Folk Artists Unite With Prints With A Purpose

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Fish GardenWe often hear about musicians donating their talents for charity, so why not visual artists?

United Folk Art Gallery represents a group of artists who sell their visual work for charity — “prints with a purpose,” as they call it.  Sold on eBay for a fixed price of $20 (U.S.), the artists pick one of 10 charities, such as the American Red Cross, The United Way or Habitat for Humanity, and donates $10.

About a dozen artists are involved at any given time, including co-founders Sandra Silberzweig (Ontario) and Kerri Ambrosino (New Jersey); Beverly Burris (California); Julie Ellison (Tennessee); and Jo’l (Mississippi).

“I found my direction; I found my path; I found something I could do,” Toronto-based Silberzweig tells Samaritanmag. “I know that as long as I’m living and painting, I will always be giving a percentage of it to charity in some form or another. That is indisputable. That’s just the way it has to be now.”

The idea to create United Folk Art Gallery germinated when Ambrosino created a painting of Hurricane Katrina, and she and Silberzweig decided together that some of the proceeds from the sale should go to the Red Cross.

Heavenly Love“From that point on I said, ‘Why can’t we just do what we do and be who we are [and make a difference]?’ The business has to be that we do everything fair and square and good because it’s going to come back to you,” says Silberzweig.

“I started to see that eBay has a ‘giving works’ section,” says Silberzweig. “What you can do is while you list something, you can tick off this area and pick a charity to give 10 percent to 100 percent of your profit to the organization.

“I had this sort of bee in my bonnet for a while, and then I thought, ‘If we could do prints, I could crunch the numbers down to where it could be worth it. We don’t give 10 percent; we could give an actual $10 donation to their favorite charity, which when I was reading on Habitat for Humanity, can buy two packs of nails. I went, ‘Wow, to me that seems more tangible.’”

Upstream JourneyStarted at the beginning of 2011, it did well out of the gate. In its first two weeks, Silberzweig says the store sold 10 prints for $200, half of which went to charity.

The remaining $10 of each sales covers $6 for printing and shipping (United folk Art Gallery doesn’t charge buyers for shipping; it’s included in the fixed price, which is then given to the printer which sends the art); $2 goes to the artists; and the remaining $2 covers various fees from eBay and PayPal charges to relisting fees, replacing damaged print, refunds or incorrect shipping addresses.

“Now, the artists are starting to up their stakes more; they want to give more; they don’t just want to give $10,” Silberzweig says.

Silberzweig understands how they feel. With this simple idea, she has reaped unexpected benefits that have profoundly changed her life for the better.

“I was given a gift,” she says of her artistic ability, “and I know why it’s a gift — because I never worked for it. I was blessed with it. My art is almost like a twin of me; we’ve been battling with each other. I’ve finally decided that my art has a reason; it has a purpose. My gift is giving back now.

Sandra Silberzweig“Since I’ve started this venture, it seems that the more I give, I feel a lot lighter,” she explains. “It’s almost like an elation. It actually changes you. It’s almost like if you live your life and you don’t give or if you’re not open to giving, there’s almost an energy that blocks your life. [Now] I have a stronger compassion for others. I feel that if I don’t go this way there’s no other way to go anymore.”

To view or bid on any of the artist’s work from United Folk Art Gallery, go to its eBay store page

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.

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