Mark Bettis, a kingpin of the River Arts District whose prominent studio bears his name, launched a local initiative two months ago to help Western North Carolina’s vibrant cultural community survive the current trying times. Bettis’ branch of the Artist Support Pledge (styled #artistsupportpledgeRAD) pushes the pay-it-forward model to creative new levels. Local makers offer original works of art on virtual platforms, including Instagram and Facebook, with no individual piece exceeding a price tag of $200.
Once an artist sells $1,000, that person must then buy the work of another participating artist. The program numbered nearly two-dozen artists in April, but has since grown considerably.
“It’s been a terrific grassroots movement for artists and art patrons to help artists cope with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis,” notes David Sheldon, a notable local painter and large-scale sculptor whose public art has appeared across the country. “It’s been wonderful getting word from folks acquiring my work — that the pieces have brought some peace of mind to them during a stressful time. It’s also been a terrific way to expand the viewership of both my painting and sculpture … patrons are frequenting the support-pledge Instagram page and seeing my work there for the first time.”
He adds, “Being able to ‘pay it forward’ to other artists as I reach my sales goals has been the most rewarding aspect — I love having an opportunity to help other artists any way I can.” And it hasn’t hurt his artistic goals, either: “I’ve even been able to bring my avant-garde portrait work into the mix, offering and getting commissions at the ‘support pledge’ rate.”