When it comes to health and well-being, not many things are as stressful as a serious medical diagnosis.
Whether it’s cancer, heart issues, a broken hip or a stroke, it can take a lot of support from family and friends to get to the other side of a medical battle.
Although many medical insurance companies may pay a majority of the costs associated with medical treatments, we all know that they don’t cover everything and there’s a good chance that you will have to fork over some money out of your own pocket.
These costs can take a toll on anyone, especially those who make a career in the art world.
Unlike most people, artists such as painters, sculptors and illustrators typically do not have health insurance. Unless they are covered under a partner or spouse’s insurance plan, artists are left holding the bills for all the costs associated with medical expenses.
The Artists’ Charitable Fund, which is hosting its largest fundraiser of the year next weekend, helps artists ease the financial stress caused by medical costs. Sculptors from the Loveland area, including internationally known figurative sculptor George Lundeen, founded the fund more than 20 years ago.
“The fund was created after they saw a lot of their artist friends getting cancer and other diseases and not having the ability to pay for everything,” said Judy Archibald, fund coordinator. “So they started this nonprofit, and it assists professional artists.”
The fund helps artists in the western United States, including Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming, with some of the costs associated with medical, dental or vision bills. Artists must have been making a living from their artwork for at least five years to be eligible for assistance.
Applicants are vetted and must produce copies of their tax returns, explained Archibald. Once approved for assistance, the fund pays medical providers and bills directly — they do not pay the artists.
In the past, money from the fund has helped purchase a wheelchair, paid for eye surgery, provided funding for an artificial leg and helped with costs associated with cancer treatments for a variety of artists.
Artists Stephen and Diane Fairfield, a married couple from Arizona, have first-hand experience working with the Artists’ Charitable Fund after Diane’s heart conditions began to get worse, requiring her to undergo open-heart surgery.
Knowing that Medicare would not cover all the costs for the surgery and care, Diane began searching for ways to bridge that financial gap and came upon the fund’s website.
“She’s the one who initially submitted all the documentation and records that were required, and Diane got notified by Judy that they would grant up to $8,000 in direct payment to the doctors and hospital for our share of the charges for open-heart surgery,” Stephen said. “You can imagine how astronomical the charges are for that.”
Sadly, Diane died during the surgery, which left Stephen heartbroken and concerned as to where he stood with the financial support from the fund.
“When you have a financial crisis, everyone suffers. I am the one responsible for covering the back end of all the charges,” he said. “Judy said no, the policy of the fund is that they granted that money to Diane, but I would be an eligible recipient to submit the bills.”
As bills came in, Stephen submitted them to the fund to be paid, which alleviated a lot of stress and allowed him more room to grieve the loss of his wife.
“It just was a wonderful godsend to me, to get me out from underneath the specter of these huge debts,” Stephen said. “I’d be in desperate straits without the fund. I would have been chased by collection agencies because the doctors and hospitals want their money.
“They don’t care. They would probably say, ‘You’re an artist, get a real job.’ There’s a perception that art isn’t really a job.”
To date, the fund has paid more than $500,000 towards medical bills for artists in crisis. In 2021, the fund paid out $37,857 in medical, dental and vision aid, and for this year, they have paid out $39,582 so far.
“It’s really jumped up this year,” Archibald said.
The annual art auction is the organization’s most important fundraiser of the year.
The 2021 auction brought in about $40,000. Archibald and the fund’s board of directors are hoping to surpass that amount this year.
Pieces featured in the auction are donated by artists from around the country and can include sculptures, paintings and other visual art pieces.
Some of the pieces that will be featured in this year’s auction include “Running Wild,” an 11-inch-by-14-inch oil painting by Lani Vlaanderen; “Make A Stink,” a 9.75-inch-tall sculpture by Joshua Tobey; and “At Water’s Edge,” a 12-inch-by-9-inch oil painting by Tamara Simmons.
“We will end up with about 70 original paintings and sculptures for the auction,” Archibald said. “I never know what I am going to have until that very day. Some artists bring in their donated pieces an hour before the auction.”
In addition to the live auction, attendees can participate in a silent auction that features a variety of different pieces like limited edition prints, blown-glass bowels, ceramics and smaller sculptures.
The event will begin with an art preview and refreshments at 6 pm Saturday, Aug. 13 at North Lake Park Amphitheater, located at Taft Avenue and 29th Street in Loveland. The auction will begin at 7 pm
“We sell everything. I’m not taking it home again,” Archibald said, laughing. “People can get some really good deals from well-known artists.”
Winning bidders can pay with cash, check or credit card directly after the auction.
“The fund allowed me to keep going, not only relieving the financial side but the psychological pressure,” Stephen Fairfield said. “I am just so grateful for the fund for just being there. This is one of the rare funds that helps you get through life; I know they help a lot of people.”
For more information, go to www.artistscharitablefund.org.