Good news coming from Washington seems a pretty elusive beast these days, especially where the arts are concerned. But I was pleased to read recently that our senator Patrick Leahy has taken advantage of the ongoing discussions surrounding tax reform to speak up for artists by introducing The Artist-Museum Partnership Act of 2017. This past March John Lewis (D-Ga.) introduced it in the House of Representatives as well.
It’s a little known fact that artists are only allowed to deduct the cost of materials when they donate their work, while collectors are entitled to deduct the work’s fair market value. How does that make sense? I figure the coffee cup pieces I’ve been making take the better part of 60 hours each to create, not counting the framing. But the materials that go into them run in the neighborhood of only $20, also not counting the frames. If more people were aware of this inequity, there might be greater understanding of why artists are so reluctant to offer their work to fundraising benefits and auctions.
This current bill would make it possible for artists to claim the true worth of their work when donating to museums, making for a win-win situation for those who are working at that level; artists can achieve agreeable compensation and museums will likely receive more work from important living artists to share with the public.
This is a wonderful first step, but I wish the bill would go further. What about the little guy? How many of us have been approached by non-profits with a request for a piece of work that they would like to use to raise funds? Most of us would love to donate, but it’s much more cost effective and advantageous to write a check. Unfortunately, many organizations have no concept of the financial ramifications on an individual artist whose situation is so unlike the other businesses they approach that can freely deduct the value of whatever service or product they pledge.
Of course the sad fact is that, according to the recent press release about the legislation, “Leahy has introduced this bill in each Congress since 2000”, so we will have to wait and see whether it will finally go through. But, I am proud and grateful to live in Vermont where our senator continues to stand up for artists and the arts in general, recognizing and appreciating their value. Let’s all hope that his determination and the greater awareness he brings to the issue will one day lead to success.
Worth sharing: I found this project by art students from the National Taiwan University of the Arts speaking to the issue of water pollution quite compelling, well executed and particularly effective.