When it comes to art of the African diaspora, Donna Thompson Ray of ATFA Appraisals, is one of the leading voices for personal property appraisal in the United States and abroad. She started her art career as a photographer with a focus on curating exhibitions and publishing articles on black art. She transitioned to appraisals to further impact the conversation around valuing black art.
Qualifications and Service
There are but a handful of African-American Art Appraisers, and Donna is one of them. She has pursued a dual career in the field of history education and visual art consulting for over twenty-five years. Donna is a Project Director for the American Social History Project, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Museum of Art and Origins. She is a doctoral candidate in American history and is pursuing senior appraiser accreditation at the American Society of Appraisers (ASA), the nation’s oldest appraisal association.
Her commitment to serving her community in excellence is what led her to join her local chapter of the ASA. To date, she is the first African-American woman (of Caribbean descent) to serve as President of the ASA Northern New Jersey Chapter 73 (2017-2018). Donna is leaving behind an example of how to get the most out of the professional association.
Donna actively pursued leadership positions with the focus on building relationships and collaborating. She began as the newsletter editor before serving as Secretary and Treasurer. She learned about the other appraisal disciplines (Business Valuation, Gems & Jewelry, Real Property, and Machinery and Technical Specialties) from her esteemed colleagues at the chapter. This broader knowledge helped deepen her understanding of valuation services and opens the opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaborations which sets her apart.
Working with Artists
“I know a lot of artists and it’s quite often that I hear about an artist’s work being left on the streets after they pass away,” Donna says. “Their work is not being handled appropriately. It’s not uncommon for it to happen to black artists. I felt like people who work in valuation services along with art advisors, attorneys and financial advisors should be working with artists proactively.”
Her commitment is to continue to educate on fine art appraisal work and develop partnerships with artists, while they are busy producing work, and beyond their deaths to equip their loved ones with next steps for a lasting legacy. Assisting with estate planning and archival collection management are among her services.
“Our culture does not promote artists as a profession that’s worthy of highest praise and recognition. Doctors, lawyers, they get those accolades and attention. With artists, it’s problematic as to where they’re ranked, and how they’re ranked with their importance,” Donna says.
Donna wants to do her part to reduce the wealth-gap. Her experience and skills in appraisal work spans the global art market so each piece is expertly researched and placed in the appropriate market for the most value. Donna is particularly involved in art of the African diaspora – traditional African paintings and sculpture, contemporary African/Caribbean/Latino/Latin American art, and photography market.
As a collector, Donna is your guide to collecting fine art with confidence, making sure you have the pieces that tell your story, as well as the artists. It won’t just be another piece of art in your home. It’ll be a celebration. It’ll be history. It’ll be unforgettable.
Donna Thompson Ray (pictured)