Arts Matter: the value of art and artists

Penticton and District Community Arts Council president TimTweed advocates the monetary value of art

Several weeks ago, Interior Health put out a press release and call for submissions, asking Okanagan artists to donate original artwork to be displayed in their new health care facility in Kelowna. The following is an excerpt from that press release:

Interior Health (IH) is looking to the public for quality original art to help create an enriched experience for individuals visiting the new Community Health and Services Centre (CHSC) located in downtown Kelowna.

“Healing isn’t just mending broken bones – it’s also emotional and spiritual care, and art can help facilitate that,” said Premier Christy Clark, MLA for Westside-Kelowna. “People needing healthcare services are probably already having a bad day. Original art can bring some joy and beauty – and therapeutic benefits – to their experience.”

Ideal art pieces should reflect community, connection and belonging, as well as being durable, suitable for public viewing and display ready. Contributions representing regional heritage, or featuring the artistic communities across Interior Health are especially welcome. A plaque will be placed beside each displayed piece with information about the artist and their artwork.

I had a very mixed-response to reading the full press release. On one hand, it’s great to hear our province’s top elected politician extoling the virtues and benefits of the arts. On the other hand, she’s perpetuating the adage that artist’s work should be freely shared, with little or no monetary benefit to the artist. Having their paintings displayed inside a brand new, state of the art health care facility, with a small plaque mentioning their name is great, but try paying your bills with “exposure.”

You might think that artists can claim a large tax deduction for making a donation of their work – not so. My tax accountant tells me that only 17% of the value of the donation can be written off. This amounts to a very small portion of the cost of producing a work of art – their time invested to produce the artwork has no value in the eyes of Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

Artists are some of the most giving, caring and thoughtful people in our communities. But very few can say that they make their living entirely from proceeds of sales of their art. They have rent or mortgages, utility bills, vehicle expenses, child-related expenses and so on, just like everyone else. I would like to suggest to Interior Health that they allocate a fraction of their annual operating cost for this new facility into a budget for art lease or rental. For example, the lease for the new health care facility is reportedly $2.8 million per year – if Interior Health budgeted just one-half of one per cent of that amount for art, that would be $14,000 per year. This would allow for purchases of artwork to become part of their permanent collection, and also provide a reasonable honorarium to artists whose work is displayed on a temporary basis. The art rental costs would even be a tax-deductible expense for the facility, while also providing some financial benefit to the artist.

How do you feel about this? Should artists be paid for use of their works, or should they be expected to donate their works free of charge?

Timothy Tweed is the President of the Penticton and District Community Arts Council’s Board of Directors.

I’d like to hear from readers on this topic. If you would like to get in touch, please email me at president@pentictonarts council.com.

Penticton Western News

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