Sculpting Lessons for Donor Recognition

July 23rd, 2015

Sculpting donor images for application onto a donor recognition display can be daunting. At Robin E. Williams Incorporated, we have managed close to a hundred artists in the process over the years. It isn’t cheap to do, nor is it a breeze to manage donor and fundraisers’ expectation. But no matter how tough, if handled with care, the donor will feel well stewarded throughout the process.

Some go well. Some are a nightmare. Some donor faces and profiles are easier than others, but mostly it is the talent and empathy of the artist that matters most.

Here I want to talk about a specific challenge.

CSU Schwob Music Endowments

CSU Schwob Music Endowments

The display here is for Endowment Giving at Columbus State University, in Georgia. The gift being honored is for at least $1,000,000.

In this case, a dual bas relief is required. Turns out, the man’s image was easier to accomplish than his wife’s. She’s a beautiful woman with voluminous, wavy hair, wide and expressive eyes and a brilliant smile. We knew going in that translating her into bronze might be tough. I had no idea how difficult.

Pezold edit

 

We started with the most economical approach: using the casting manufacturer’s in-hour artists. $900. After nearly 4 months of back and forth, this is where we stood.

casting artist714

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For nearly $2000 more, the client approved use of another sculptor with whom we had had success before to “fix the wife”. From October 2014 to April 2015, we endured 7 rounds with this artist, including work on site with the donor at the table. Here are those renditions!

2nd artist rd2 2nd atrtis last rd 4 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd atrtis last rd 4 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things were NOT improving! As can happen, sculpting worsens as tries multiply. And then there is the empathy part. When the artist said to me: “I just don’t do ‘pretty’!” I knew this was a road to nowhere for the client in his quest to honor his donors.  I asked that I be allowed to find a new artist, and fast.

The client, whom I have known for many years, is always committed to having the donors well served. In some ways, his persistence in getting this right has meant an even happier outcome than if the sculpting effort had gone well the first time (and sometimes it does!). That commitment to the donors led to our search for a prominent artist in our southeast US region, which I found: Wesley Wofford. I met with him, showed him our past efforts with the endowment display and also the history of these donors and their disappointments to date.

He bravely took on the assignment and achieved success within one round of submittals! What a joy he was to work with and what joy he brought to the donors: she told our client, “I can honestly say I’m very pleased.”  So set your budgets wisely and choose your artists with care.Wofford 1 and done 715 copy

Written by Robin E. Williams