The most common route an arts organization takes when it sets up a fundraiser is to indiscriminately shove 3,000 works into a gallery space.
Each piece is stacked on top of the others, with the idea that the sheer volume of stuff should help the place reach its financial goals. Artists know this, so the ones who agree to participate often end up digging around their studios the night before the scheduled drop-off. They look for something not too good, but not too bad either, because they usually don’t know how good or bad the whole thing is going to be.
Such is the cyclical and, ultimately, deleterious nature of the art fundraiser. It’s usually not a great show and the work is so-so and the organization doesn’t raise as much money as it had originally hoped. Back to square one.
But Harwood Art Center’s 12x12 Fundraising Exhibit is different. For four years now, Harwood has been creating the kind of event in which artists want to be asked to participate. The concept is simple: Artists are asked to make something that fits (more or less) onto a 12-by-12 inch plywood panel. In an effort to ratchet up curiosity and excitement, all of the work is displayed anonymously, so who made what becomes the key question. As soon as the doors open at 6 p.m., the eager audience clamors into the galleries in an effort to quickly outguess fellow collectors and get the best pieces for themselves. The fundraiser is first-come, first-served, with the 12-by-12 pieces going for a flat rate of $144. Because Harwood is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the front gallery will also have a handful of 20-by-20 inch pieces up for auction, with bids starting at $400.
Harwood has been creating the kind of event in which artists want to be asked to participate.
The artists in this fundraiser are obviously committed to Harwood Art Center, and it shows in the quality of the work they have donated. The nearly 100 12-by-12 pieces cover the full gamut of construction and media, and the key is that they’re done impeccably well. Harwood recognizes this, too, and has taken the time to actually curate the donated pieces into a pretty appealing exhibition. The yarn piece pouring off the wall; the super-clean black abstract painting; the funky birdhouse/mailbox sculpture; the large, fragmented ceramic portrait; the great piece in the 20-by-20 room that shows a long stack of handmade paper standing in profile.
It makes for a fundraising show that’s actually good. Instead of artists searching for a so-so piece the night before the drop-off, you get artists who are worried their work won’t be good enough to show or to even sell. Because at the root of it, it’s about helping an arts program that has established itself as an important part of Albuquerque’s art community over the past 20 years.
So, yeah, this is an unabashed promotion for Harwood Art Center; but who cares? Any entity that does as much as the Harwood—offering 39 studios to artists; doing outreach to UNM Hospital’s Child Life program; giving classes to kids, teens and adults; scheduling a full exhibition program; promoting poetry and poets in the Word Stream series—is fully worthy of any extra publicity that could continue to sustain it. Of course, there are many other arts organization you could also support. Tamarind Institute, 516 ARTS, Warehouse 508, VSA North Fourth Art Center, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Working Classroom, UNM, SITE Santa Fe and CCA Santa Fe are all great places to start. And UNM’s annual print sale is coming up Dec. 9 through 11.
So get to Harwood on Friday, $144 in hand, and pick up a great little work of art that you can show to that frisky TSA screener on your way home for the holidays.