Building a Trust Community for Artists Across the Globe

Matthew Barrows started the Artist Support Pledge to lend a hand to other artists.

Jul 1, 2020

(Anna Kraynova / Shutterstock.com)

A community doesn’t have to be made up of people living in the same neighborhood or town. Sometimes a community is made up of people who share a common interest or goal like quilting or fine art. And building a special community is exactly what happened when Matthew Barrows of East Sussex in the UK decided he had to find a way to help other artists during the lockdown.

Burrows was concerned that many artists found themselves without work during the coronavirus pandemic. Exhibitions and sales were cancelled and artists weren’t able to teach or work in galleries during the lockdown in the UK. That’s why, according to Artnet News, he came up with an ingenious way to help artists put food on their tables and to build community at the same time.

The “Artist Support Pledge” was launched on Burrow’s Instagram page in March 2020 and, “was really a response to the current situation, a creative solution to how I might help myself but also friends and colleagues through this period by utilizing the generosity of the arts community – which is abundant,” Burrows told Artnet News.

His idea was really simple. Artists would take a pledge and post pictures of their work on Instagram that they  were willing to sell for £200 ($246) or less that anyone could purchase. When an artist’s sales reached £1000 ($1,233), they would have to purchase another artist’s work. That way artists were supporting each other.

 
 
 
 
 
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Today I wanted to thank and acknowledge some of the brilliant people who have helped guide ASP into an appropriate model for a sustainable future. The combined wisdom of ASP’s steering group has been completely invaluable. On a weekly, and sometimes daily basis, Jon Treadway, Natalie Melton and Katie Campbell are giving their time and expertise so generously to help shape the future of ASP. Find out more about the team on the ASP website (click on link in bio). Special thanks to my friend, artist @keithtyson23 who developed and leads the fabulous @isolationartschool for generously funding the ASP awards and sharing some interesting moments(!); and to the incredible professionalism of Keith Arrowsmith @counterculturekeith and Alice Reeves @wearethejoyful whose quick and considered responses continue to save me. My grateful thanks also for the timely and thoughtful advice of @dawnlangley Lucy Day @awomansplaceprojects and Helen Cooper @acegrams The quiet voice in all this has been my wife, Liz Gilmore director of Hastings Contemporary. Those of you who have had the privilege of working with Liz will know her dignified honesty and legendary diplomacy skills. I/we all owe her a huge thank you for putting ASP on a sure footing. And all this whilst working around the clock to secure the future of the pioneering arts charity she leads @_art_on_sea ASP would not be the movement it is without all of these people and YOU, the artists, makers and buyers who have so generously participated. Without you all, none of this would have been possible. Thank you. @nat_melton @lizgilmore_art @matthewburrowsstudio @awomansplaceprojects @keithtyson23 @counterculturekeith @wearethejoyful @aceagrams @craftscouncil @dawnllangley @isolationartschool #artistsupportpledge

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Burrows was the first to post a piece of artwork, a 2012 etching titled The Seer which received immediate responses Burrow told Artnet News. Other artists came on board. There are now more than 1,000 artists who took the pledge.

"Thank you for creating this and supporting artists and inspiring everyone, it's just brilliant. I've had the most amazing week and have been overwhelmed by the love and support from people. I've reached the pledge target twice with sales, I'm about to pledge again and buy my second piece from a fellow artist, I love this bit the most! Art is definitely supplying some joy in these dark times,” one artist wrote on Burrow’s Instagram page. 

 “People were messaging me saying they were reaching their pledge in 24 hours,” Burrows told Positive News. “I thought if they could reach that in a month that would be good going – at least it would take the sting out of having no money during the pandemic.” In fact, some artists are making £1000 a day.

The project was only supposed to last three months but it has been so successful that Burrows launched a nonprofit company with support from the UK Crafts Council to help him manage it. “I’m currently working on it 12 hours a day, seven days a week, which isn’t sustainable,” he said. “I need to get back to my day job.”

 In fact, the Artist Pledge has turned into a trust community with its own microeconomy. “The egalitarian, democratic market that Matthew has created, is a wonderful platform for makers to promote, share, and sell their work to a market hungry for meaningful objects at affordable prices,” said Natalie Melton, creative director at the Crafts Council. “We wanted to support this brilliant initiative and encourage even more craft makers to get involved.”

While the initiative started in the UK, it is open to all artists, any medium, age, and from any country. “Everyone is welcome,” said Burrows. “When I set it up, I thought if I can help a few friends and colleagues sell a bit of work that would be great. I thought it might help pay the rent and put food on the table. I didn’t in any way expect to create a new economy, which in a way is what it has done.”

While being on lockdown and unable to see family and friends or go to work has been difficult, many people have used this time to help others. From doing errands for neighbors, reopening restaurants to feed frontline workers, and fostering online communities, people have shown that in the worst of times they can be kind and generous. That’s what building community is all about.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.