Flowers For Hope, Eliane Markoff
This News Splash interview is with Eliane Markoff, businesswoman, painter and founder of Art in Giving, a powerful customer appreciation and employee recognition program that blends business, art and philanthropy. Here Eliane talks with us about her Foundation, the concept behind Art in Giving, and her own creative process.
News Splash (NS): Tell us about Art in Giving.
Eliane: Art in Giving was launched in May 2009. Eleven artists offer their art to encourage organizations to use art as a gift to thank clients and guest speakers and to reward executives and other employees. Fifty percent of the proceeds are donated to The Rachel Molly Markoff Foundation, a 501 C3 non-profit that funds brain tumor research and pediatric cancer programs.
The mission of Art in Giving is to make people feel good by doing good. Art in Giving offers organizations a new and creative way to express appreciation to their clients, partners, employees or any individuals they want to honor and thank. Art in Giving allows people to feel good on several levels. When someone receives an Art in Giving voucher, he or she feels honored. When that person realizes that 50% of the proceeds will be donated to a good cause, that person feels even more recognized. The experience of selecting the art and visiting the studios is also a gift. The piece of art will last a life time and so will the honor. It is recognition combined with philanthropy and art.
NS: What gave you the idea?
Eliane: During the past decade, individuals and organizations participated in an earlier version of Art in Giving. Boston Private Bank, for example, bought 50 prints of Flowers for Hope (pictured here) my signature piece, to present to their most valuable clients. Equity Office commissioned me to create a painting in the lobby of its headquarters in Boston. Jonathan Davis of The Davis Companies bought two of my early paintings which are hanging in his offices on Appleton Street in Boston. The National Brain Tumor Society uses Blue Passion Prints to recognize volunteers, donors and employees during its annual meeting. Friends and contacts would buy my art to give as presents to others.
I recently attended a board meeting where someone was honored. That person knows about Art in Giving and said to me, in private, that although he appreciates the engraved crystal piece he received, he would have enjoyed a piece of art as his gift!
The support and interest of these individuals and companies gave me the idea to use art as a recognition and award program. Once I joined the SOWA Artists Guild in Boston last year, I was happy to share my story with other artists who showed interest in participating. I originally asked for 20% of the proceeds to go to The Rachel Molly Markoff Foundation. I was very moved when the founder of the Artists Guild, Stephen Silver, suggested the greater amount of 50% be applied to the Foundation and that everyone else was very supportive.
NS: How was The Rachel Molly Markoff Foundation created? How is Art in Giving evolving?
Eliane: The Foundation was created when people wanted to buy my art. Since I began painting mainly due to the loss of my child, the proceeds went directly to the Foundation. It became very therapeutic for me. The original Art in Giving was formed in 2000. It included my art only. I am delighted 10 other artists are now involved and we hope to add more next year, once we have a few more clients. One of the new additions, I hope, will be my daughter Audrey, who shares the studio with me and has done some beautiful mosaic pieces and other pieces using yarn.
NS: You are a successful businesswoman and extraordinary artist – how do the two work together?
Eliane: Thank you for the compliment. For the most part, they work well together for me. It is my business background combined with my motivation and drive to make a difference that make me successful. I love presenting the combination of art, business and philanthropy to organizations especially those concerned with delighting their customers, partners, donors as well as those concerned with motivating and retaining their employees.
I wish I could say that every company or organization we approach participates in the program immediately. Although we have received wonderful feedback on the idea and concept, it is challenging getting immediate commitments. I believe that we are planting the seeds for greater success in the future. That is what I need to focus on.
NS: How do you fit your creative side into a busy schedule?
Eliane: I make the time. I love spending the time in the studio with Gary’s [husband] old shirts and an old skirt covered with paint. If I am lucky, my daughter Audrey will be in her space next to me creating her art pieces made of yarn or mosaic. A cousin of mine made many CDs for me so I listen to French, Middle Eastern or Greek music and let my creativity take over. I also find myself thinking of new business ideas while I am in the studio.
NS: What inspires you?
Eliane: I am inspired by the simple blessings in my life. I know Rachel painted three flowers while she was waiting at the Jimmy Fund Clinic one day. I would like to believe it was a happy painting. It had a sun in it. The painting is now the logo for the Foundation.
I am inspired by a hug, good conversation and sweet words from my daughter; a happy phone call from my husband; a backgammon game with my mother; a trip to Jerusalem with my brother; a note from my sister; a peaceful week-end in Maine looking at Lake Sebago and a vacation in one of the islands. For example, the Bird Bath painting was created after a trip to Bermuda. My ocean scenes are painted mostly in Maine. I am also inspired when I achieve a goal I had set for myself. I am inspired when paintings sell or when I am commissioned to do a new piece. I am inspired when I have something to look forward to. I am inspired by the support I receive from other artists and from all my friends and family.