A Start In Art

Website Plays Matchmaker for a Haitian Painterand a Would-Be Collector

Pam Forrester

Artist Adam Simon’s original art “Shrug” is a large acrylic-on-aluminum painting, in 2009.

In this age of Internet scams, when an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually means a hoax. So when I heard the Fine Art Adoption Network’s website was offering original art and quality prints — for free — I admit to being skeptical.

“Trust, but verify” is an old Cold War expression and one that served me well during my years as a journalist. To “verify” FAAN was not a scam, I decided to contact its artists like anyone else and ask to adopt a painting. I asked my daughter, Elizabeth Landers, who has always loved art, to help by selecting four pieces she wanted and telling me why so I could contact the artists. Since she recently moved into her first college apartment, it seemed like an appropriate housewarming present.

Elizabeth scoured the website and found a painting, a photograph and one installation she wanted. I set to work crafting our message of why we deserved each original work of art. The website is simple. You can view all the works, biographies and, in many instances, get into the artists’ personal websites to view other works they have created. With artists from all over the world represented and all mediums, there is truly something for everyone.

Artist Adam Simon’s original art (this page) channels the Yippie zeitgeist of activist Abbie Hoffman’s revolution how-to manual “Steal This Book.” He created “Shrug” (opposite page) a large acrylic-on-aluminum painting, in 2009. Photo by Pam Forrester

The website suggests sending several requests at once, but we limited our first email requests to two artists. After only a brief delay, an artist wrote back saying we could adopt a print of his original work. But Elizabeth had her heart set on an “original,” whether it was a painting in oils or watercolors, or a photograph.

“For someone who is young but passionate about artwork,” explains Elizabeth, “the Fine Art Adoption Network is the ideal way to start an art collection without draining a bank account. I think this program is especially important for new art buyers who might be discouraged about the direction of art under such a gloomy economic umbrella, proving that art is attainable and even more importantly, enjoyable.”

Waiting paid off, and I embarked on exactly what FAAN’s founder, Adam Simons, envisions for his project, a chance to get to know an artist and his works. Muller Jean Francois contacted us through a friend to say we could adopt his oil painting. Muller was in the middle of pulling together a gallery show in hopes of helping his beloved Haiti, devastated by the earthquake of 2010, by sending money to help children in the Assemblee de las Foi en Christ en Action. Lesly Haco acted as an interpreter for Muller, who speaks only basic English. Haco is an artist and entertainer, never lacking for words during our multiple conversations and often weaving tales of his Voodoo art inspirations.

Haco sent me to Muller’s website to explore more of his paintings and learn more about his background and goals as an artist. Muller was born in May 1964 in Cap Haitian, Haiti, and has been painting since childhood, often inspired by the natural landscapes of his country. Muller works mostly in acrylic and oil and works with just a handful of colors: green, red, yellow, blue and black. But to see his works, you would never think that he has limited himself. It was exactly those blending colors that attracted Elizabeth to his work.

“I chose this painting because it is unfussy, versatile and could easily hang on any wall in any apartment or house. The colors are relaxing, something I could put above my desk without it distracting my late-night study sessions,” Elizabeth says.

The arrival of the painting was timed perfectly. Home for Christmas break, Elizabeth was the first person to open the box.

Now it was my turn to live up to the “trust” part of the deal. The next day, I sent off a check to cover the shipping charges, which are the adopter’s responsibility. A leap of faith on the artist’s side but a trust well placed — and a very small investment for the beginning of an art collection.

You, Too, Can Adopt Fine Art

If you think owning original artwork is limited to the mega-wealthy or Hollywood superstars, you haven’t met Adam Simon. The 59-year old artist from New York City launched the Fine Art Adoption Network, nicknamed “FAAN,” so anyone can enjoy a piece of art in his or her home.

Forty-eight year old Robin Dunlap of Clearwater adopted four works of art in 2006. “It is such a wonderful concept. Art can so enrich people’s lives.” Tricia Cuddy from Pennsylvania adopted two pieces last year. “Owning a piece of artwork demystifies art,” she said. “You learn your own likes and dislikes by living with it.”

