Federal Donuts book controversy: Restaurant backs down after artists’ outcry

Artists were asked to create work for their book in exchange for a gift card, a book and their thanks — but no money.

The Federal Donuts "Call for Artwork" page.

The Federal Donuts "Call for Artwork" page.


After an outcry on Facebook and Twitter, Federal Donuts has reconsidered asking Philly artists to use their work in a book in exchange for a gift card, the book and their thanks — but no money.

According to the local restaurant’s “Call for Artworks,” it was seeking “sculpture, paintings, drawings, murals, digital or physical collage, photography, paper art, fiber art, ceramics or anything that moves you.” The material was to be used in The Federal Donuts Book, to be published in Fall 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The same publishers were behind co-owner Michael Solomonov’s Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.

FedNuts set a mid-June deadline for high-resolution photo submissions, adding that it would quickly inform artists if their work was chosen. As recompense, every artist who submitted work would receive “a FedNuts gift card as a thank-you for making our world, and The Federal Donuts Book, a more beautiful place.” Artists who made the cut would get credit and a signed copy. But no payment.

This did not go over well.

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Local artists and designers railed against the suggestion that they were being asked to submit work “on spec” — i.e. with no guarantee that it would be used — and also about the idea that those who did get into the final book would be “paid in donuts.”

“In our excitement to get started, we failed to consider the impact of what we were asking,” partners Steve Cook, Felicia D’Ambrosio, Tom Henneman, Bob Logue and Mike Solomonov wrote in a statement. “Although it was never our intention to take advantage of the artist community (our intent was to celebrate it), we realize now that our plan was poorly conceived.”


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Chris Krewson is the executive director of LION Publishers, a national nonprofit association that serves local journalism entrepreneurs build sustainable news organizations, and the founding editor of Billy Penn. He lives in Havertown.