Home  >  Essays  >  Artist-Run Philanthropy

PST, Getty; Kate Johnson Projection

artist-run philanthropy

February 2, 2020
Written by Michael J. Masucci

Throughout EZTV’s over 30 year history, members of EZTV’s core group have helped literally hundreds of artists by donating equipment usage, expertise, professional contacts and other resources. Numerous productions, exhibitions, performances and lectures would simply never have existed without the intellectual and economic generosity of EZTV. This idea, which began with EZTV founder John Dorr, has continued and expanded with EZTV’s current group, and will always be a fundamental principle of EZTV’s values. In 1995, I codified the policy into a program I named “Artist-Run Philanthropy”. I see it is a sharp contrast to the recent decline in public support for the arts. We must support the genius of creativity for if the society is not wise enough now to do it, we, the artists of our communities must do it for ourselves and our colleagues. Make no mistake, EZTV fully supports the idea of public funding for the arts. However, the current economic and social climate has shrunk the budgets of granting organizations. Until such time that the public recognizes the enormous contributions made by local, touring and community-based artists, EZTV will work towards helping its local artists’ community. The recent decades have seen a centralization in arts funding within the United States. Institutional foundations usually created through the migration of fortunes from rich industrialists or land developers, have created a form of control of the support of art expression, in which the very few decide the exploration of new art, and the recognition or exhibition of classic art of antiquities.

In addition to its help for the arts, EZTV has a long-standing tradition of contributing technical and artistic support to worthy medical and other community projects, ranging from working with physically challenged children, to AIDS awareness, to teaching video skills to at-risk youth.

A major manufacturer of lavishly expensive jewelry, has an executive position for “Marketing and Philanthropy”. And make no mistake, the two are often inextricably intertwined. It is commonplace, and admirable, for people to contribute to their favorite charities. Unfortunately, recent scandals in the “Charity Industry” have alerted these generous donors that, all too often, their contributions largely do not directly help the people the money was intended for. Too many times a significant portion of the funds raised have not gone to the needy, but has been wasted on expensive galas, lavish office space, travel junkets and inflated administrative salaries. EZTV’s generosity is strictly pro-bono, and often uncredited and unnoticed. Rarely has a project, in which EZTV has generously contributed been acknowledged, or ever share in any equity arrangement. If a gift is given, results in the renaming of an edifice, that is not philanthropy. It is advertising. Even posthumously, it draws attention to the donor, not the donee. When a billionaire donates money to create a building for a university, museum or public center, this donation is, of course, an important and appreciated effort. Many buildings, named after these philanthropists, such as Carnegie Hall, the Getty Center, the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art, the Geffen Medical School at UCLA, and the Guggenheim Museums all reflect the power of the donor as much as the importance of the facility. Additionally, grant-funding institutions, such as the Irvine Foundation or the Durfee Foundation, have also served a similar function. This is not to say in any way that these institutions do not fund worthy projects, because they do. It only is stated to show how small a community of individuals now have such a wide range of control over what does, or does not get made, or shown. This is counter-intuitive to democratic practice. In comparison, when middle-class or working class artists help other artists, it creates a methodology for fundamental change in the ability of those artists to produce, exhibit and/or experiment through collaboration within their own medium or alongside other mediums or forms. It is development from the ground up, and not the trickle=down funding mentality which evolved from what has become known as Reganomics. We support what we do by the work that we do. Our commissions, collaborations and services help support our community and cultural projects. We are the donor. Therefore, we are not encumbered by the demands, opinions or fashion of an outside funding source. In addition to creative and technical support, we also have long-standing experience in what is now called ‘microcinema’ . Our model of lean production allows us to be very open and flexible in our curatorial and charitable decisions. When we feel that an artist deserves a public exhibition, we will convert part of our studio into an art gallery. When a filmmaker is willing to share his/her ideas and work with an intimate and appreciative audience, we turn our studio into a screening room. This is truly creative control. And this is yet another example of how the desktop video and digital revolution can empower us all. All without the ‘red tape’ that can bog down the emerging artist and producer. Without the benefit of ‘deep pockets’, EZTV has proven that one can make instrumental change in the fabric of the local culture without having to be a member of the super-rich. Unlike the current trend of “Venture Philanthropy”, which sometimes places unreasonable expectations upon the success of the project, “Artist-Run Philanthropy” comes from the grass-roots of our society and effects its change in a way that fully understands the internal culture and realistic goals of the organization or individual artist.

Because of the large number of inquiries which we receive each year for support, we can only focus on those projects which can make a positive difference in the social, intellectual or artistic fabric of our community. If you believe that your project qualifies, please email with full details.