Field Notes

What’s In It For You?

A snapshot from my living room, with artwork by Cristin Ford (large piece in the background), Bette Burgoyne (small black piece in the foreground) and Erin Frost (gold piece on the right).


I’ve written recently about the value of community in the arts, about buying art and what it means to engage. But today’s question is: What’s in it for you?

As I wrote in my last column, supporting the arts is contagious. Part of that is the art itself—and part of it is the artists. It’s thrilling to be around artists, performers, writers and curators. Yes, it’s a kind of cachet, but it’s also actually life-enrichment. It’s fun to be around people who create—they throw the funnest parties; they see the world in a nuanced, colorful way; they’re often delightfully spontaneous, dramatic, deep or brooding; they disrupt the drone of the everyday. Being around these people can challenge you intellectually or contribute something to your life philosophically.

Personally, my life has been greatly improved by my involvement with the arts. I get to be my unfettered nerdy self and talk breathlessly all day about the people who inspire me. I get to learn new perspectives through a myriad of lenses. I have a potent collection of artwork that lives and breathes with me and my moods throughout the seasons: two puffy feather pieces by Counsel Langley that make me laugh when I’m down, a droopy pearled and tendriled surreal creature by Jennifer McNeely and a growing collection of deeply layered and obsessive process-based pieces by Emily Gherard, Cristin Ford, Amanda Manitach, Ellen Ziegler, Bette Burgoyne, Erin Frost and Nancy Baker that make my brain buzz every time I look at them.

I’m also rewarded daily by promoting artists and sharing what I think is cool. The pleasure of putting together a really good show and drawing a community around it is an incredible privilege, and I take so much pleasure in the happiness it brings to others. Especially when people get so excited they buy a piece of art and take it home, carrying the cycle forward. This year at the Seattle Art Fair, one woman was so stoked about an artist’s work she couldn’t bear to leave without it. So we took it off the wall, she slung it under her arm, unwrapped, and hugged me on her way out, proclaiming she couldn’t wait to show the artwork to her friends. That’s what it’s about. That’s the contagion I seek.

So with that in mind, I asked my friends on Facebook how their lives have been enriched by the company of artists and the art in their homes. Here are some of their answers.

Todd Rosin, lifelong art collector since age 10
“The first and most driving reason to collect is to surround myself with things that continually make me think about the world, and that create a platform for conversations with house guests. A major theme running through all my work is tragedy…it helps me get used to it, to think about it, to accept it as inevitable. It also reflects my dark sense of humor. If I could afford a huge Warhol “Car Crash,” I would absolutely buy it.

“Another important reason I collect is the opportunity it affords to share time and experiences with other artists. I don’t ever get the feeling that my money is unappreciated, but neither do I ever feel like the artists I have befriended only see me as a money bag. I’m a writer and I appreciate very much the chance to share time with other creative people.

“Finally, I am a fervent believer in supporting the arts. I give to KEXP, WFIU, to the Frye, to Palm Springs Art Museum, and have been an angel investor/supporter of small galleries. I’m planning to go beyond even this in 2017. Nevertheless, my happiest means of supporting the arts is to buy directly from artists. Seattle has artists whose work easily stands up to established and more celebrated NYC and LA artists. I never buy work just to buy it…I buy quality, excellent art. I’ve learned joyfully that just means a short drive instead of a long plane flight.”

Dan’l Linehan, visual artist, performer, collector
“There are those artists who work best in an empty white studio, but I am certainly not one of those artists. I really believe that I work best when I’m surrounded by art that I’m in love with. Work that I not only love aesthetically or viscerally, but work whose energy I use to fuel my own creative juices. I have filled my home and creative space with it, and whether I’m painting or sewing or building or performing or even cooking, I definitely feed off of the vibes they put out. I’m like an art vampire, maybe.”

Dylan Neuwirth, visual artist, performer, collector
“We collect work from artists when we feel compelled to have their work in our life without question. It’s the one place in the art world we feel like we can do whatever we want without any explanations, justifications and most importantly continuity. [My wife] Rian and I buy what we have a gut reaction to and our apartment is a discursive visual journal of how we engage the world at large seen through the eyes of other artists. We don’t even have any of our own work up at home—it’s all about who we admire or are inspired by, that’s it.”

Elisheba Johnson, staff at the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and founding member of COLLECT
“Art collecting is one of my fundamental outlets for self-expression. Creating a collection has been a specific and intentional way of visually narrating my personal space. Ask anyone when you are in their home the story of why they buy an artwork. They will go into a long lovely story explaining how that piece is meaningful to them. If music can be the soundtrack to our lives, artwork provides the visual equivalent.”

Lorrie Cardoso, team member of COLLECT, member of the Board of Directors of CoCA and Whim W’Him contemporary dance company, founder/owner of Seattle Arts and Cultural Events, collector
“I grew up surrounded by art in my parents’ home, some acquired during their travels. A sundial from Mexico, ceramic dishware made by hand by Mexican artisans, paintings by unknown French artists, African masks, Japanese dolls, paintings by artist friends, carpets from Turkey, mom’s handmade quilts. I was so accustomed to these precious items that I did not truly notice them until just recently, after starting my own art collection. My collection includes a handwoven mat from Thailand purchased during a college study abroad experience, ceramics, small paintings made by artist friends and mementos from the many art openings I have attended. Discovering the passion for art that has been within me and surrounding me throughout my life gave me a new beginning after going through a divorce.  It connected me to a wonderful community of artists and art lovers. Everyday, I’m surrounded by artwork in my little apartment that reminds me of a memorable experience or the special person that created it. The difference between the art in my parent’s home and the art in my home is that now I notice.”

Paul Furio, Senior Manager Software Development at Amazon, collector
“As a reformed hoarder, I realized that having lots of materialistic stuff around wasn’t actually bringing any joy to my life. We reduced the mass-market detritus in our house and replaced it with unique works of art; paintings, photographs and sculptures.

“Each piece is both a bit of joy and a reminder to reflect on different aspects of our lives. Walking through our home, it’s nice to be surrounded by works that are beautiful, that remind my wife and I of a trip where we purchased a painting or photograph. But often, I’ll find myself pausing in my routine of chores or work to reexamine a particular piece and reflect on what’s really important in my life.

“The art we’ve collected brings us joy, but it also makes us think. In a time when we’re too often rushing from one task to another, being reminded to reflect and reprioritize is something on which I can’t easily put a price tag.”