Art & Document (formerly the journal of the Center for Documentary Arts) is a project at the crossroads of art, ethics, faith, and social justice. Created by Timothy Cahill, Art & Document presents artists, writers, and thinkers whose work promotes the common good, bears witness to suffering, and manifests qualities of beauty, compassion, dignity, justice, and mercy.

12 August 2010

A $10,000 vote of confidence

As a small start-up nonprofit, the Center for Documentary Arts at The Sage Colleges deals with the same challenges many cultural organizations face, struggling against the vicissitudes of a sluggish economy and declining philanthropic resources. The Center was initially conceived in the fall of 2008, just as the financial bottom fell out of the US economy and we were facing the very real possibility of a new Depression. The winner-take-all ethos of mid-decade gave way to a growing awareness of America’s vast population of have-nots, which was growing every day as people lost houses and jobs. A period of collective concern emerged for the hardships of others, hardships many of us worried might be ours tomorrow. The decision was made to move forward with the Center for Documentary Arts, with a mission to foster and stimulate this emergent empathy through the power of art.

It took a year from that point to officially launch the Center with The Sage Colleges as our host. I am looking forward to my first anniversary in November by preparing exciting programming for the coming fall and beyond. We are just about to go public with a series of offerings in the months ahead, including an eloquent collection of children’s art from Vietnam, a moving and inspiring portrait exhibition of burn survivors by photographer Steve Lobel, and a documentary film series at an exciting public venue.

These programs are in addition to the Center’s major initiative of the Fall 2010 season, Battlesight, an original exhibition featuring the work of three world-class battlefield photographers, one a Pulitzer Prize winner, who have covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are images you won’t find on TV or in most publications; stark, powerful, haunting views of the wars we’ve been waging for nearly a decade.  There’s a wealth of information about the show and participating photographers on the Battlesight page and links, both on the sidebar, and I invite you to spend some time looking.

Mounting an exhibit of this importance requires a sizeable financial commitment, which brings me back to where I began, thinking about fund-raising. One of the realities of an arts administrator’s job constantly attempting to attract money. The Center relies entirely on individuals and organizations who believe in our cause, and slowly over the past months has found a small-but-growing number of such generous souls, bless them all. Recently, our fund-raising efforts were raised to a new level with a single stroke, when prominent cultural philanthropists Chet and Karen Opalka announced a major gift of $10,000, with the challenge that we match the amount before the end of September.

Chet and Karen Opalka
This is an extraordinary gift, both for the material support it provides and the huge vote of confidence it represents for our vision and activity. I am more than a little overwhelmed by the Opalkas' generosity, as I have been by the open hand of all those who have come aboard to aid us. Now I am inviting anyone and everyone interested in our work to join the Opalkas, our other donors, The Sage Colleges, and myself as we move ahead to Battlesight and the future. In the immediate term, contributions will help cover the costs of printing and framing the exhibition, creating gallery labels and an exhibit catalog, transporting and lodging the artists for public programs, spreading the word about the exhibit, and other expenses.  Remaining resources will be used to support the Center's mission.

As we cross the threshold into new levels of growth and accomplishment, this is an exciting time at the Center for Documentary Arts. If you can help with a tax-deductible donation in any amount, please contact me at this blog or call 518-292-1951.  I will be happy to tell you more about the Center and send you an information kit that describes our activities in detail. Thank you for reading and for your continued support.


A ruler who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food. Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep th...