Joy Benenson founded a nonprofit organization with the most appropriate name, Giving Artist. For each mixed media piece Joy creates, she donates 95% of the proceeds from its sale to a nonprofit organization. “Knowing that I can do what I love while giving back, it’s a win-win,” Joy said…. and yes, she said so with great joy (couldn’t resist).
Joy has always been philanthropic and got to a point where she wanted to give more than she had so she looked to her art. She started out giving her one-of-a-kind, brightly colored pieces to nonprofit organizations for their fundraising auctions. That evolved into Joy creating her own 501(c)(3).
Giving Artist also curates the work of other artists. With each sale, the artist receives 50% of the net revenue and the remaining 50% goes to the nonprofit. “If it’s one of my pieces, I just take out the cost of my materials,” Joy said.
Joy focuses on cultural icons from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Jimi Hendrix, Michelle Obama to Dolly Parton, Jerry Garcia and Bruce Springsteen, to name a few. “I read the paper and pick out articles I find interesting and then, the pieces just sort of come to me,” Joy said.
Joy incorporates newsprint, pages of books, photographs and colored graphics for the background of her pieces. The primary material she uses… the material that brings out the “wow factor”… is colored acrylic and/or mirrored acrylic. She estimates she spends anywhere from 15 to 50 hours on each original piece.
“Everything is in little stages,” Joy said. “The background is one stage. I can create four different backgrounds at the same time. The laser cutting is a different stage. It’s lots of picking something up, putting it together and letting it sit for 24 hours. And then, I pick up another piece and start all over again.”
Her latest Denver show is Friday, December 17th at Aviano Coffee. “As fun as it is to see the art, it’s about money being donated.” The December show benefits Haven, a platform by and for women and non-binary people of color that incorporates art and storytelling to help with healing from racial trauma.
“I am feeling lucky because the customers who buy my art are doing something for the community,” Joy said.
Her popularity is soaring as is the value of her pieces. They have tripled is price over the last five years. Joy is giddy yet humbled by the appreciation others have for her creations. She laughs at herself a lot especially when she talks about how she never was an artsy person growing up. Her creative side was unleashed when a piece of art caught her eye in a gallery in Florida. When she asked what the mixed media piece was selling for, she was overwhelmed and quietly walked away. She lost sleep over the piece.. not that she wanted to go back and buy it… rather Joy wanted to learn how to make something like it! Joy spent a summer mastering Illustrator and taught herself how to cut pieces of acrylic.
“I’m a terrible painter but I can draw on a computer and it allows me to do my work,” Joy said. “I draw it out on my computer and cut it into a thousand little pieces and put the piece back together again. Basically, I get to do a big jigsaw puzzle every day.”
“I’m not trying to be a fine artist,” Joy said. “I am not trying to be in museums or make a big statement. I just want someone to have something that hangs on their wall that they like to look at. And, I like them to know that their purchase allows other nonprofits to be funded and that together we’re providing a revenue stream for them.”