The Charity Arts Project idea stemmed from Tom Bracewell and Jamie Lederhose’s passion to ‘create for good’. Following the sad death of Jamie’s mother Janis from a brain tumour, they both wanted to create something positive in her memory. Not only inspired by her, and the bravery she showed during her illness, but also by the brilliant charities that were out there funding both research into the disease and the care and support services for patients.
With both Tom and Jamie loving art, specifically screen-prints, it seemed natural to use this medium as the base for The Charity Arts Project. Whilst pieces of art often raise money for charity, they are predominantly high-end and expensive works. This was not what they aspired to, instead they wanted to reach a different audience and create a new way for people to give to charities they cared about.
What materialised was a sustainable project that offers people the opportunity to put interesting, affordable art on their walls while donating to an important cause. This process also enabled Tom and Jamie to inspire artists and creatives to donate their time and talents to help make a difference too, and give them a clear and structured platform to do so.
Artist and contributor to The Charity Arts Project Adam Bridgland (Print studio manager at JEALOUS gallery in Shoreditch) was keen to embrace this opportunity:
“I always try and help create as much as I can for charity. As a creative I believe that you should use your practice to help others, particularly when it is such an important cause to me personally as the MS Society UK is. This is an illness that has affected my mother’s life for over 30 years and if I can raise funds and awareness through my art it means a huge amount to me.”
Following overwhelmingly positive feedback from many artists and designers, what began as a small fundraising idea for a few charities grew into a much bigger social enterprise. The project launched with a debut collection of ten limited edition screen-prints in December 2015.
Many of their first-round collaborators were artists whose work they had on their own walls at home. While many of the pieces do have an important story of inspiration behind the design, the primary aim was to ensure that the art works could exist purely as aesthetic pieces.
It is however interesting to note one coincidence during the launch stages of the Project. One of their artists: Pixel (Jonty Harbinson) had unfortunately lost his father to a brain tumour when he was very young. He immediately came on board, and his creativity was inspired. His design ‘Of Boy and Beast’ represents his journey to ‘face the beast’ (the loss of his father) and, through medical breakthroughs and the tireless work of charities, find peace in the face of that beast. It was everything Tom and Jamie wanted The Charity Arts Project to represent and became their signature piece. Testament to this is the fact that it has now sold out and all the profits will be donated to Pixel’s chosen charity: The Brain Tumour Charity.
So how about Pixel and his participation and personal story? Why is he an artist and how did he get involved? He has apparently always been a bit ‘sketchy’, ever since the first puffin he copied out of the ‘Birds of the world’ calendar 1996 edition. He was convinced as a child that he would be a comic artist, but after earning a bursary to Design Center in Johannesburg, his life went in a slightly different direction. Pixel completed a degree in graphic and multimedia design in 2004 and has, since then, worked in advertising and design companies, until 2012 when he and a friend opened their own independent micro-gallery in central Johannesburg. This was a turning point. A conscious decision to start creating for art rather than commercial design that reignited the passion he grew up on. Despite the gallery closing a couple of years later when Pixel moved overseas, Pixel remained!
His journey to getting involved with The Charity Arts Project was simple. Tom and Jamie had seen a couple of his pieces in Art Republic and reached out to him through his website. As previously mentioned this had such personal symbolism that Pixel did not think twice about participating. Losing his father due to complications resulting from a brain tumour when he was just 18 months old is something that Pixel has always carried with him. The fact that he never knew him and the fear of the same thing affecting him has always quietly burned at the back of his mind. Therefore, when offered an opportunity to give something back to a brain cancer charity, it didn’t seem much of a choice: Pixel had to be involved.
What is interesting is the fact that ‘Of Boy and Beast’ differed from his other works. He is normally drawn to create work that is quite light, flat and graphic. As it was so personal to Pixel, and was a piece based on a story, his story, for him it was a lot more about the emotion attached than the aesthetic portrayed. However, to those purchasing it the aesthetic is the enticement: one artwork, multiple stories.
Going forward Tom and Jamie’s long-term objective is to sustain relentless giving through the growth of a profitable and charitable enterprise. Practically, they’d like to continue growing the project to the point where they can release new product ranges every four to six months, therefore raising even more money for their partner charities and finding new organisations to support along the way. They will continue to develop their artist collaboration collections (the next set is due Autumn 2017), alongside developing their own in-house created artwork. Their first foray into the in-house range was the ’Tis the Season 2016 range of prints and Christmas cards, and they have just released the first ‘HOME’ range with a gallery at BOXPARK Croydon, London.
Ultimately they would love to establish a permanent The Charity Arts Project print studio: a studio built to create and house great art that generates significant profit, all of which is donated to important social causes.
Any artist can help by simply getting in touch, their budgets are relatively small but they are always looking for new talented designers and artists to collaborate with. And any charity can benefit, for example Adam, as mentioned previously, donated his design to support the MS Society. Ranui Samuels (Graphic artist from New Zealand) wanted to give something to help those facing mental health problems and so donated his piece ‘MANA’ to support Mind. Sadly, in today’s society, everyone has probably got a cause that is very personal to them, and The Charity Arts Project mantra is to help artists and art-lovers alike show their support.