ArtLifting pieces on display throughout Orange County
Those who walk into the Bank of America financial center in Huntington Beach’s Seacliff Village Shopping Center will see various pieces of art hanging on the wall.
The paintings are as interesting and varied as the stories of the people who created them.
Eric Santamaria, who lives in Los Angeles, has cerebral palsy and makes his art from his wheelchair, with markers, paintbrushes and pens attached to the bottom and a canvas beneath him. San Jose-based artist Tim Strouss deals with partial paralysis on his left side, and Denver resident Elizabeth Gauss has dealt with loneliness and trauma.
These are just some of the artists nationwide who have been helped by Bank of America’s two-year partnership with a public benefit corporation called ArtLifting.
Bank of America purchased more than 11,000 pieces of art from ArtLifting artists to install in 1,500 financial centers across the country, said Christina Bailey, ArtLifting chief growth officer. ArtLifting benefits artists living with disabilities or impacted by housing insecurity.
“It just made a significant financial and emotional impact on our artist community,” Bailey said.
The financial center in Huntington Beach is one of seven in Orange County currently displaying ArtLifting pieces, along with three in Anaheim, and one each in Fullerton, La Habra and Yorba Linda.
Artists have collectively earned more than $4 million through ArtLifting in the past few years, Bailey said. The program started in 2013, as chief executive and co-founder Liz Powers was attempting to help homeless people in the Boston area by starting art groups at local shelters.
“She saw incredible talent, but artwork was ending up in the basement or the closet, or maybe an artist was trying to sell it on the street on their own,” Bailey said. “She thought that if these artists’ talents could be seen, if their stories could be heard, then they can earn an income for the work that they’re already doing. The talent was already there, the artwork already existed, it just needed a platform for representation.”
When prints are purchased by an ArtLifting partner like Bank of America, artists earn 55% of the profit, while 1% from each sale provides supplies to art groups nationwide. The remaining 44% goes to ArtLifting to further its mission.
Bank of America patrons are also welcome to enjoy the artwork and can go to the ArtLifting website to buy prints to help the cause.
Santamaria, who has two pieces hanging in the Huntington Beach location, is nonverbal. But his mother, Gail, has stated she wants to get him a new bed, a tool to exercise his legs and to take him to Universal Studios, Bailey said.
Rebekah Sigfrids, Bank of America’s senior vice president of financial center design and innovation, said teaming with ArtLifting has worked well as the company seeks to renovate many of its branches. This year, BofA’s design team selected 27 pieces from 21 artists.
“I live in New York, and the first branch here, we had every single piece of artwork in it,” Sigfrids said. “Our security guard was just walking around and reading all the plaques … Clients enjoy seeing the work, and [bank employees] do as well. It’s just great to have beautiful work that also is meaningful. It’s been a fantastic partnership.”
ArtLifting has about 400 corporate clients, Bailey said, but the partnership with Bank of America has been one of the biggest yet.
It is helping artists with various challenges — including multiple sclerosis, cancer, autism, mental illness and chronic pain — make money for their efforts.
“The originality of the artwork is just unmatched because the diverse lived experiences of the artists influence their work,” Bailey said. “But also they’re often quite innovative and adaptive. You just can’t recreate work like Eric’s.”
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