The holiday season may evoke generosity from some individuals, but Jennifer Chenoweth carries this sentiment all year round.
In 1999, Chenoweth graduated from UT with a Master of Fine Arts in Painting and worked as an artist in galleries for several years before creating her online gallery, Generous Art, in 2011.
“Be Generous. Buy Art,” is the slogan for the nonprofit, which was established as an online gallery. When individuals purchase art through the site, artists receive 50 percent of the income and another 30 percent goes towards a nonprofit of the buyer’s choice. Chenoweth built this gallery model after spending years in the traditional gallery industry, where, she said, most of the profits went to galleries instead of artists.
“I realized how totally broken all of the models were out in the art world,” Chenoweth said. “I’m pretty good at doing business. You show up, say what you’re going to do and fill a need, do a good job and get paid. The art world just doesn’t work like that.”
Chenoweth was frustrated by the disparity, as were many of her friends, but they didn’t communicate their frustrations.
“If we were all talking, we would be much more powerful than if we were just separately starving,” Chenoweth said.
According to Chenoweth, many schools teach how to make art but not how to be an artist. She offers professional development workshops for professional and aspiring artists.
Last year, the online gallery became an official nonprofit, relying on events for marketing to raise awareness for the gallery, recruit artists and new nonprofits.
“We don’t sit around in a gallery space and hope people show up,” Chenoweth said. “We have businesses host our events, so we go get our art in front of new audiences. We take our art to business people, who are busy with their lives and just don’t have time to go learn how the whole [scene] works, but they love art.”
Chenoweth hopes the idea of purchasing art is less intimidating in an online gallery form. She also said individuals are more likely to buy art knowing that some of the money will support a cause of their choice.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are at least 1,000 registered nonprofit organizations in Travis County. Buyers can choose from more than 70 of these local charities with Generous Art. Since its creation, Generous Art has sold more than $60,000 worth of art and donated more than $23,000 to local nonprofits.
Generous Art represents more than 30 artists currently and is accepting new submissions. A curatorial board reviews artist submissions and accepts new artists on a quality basis.
“We really want it to be high quality art and not eBay,” Chenoweth said. “We are looking for lots of artists who do good and diverse work.”
The cost of art on the website ranges from $50 for drawings to $15,000 for a sculpture. According to Chenoweth, most artists operate on a thin income, but this project allows artists to also be philanthropists.
“It’s pretty powerful to hand a charity a check,” Chenoweth said. “They can feel powerful because of their creativity.”
Jade Walker, the director of the Visual Arts Center in the Department of Art and Art History at UT, has been an artist for Generous Art since its inception.
“Generous Art is a model I believe in strongly,” Walker said. “As an artist, it is a unique experience to know that your work is not only providing funds for yourself and your practice but for a nonprofit.”