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Mar. 3, 2011

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Now that Arianna Huffington has sold the Huffington Post to AOL for a cool $315 million, her unpaid contributors are beginning to have second thoughts – and that includes at least one contributor to HuffPo’s “Arts” section. The popular Southern California art websites ArtScene and Visual Art Source, which had been contributing a couple of reviews or event reports each week, are now withholding their work, according to an open letter released late last month by Bill Lasarow, publisher and co-editor of the two art sites.

But Lasarow’s stance has failed to spark any kind of general strike among HuffPo arts bloggers, paid or unpaid. Mat Gleason’s “Report Card,” which gives letter grades to Los Angeles art shows, is still on the site, as is an interview with Marcel Dzama by David Coggins and stories by Daniel Grant and Lee Rosenbaum. And there’s plenty of coverage, however slight, of the art fair fest currently under way in New York City. Poor art critics, someone should make a t-shirt: “Will Work for Traffic.”

Since it was launched late last year, the DIY microfunding site USA Projects has grown by leaps and bounds. Artists admitted to the program – it’s currently supporting more than 100 projects, with budgets in the $2,000-$10,000 range – are encouraged to seek donations from friends and family, and anyone else on their email list, using a form letter provided by the organization (if you’re reading this story, you may well have received such a solicitation).

One drawback that may irritate purists, however, is that USA Projects takes a 19 percent cut of any funds raised. Curiously, this sum is about the same as the buyer’s commission charged by major auction houses.

But it seems to be working for its participants. Thomas Lawson, the Cal Arts dean and major player in the 1980s “Pictures” generation, has already raised more than the $6,000 he sought to publish a book of drawings of radical 18th-century thinkers and activists. Typically, participating artists offer what are called “perks” in exchange for donations. Lawson’s perks include a print by the artist for a donation of merely $100; some of his prints are still available, though the fund drive closes in two days.

Another successful fund-raiser is painter Emily Cheng, who sought $12,000 to help pay for an exhibition of her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei. She received more than $13,000, and the drive still has 17 days remaining. Artist Kathe Burkhart, known for her raucous portraits of Elizabeth Taylor, seeks $10,000 for two solo exhibitions in Europe this summer, one in Berlin and another in Antwerp. With 43 days remaining in her fund drive, she has a ways to go – only $145 is pledged so far. Perks for contributors include a signed silkscreen from the artist’s Liz Taylor series for a $1,500 donation.

Artists currently participating include Natalie Bookchin, Morgan Craig, Cindy Bernard, Kathy Wright, Edgar Arceneaux, Ellie Brown, Jen Urso, Robert Levin, Eve Andrée Laramée, Nava Lubelski, Martha Jackson Jarvis, Ricki Vincent, David Reinfurt, Rick Araluce, Matthew Moore, Mary Shaffer, Ernesto Pujol and Scott Snibbe.

“Changing the World through Art,” an art benefit for Time In Children’s Art Initiative, which takes kids from poor neighborhoods out to museums and other art events, is scheduled for Haunch of Venison on Friday, Mar. 4, 2011. Artist advisory board co-chairs are Ellen Berkenblit and Rosy Keyser, and Rob Wynne is honorary chair. Contributors to the silent and live auctions include Brian Alfred, Donald Baechler, Sebastiaan Bremer, Benjamin Edwards, Mark Sheinkman, Arlene Slavin, Fred Tomaselli and many, many more. Tickets to the event start at $75 (for “young collectors).

As everyone knows, artists are the best collectors of all. The International Print Center New York, located in the Chelsea Arts Building at 508 West 26th Street, opens “Artists Collect: Prints from the Collections of Sol LeWitt, Kiki Smith, Philip Taaffe and Richard Tuttle,” Mar. 20-May 28, 2011. The show, organized by curator and writer Harper Montgomery, features 54 works ranging from the 16th century to the current moment.

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