This brainchild of Simon’s was born of necessity. When his father, Morris, passed away in 2005, Simon’s elderly mother decided to move from the family home in Boston to be closer to her children in New York. Many of Simon’s early pieces hanging on her walls needed to be moved. But what do you do with huge canvases when you are downsizing to an apartment? Simon quickly realized he was not the only artist with many more works than he could sell or hang in his home. FAAN, the Internet site to link artists with appreciative collectors, was created.

The artwork is free, although you have to invest a little time before it hangs in your living room. Here’s how it works: Art collectors are invited to the website, fineartadoption.net, to review photos of the works. If you find a piece you like — be it a painting, a drawing or sculpture — the adoption process begins. The first step is to write the artist, introduce yourself and explain why you want a specific piece.

Cuddy explains how her home became the proud owner of original artworks: “My son, Payton, was supposed to be studying for exams when I heard a scream. He called me to his computer to show me the website. I was sure it was a scam, so I opened up every link and looked at all the artists’ works. I immediately wrote Adam Simon explaining the entire story.” Cuddy quickly received a response from Simon, who replied, “You had me at ‘my 17-year-old son.’” Simon also has a teenage son, so the two began what would become a months’ long friendship. Cuddy loved Simon’s contemporary works blending colors and words on canvas. “I love the written word in art, so I chose two 6-by-8-inch paintings that have the words ‘Steal This Art’ boldly stenciled across the canvas. Art and literature are my passions and I (was) intrigued by your mention of Abbie Hoffman, so I looked up the reference,” explains Cuddy.

For some, like Cuddy, the initial letter is also a first step in forming a new friendship. Months after adopting, Cuddy and her son traveled to a gallery opening in New York City to see more of Simon’s works. “We live in a society where there are so many mass-produced wall hangings and decorations, you don’t really get to see an original piece of artwork except in museums.”

While Cuddy is introducing the next generation to art and artists, Robin Dunlap lets the elderly appreciate her works. Her adopted works hung for years in her office at Home Health Care Services.

One of her favorites was a painting named “Writing Tablet and Grass” by Massachusetts artist Brece Honeycutt, a perfect symbol for her elderly clients. “In geriatrics care, we speak a lot about the past. A writing tablet is a reminder of a simple lifestyle and the grass of a simple life on the prairie,” she says. When Dunlap first reached out to adopt, she selected artists from various mediums; a photograph, a painting, a drawing and an art installation. Over the course of a year, Dunlap wrote about each piece in the company newsletter in an effort to expose clients to her passion for art. Like Cuddy, she too has followed her artists through the years at Art Basel in Miami, a gallery show in Washington, D.C., and continuing correspondence with Honeycutt.

The artists don’t have to accept every solicitor, so there will be adopters disappointed to lose their first choice. But with close to 340 artists and hundreds of pieces to choose from, adopters are encouraged to try again with another artist. Some artists even make several copies of a specific scene so multiple adopters are successful with the same work.

There is no obligation or expectation of future purchases. But as Simon explains, “You don’t know what good deed might happen. Generosity begets generosity.” A doctor in New York City was so pleased with his adoption, he contacted the artist and offered him free medical services for a year.

Simon lives in New York City, but the artists and collectors live all over the United States and overseas. Maya Choi has put several pieces up for adoption from her native Ecuador. After Italian Vogue did an article about the Adoption Network, a 17-year-old boy contacted Simon asking to adopt a piece. Simon quizzed the young Italian and found, though he is just 17, he had been a collector of art for some time and already had several classical masters. And the teen is not the network’s youngest adopter. A 12-year-old boy thoughtfully convinced Fawn Krieger to let him adopt her work titled “Trophy.”

“This is exactly what I want. I love to see the demographics expanded of who is getting artwork,” says Simon. On the other end of the age spectrum was a 95-year-old New Hampshire man who lived in a cabin. Gordon Berryman enjoyed a huge painting of Simon’s “Triad” for two years before he passed away. Other works hang in libraries and municipal buildings. It doesn’t matter where the piece ends up — everyone is eligible to adopt. “My dream is FAAN is a global forum,” say Simon, “for the artists, but also to get the message out about art.”

Once you come to the artist’s studio to pick it up or have it shipped to your home, then the painting is yours. You can frame it, hang it, admire and enjoy it. This adoption is final.

Categories: Archive, Art

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