Credit: Timothy Hughes

Tom Linfield, ,

Forget the solitary artist slaving away in his garret. For Tom Linfield, art-making is strongly connected to the idea of community.

In his day job, Linfield is vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives at the Madison Community Foundation. And his 9-to-5 orientation - helping folks in Dane County - spills over into his life as an artist. Linfield donates work to various causes, including a mosaic giraffe for the Zoobilee auction, a benefit for the American Family Children's Hospital and the Henry Vilas Zoological Society.

This was no minor undertaking. Linfield and his three fellow artists spent 1,000 hours on the spectacular piece, called "Long Tall Sally." "It was a true labor of love," he says.

Linfield and his co-creators for "Long Tall Sally" work together in the artsTRIBE collective, which itself has a strong community focus. One of their projects, called SEED, explores connections between growing food and creating art. Linfield's contribution is oil pastels of bell peppers grown by Dane County farmers. They're his own painterly version of "buy local," inspired by the local food movement. In typical fashion, he and his artsTRIBE mates donated SEED artwork to local nonprofits for fundraising purposes.

The stereotypical artist is self-obsessed, but Linfield represents those artists - you'll find many of them in Madison - who happily volunteer their time for the common good.

"My professional life has been in philanthropy, and my private life has been in the arts," he says. "For me, it's really important to combine the two."

- Dean Robbins