ABOUT THE FOUNDATION
It was the long-held dream of Marie Walsh Sharpe to support the visual arts by providing financial assistance to the gifted in the field. In June 1984, as the culmination of that dream, Mrs. Sharpe established The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, charging it with providing assistance to individual visual artists of demonstrated talent and with providing seminars and workshops for gifted high school students.
Mrs. Sharpe died on September 21, 1985. Her will stipulated that a substantial part of her estate be used to fund the Foundation. She had definite ideas about the Foundation’s goals, but her practical sense suggested that the journey toward these goals would require a little steering by trial and error. In the firm belief that successful programs cannot be developed without the ideas and energies of many similarly dedicated people, the Foundation has involved artists, local and national leaders in the arts, art education, and business to participate in meetings to develop ideas on the Foundation’s best course. Advice on the Foundation’s operational structure was received from Charles Bergman of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc..
The Foundation’s first program was the Summer Seminar, an intensive, full-scholarship studio-art program that was initiated in 1987 and is available nationally to gifted high school juniors. With the support and assistance of the National Alliance for Arts Education and the State Alliances, the Summer Seminar quickly grew into a national program. The Teacher-Artist Program, cosponsored for ten years with the National Art Education Association, recognizes and rewards K-12 art educators in public and private schools for exemplary achievements in teaching, producing, and exhibiting art.
To develop programs for the Foundation’s Individual Artists Program, the Foundation turned to artists, who themselves turned to artists again. It was Chuck Close who initiated the idea of involving artists in the process of gathering information about the most important needs of the visual arts community. Further encouraged by Philip Pearlstein, the Foundation embraced the concept. With this purpose in mind, on November 16, 1988, the Foundation convened a meeting of twenty-six visual artists at Philip Pearlstein’s New York studio, hosted by Chuck Close and Philip Pearlstein and facilitated by Irving Sandler. The publication Roundtable Discussion on the Needs of Visual Artists is a report of the session. A small group of artists from that meeting later met to prioritize the report’s recommendations in developing programs; Cynthia Carlson, Chuck Close, Janet Fish, Philip Pearlstein, Irving Sandler, Harriet Shorr, and Robert Storr were selected from the original group to form the Foundation’s Artists Advisory Committee.
The first program developed by the Committee was the Visual Artists Information Hotline, which was established in cooperation with the American Council for the Arts and began on October 1, 1990. The Hotline is primarily a referral service, providing visual artists with information on a wide variety of programs and services available to them. During five years of operation at the Council, the Hotline responded to over 20,000 calls from artists. In March of 1996, the operation of the Hotline was transferred to the New York Foundation for the Arts, where it still continues, funded by a consortium of members, supporters, artists, and friends organized by the Sharpe Foundation’s executive director. The Visual Artists Information Hotline Number is 1-800-232-2789. The web-site address is www.nyfa.org .
The next program developed by the Artists Advisory committee was The Space Program, which provides visual artists aged twenty-one and over with fourteen free studios at 443 Greenwich Street, a building in TriBeCa, New York City. To facilitate the program, the Foundation worked in collaboration with Henry Putsch, the executive director of the Alliance of Independent Colleges of Art, and with Dennis Elliott, then the director of the Alliance’s New York Studio Program, to locate and procure the space. Dennis Elliott was also asked to work as the Foundation’s on-site coordinator, representing it in New York and facilitating the program, a position he has held ever since. The studio spaces, constructed by the Foundation, are intended as work spaces to be used only for the making of new works of art. They are available for periods of up to a year. To apply for a studio, artists must submit slides of their work, a resume, and a one-page statement indicating why they need the space. Applications are juried by a panel of professional artists. The first selection took place in Philip Pearlstein’s loft in January 1991, and seventeen artists were selected for the first year. As The Space Program celebrates its first decade and goes into its eleventh year, 163 artists have used the studios. An Open Studio event held each spring invites visits from the public; this event draws a large group of art dealers, museum curators, collectors, critics, the press, foundations, and other artists.
The value of The Space Program is reflected in the final evaluations completed by each artist. The many applications submitted each year, the work that the artists accomplish in the studio, the advantages they realize from being a part of a community of artists, the opportunities they gain through connections made while in the program - all theses benefits demonstrate the importance of The Space Program. This assistance in the form of studio space has come to many artists at critical times in their careers. The Program’s success has been used as a model in the development of similar projects elsewhere. The Space Program has even been a catalyst in its own building, where many other studios are now located. The Foundation is committed to continuing the program as long as the need exists and funding allows.
On April 4 -5, 1997, The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation and The Judith Rothschild Foundation cosponsored a Visual Artists Estate Planning Conference in New York, planned by the Artists Advisory Committee and facilitated by Chuck Close, Irving Sandler, and Robert Storr. The conference was attended by artists, accountants, archivists, art dealers, curators, lawyers, writers, and representatives from foundations, government, museums, and other nonprofit organizations, who discussed practical and legal issues related to both the planning and the administration of artists’ estates. The result was A Visual Artist’s Guide to Estate Planning, published in 1998, a comprehensive handbook designed to help artists plan their estates. Part I introduces general estate planning concepts and offers practical advice and a discussion of legal issues raised by artists at the conference. Part II consists of an in-depth discussion of policy and law on selected issues of estate planning and administration for visual artists. The Committee on Art Law of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, chaired by Barbara T. Hoffman, Esq., wrote Part II.
On March 19, 2001, The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation and The Judith Rothschild Foundation cosponsored the discussion "On the Needs of Visual Artists: A Roundtable 2001," hosted by Artists Space in New York City. The Artists Advisory Committee, at this point consisting of Cynthia Carlson, Chuck Close, Janet Fish, Philip Pearlstein, Harriet Shorr, Robert Storr, and Lorna Simpson, planned the discussion, which was facilitated by Irving Sandler and Robert Storr and involved thirty-three artists from around the country in a conversation on artists’ needs. This publication resulted from the session and is available nationally at no cost to foundations, arts organizations, and other interested parties.
The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, under the leadership
of the Artists Advisory Committee, has developed a way of involving artists
in planning for artists that is unusual for an art foundation. The Committee
is actively involved in all aspects of program design and implementation.
The artist’s voice has been central in the process.
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