City organization focused on the use of the arts in healthcare, especially for patients with cancer and other chronic illnesses. It provides artist-in-residence programming for hospitals and other care facilities, holds exhibitions of work made by patients and survivors of illness, and operates a large national training program to educate members of the healthcare community on creating effective art programs.
Despite its great track record, the Center has always had to scramble for funding, especially since 2008, when a lot of government and corporate funding disappeared, explains Director Robin Glazer. To overcome its funding obstacles, the Center began to explore using the social enterprise model, applying commercial strategies to boost its social impact. Initially, the Center sold and licensed works by affiliated professional artists, all of whom are living with cancer or other chronic illnesses.
“We show some amazing artists, whose work reflects what they’ve learned and experienced going through their health issues,” explains Glazer. “The artists would get 60 percent of the sale; our 40 percent share would support our work at facilities that can’t afford an artist-in-residence program, like Bellevue Hospital, the largest public hospital in the country.”
In order to appeal to art dealers, corporations, and other potential partners, the Center needed to presented itself as the professional, substantial organization that it is. A new art hanging system provided through the ArtsUp Award program allowed The Creative Center’s brick and mortar gallery in the Houston Street Community Center to exhibit artwork as a professional gallery space. “The hanging system helped us produce more professional-looking exhibits, which made me feel much more comfortable about sending event photos to the corporate world. I’m 100 percent sure it helped potential partners take us more seriously,” notes Glazer.
The Center’s outreach has borne fruit, including a large sale of works to a division of a major medical company, as well as the creation of a special collection of inspirational art available for reproduction in partnership with a well-known art dealer that specializes in healthcare. In addition, the Center’s gallery was chosen for the filming of a pharmaceutical company video featuring an affiliated artist.
"Philanthropy has changed dramatically in the last several years,” Glazer explains. “Donors are still happy to give—just look at all the crowdfunding websites—but they want to see tangibles that benefit them. So it’s important to seek out collaborations where there’s alignment between your mission and theirs.” One such mission alignment is Gallery System’s belief in improving lives through art, and helping those who do so by improving their means to display it.
Guest contributor Pete Dunn is Director of Marketing for Gallery System Art Displays, which supplies art hanging systems to thousands of galleries and other exhibition venues. It is his good fortune to be the son and husband of visual artists, which has provided him with hands-on display experience. Recipients of the 2015 ArtsUp Award will be announced in the near future.