By Matt Beard
AidCurrent was officially launched in 2013 as a testing ground for ideas I’d been kicking around about using artwork to do more good in the world than just paying my bills. Granted, I have a family with three kids to support so paying my bills is doing a whole lot of good for a few people that mean the world to me, but I’d always yearned to do more for others as well. I reckon it’s just how I was raised.
The seeds of this project were planted back in 2011-2012 when I launched an art-meets-needs fundraising project for SurfAid International called the Board Art Benefit, which was far more successful than I had even hoped for. When asked to invite a few artists to have some booth space at the Sacred Craft Surfboard Show in Del Mar, CA, I figured if I could convince the artists to team up with surfboard shapers and we all agreed to make the sales benefit SurfAid International then perhaps we would somehow be hooked up with free booth space and maybe even cold beers during the show. It worked without a hitch. Well sort of.
The only hitch was that it worked too well. I had made it my goal that this fundraising project would benefit not just the nonprofit, but the artists as well. I dedicated a website for the project to showcase their boards, their work, and connect interested collectors with the artists directly. I asked that SurfAid share 50% of each sale with the artists. The theory there was that galleries took 50% anyway so from the artist’s point of view, it would be a no-brainer to put out their best work for this project since they were being fairly compensated for their work.
Next thing I knew I was locked into navigating a yearlong campaign that saw over 40 boards created by some incredibly talented artists and shapers, over $80,000 in sales, with SurfAid International recieving over $25,000 after all artists were paid their 50% for each board sold and all other event costs were covered. It was nuts. But it nearly broke me.
As much as I enjoyed steering the ship (nearly into the rocks at times, but still…) of such a dynamic project for such a good cause, the demands on my time and pressures to meet everyone’s expectations drained me so severely that I wasn’t sure if my art life would recover.
But life goes on (cheers to a few good friends), and after some time and distance I began to think of taking what I’d learned from my experience with the Board Art Benefit and recraft a less demanding project with the same goals of seeing artists benefit from using their art to benefit others.
Most artists donate work regularly to various causes when asked. The more successful an artist becomes the more they are asked to give art away for charities and most artists go along with this program as much as they are able. We cringe when we are told how we will get great “exposure” from this or that charitable event, but yet we go along. The art is donated, often purchased for far less than its value, and we are thanked for our support and that is often all that comes from our efforts.
In October of 2013 I launched the first rendition of AidCurrent and used myself as a guinea pig to test out all sorts of ideas for pro-actively using artwork to benefit others, and with the help of some generous supporters I’ve been able to make some big upgrades to the site and platform that will allow us to do far more than I could before. As we grow and include more artists that are using their work for good out there, we’ll continue to pursue a bigger vision for what we can do together.
My thinking with this AidCurrent project for now is to provide a tool for artists to use where they can easily showcase the cumulative impact their art can have for good in the world. Small amounts matter because they add up. Stories can be told and archived so the public can gain a better sense of what each artist is doing with their art. Hopefully AidCurrent inspires each artist to do more with their art, but also inspires each of you who visit this site to do more for good in your world with your unique gifts and talents as well.
Thanks for hearing my story,