8 Creators and Collectives Selling Art for Social Justice
We turn to art in times of crisis, both as an escape and a form of expression. And now, it's easier than ever to boost a cause just by buying a print.
During the social and economic upheaval of 2020, artists across the country have been leveraging their craft to support COVID-19 relief efforts and racial justice organizations — selling everything from original photography to downloadable digital illustrations and donating a portion of their proceeds.
Here, eight artists and collectives sharing the wealth — and spreading their message.
With his new project, Our Flower Shop, the N.Y.C. fashion designer (@jonathancohenstudio) helps people send zero-risk floral arrangements: Cohen hand-illustrates preset or customized “bouquets” and delivers them electronically for the recipient to print at home. Each piece was created for a partner organization that receives 30 percent of the profits: Bowery Mission, No Kid Hungry, the Bail Project, and more. Digital illustrations from $20, jonathancohenstudio.com.
Bay Area-based college students Layla Solatan, Ahana Ganguly, and Jeanette Andrews initially founded custom illustration service Cubby (@cubbydoodles) to spread joy between friends and family separated by the pandemic. But the three self-taught artists also wanted to find a sustainable way to financially support anti-racism efforts and the mobilization against anti-Black violence. The trio creates digital portraits and illustrations based on photos provided by their clients — and every cent of the proceeds goes toward mutual aid, education funds, Black-led anti-racism organizations, and payments to Black folks seeking short-term financial support. By donation, minimum $40, cubbyproject.co. Cubby is currently closed as the artists complete remaining 2020 orders, but will reopen in January 2021.
Katelansky (@shiftingself), who focuses on experimental art, is selling limited-run Risograph printed tees to benefit different organizations. For her latest design, "Stand Back & Stand By," 20% of proceeds will go to benefit the Black School, whose mission is to empower Black students and students of color to effect change through their art. An earlier run, printed with her “Black Women Make the Movement Move” design, funneled proceeds to artist Tosha Stimage, who distributed home-cooked meals to those in need and protest kits in the Bay Area. Tees $50, jaykatelansky.com.
North Texas Artist Auction
The North Texas Artist Auction (@northtexasartists), organized by Dallas-born photographer Mariah Tyler (a T+L photo editor) and museum educator Melissa Brito, launched its first sale earlier this year, with pieces by local creators sold to benefit Color of Change, Mothers Against Police Brutality, and North Texas Mutual Aid. The current sale, which runs through December 30, focuses on prints and zines from Texas artists. And again, 100% of the proceeds will be split between the artists and charitable organizations — this time, the United Peoples Coalition and Feed the People Dallas. Prints from $10; pieces and prices listed on Instagram, message to inquire.
The NYCxDESIGN festival (@nycxdesign), canceled this year due to the pandemic, launched "An Ode to NYC” poster campaign as a way to show appreciation for the city. Twenty-one New York-based artists — including Jon Santos, Lora Appleton, and Marie Burgos — drew inspiration for their posters from Milton Glaser's iconic "I LOVE NY" design. The pieces can be purchased through Poster House, with all proceeds going to the Black Artists + Designers Guild. The posters will also be on display throughout the city — including via digital projections at the Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center. Posters $50, posterhouse.org.
This spring and summer, Sills (@lauraskills) found herself photographing two contrasting subjects around New York: eerie scenes of empty sidewalks and closed shops and the energy and urgency of the Black Lives Matter protests. Prints of her most gripping images are for sale, with all earnings going to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Prints from $20, laurasills.com.
Earlier this year, illustrator and comic book artist Bernice Sioson (@niceytime) brought their illustrations to social media. Through the Icons for BLM fundraiser, Sioson created hand-drawn comic-style avatars — those who purchased received a digital file to use as they wished — with all proceeds going to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Sales from the hundreds of commissions have been distributed between various bail funds and groups like Reclaim the Block, the Homeless Black Trans Women fund, and the Innocence Project, among others. Sioson is now working on a new fundraiser launching before the end of the year, with details on benefiting organizations forthcoming. By donation, minimum $10 to $15, bernicesioson.com.
When the pandemic hit, the Philadelphia-based visual artist and photographer (@aaronricketts_) started funneling half the proceeds from sales of his prints into a relief fund for creatives, many of whom lost income due to canceled work opportunities. The idea gained so much traction that he founded The35Percent — a reference to the proportion of the U.S. workforce made up of freelancers — bringing on other artists to create an online shop with prints, tees, and totes. Prints from $65, the35percent.com.
A version of this story first appeared in the October 2020 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "Buy a Print, Boost a Cause."