ALLEGANY, N.Y. – A year after launching a ministry of the image, artist David Haack, OFM, reports that his creative venture is reaching its goals and giving him satisfaction.
Haack Studiolo, a Latin word meaning room for meditation and study — and in his case, painting — should be profitable enough this year to allow David to begin giving commissions to the St. Bonaventure Friary where the Studiolo is located.
David, who retired from teaching art history and studio art at St. Bonaventure University in 2013, hopes that last year’s launch of the Studiolo is the first step in developing a ministry selling his artwork worldwide. Already, he has a following of interested customers, mostly European, from Ireland and the Ukraine, he said.
“I attempted to retire as normal people do, but after four days of watching TV, I said, ‘I just can’t live this way.’” He acted on a suggestion made two years ago to then Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, about the possibility of opening an art-related business.
A Ministry of the Image
David sees the sale of his artwork as a ministry, rather than a business, similar to the Province’s Ministry of the Word since so many of his paintings have Franciscan themes. “This is like a Ministry of the Image,” he said. But he would also like the Studiolo to be profitable so he can give his commissions, in part, to the friary.
He is also available to create exhibits of his work — landscapes, still life paintings and portraits — like the one he coordinated at the Provincial Chapter last month. The exhibits and sales events can be staged for a weekend at churches and ministry sites in Holy Name Province. He envisions that the free exhibits could include a slide presentation on Franciscan artwork from the 14th century to the present. He would like to donate 10 percent of the sales of his artwork to the ministry hosting his exhibit.
The artist is also seeking galleries to display and sell his work. He said that galleries typically take between 40 and 60 percent of sales, so he is seeking a venue to give him a better percentage of commission.
David has personally done all the work to set up his business, filing paperwork with New York State and writing a business plan. He said he is on track for commission goals and is only in the second year of his business plan. He wants to give his profits to the friary, which generously built his Studiolo, a pleasant space with skylights, good lighting and windows facing the woods.
He is also doing his own marketing, has created a brochure and is using a mailing list of previous customers. Most of his marketing, however, is through word of mouth, he said.
This fall, he will have marketing assistance from graduate students in the SBU School of Business, who will help him promote Studiolo, conduct surveys, and re-evaluate his websites www.dhaackofm.com and www.haackstudiolo.com.Both websites can also be found under the umbrella “ArtSpan,” a national online network of artists’ work.
David is happy to say that the business was started on a shoestring, with no seed money or loans from the Province, just the generosity of the friary, which constructed the building for the Studiolo nearly 10 years ago. His most recent large commissions were the “Canticle of the Sun” for the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, N.Y., and “Children of Fatima” for the new children’s chapel at St. Mary of the Angels Church in Olean, N.Y. “The content of the latter was provided by a nine-year-old child who died 10 years ago,” he said, adding “her mother found the little girls’ diary/journal a few years ago where the young girl writes that her favorite story was about the ‘Children of Fatima,'” said David.
“Part of the mission statement of the business is to offer images — for the home, office or anywhere — to ‘rest the eye.’ It’s worded that way because the images may be viewed as having spiritual content or a contemplative dimension,” said David, a Wisconsin native, who professed his final vows as a Franciscan in 1987.
He also sells Franciscan themed notecards, an idea originally conceived while he worked in the HNP Communications Office under Roy Gasnick, OFM, and Cassian Miles, OFM. More than half of the printed designs have already been purchased.
David is not a newcomer to the business world, having had a career in radio and TV and designing clothing before becoming a friar. In five years, he would like to hand the Studiolo business over to another friar in the Province, dedicating his time to painting. For now, since he handles both the creative and business aspects of the ministry, he spends four hours each morning working in the Studiolo and afternoons are spent developing the business. He is currently working on two portrait works — a landscape and an image of the LaVerna buildings in Italy.
— Wendy Healy, a frequent HNP Today contributor, is a Connecticut-based freelance writer.