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Start With Art - Flourishing Under Matthew Conboy's Leadership and Passion

Matthew Conboy won the first Crusade Engagement Grant for his program idea, Start With Art. Matthew used the $10,000 grant award to fund the first year of the program (2015), and he has been able to keep the program going (and growing!) since. He's had some great press and exciting funding news lately, and we asked him to tell us more. 

As the inaugural recipient of the Crusade Engagement Grant, I feel like I’ve run the gamut in terms of developing a project and then funding it. The program I founded, Start with Art: Pittsburgh, was something that I created specifically for the Engagement Grant although I did have the idea bouncing around my head for a couple of years. My proposal was to create the youngest art collectors in the world by giving a photographic print to every baby born at one hospital in Pittsburgh. That one hospital quickly turned into three hospitals that still only cover 20% of the babies born in Pittsburgh each year. Even so, little did I know how quickly I could spend the entire grant award and how much time funding an art project could entail.

In 2015, the program’s first year, I was lucky enough to receive some additional funding from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council that paid for a poet to create written descriptions of each print for the benefit of people with visual impairments. Even so, the cost of graphic design, developing a website (thank you Jennifer!), artist honoraria, and ink and paper all added up to more than the $10,000 award from Crusade for Art. Fortunately, a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on the Arts that I received that September ensured I could finish the year in the black.

December's Start With Art photo, Rising, Gathering by Danny Bracken

December's Start With Art photo, Rising, Gathering by Danny Bracken

At the end of 2015, I decided to only apply to one foundation in Pittsburgh that I thought would be my primary funder for 2016. Unfortunately, putting all of my eggs in one basket definitely did not work out in my favor and my grant application was turned down by the foundation. At the same time, I was also participating in New Sun Rising’s Arts MODE, a six-month fellowship for artists and arts organizations seeking to build business plans and create proposals for funders. By the end of this fellowship, I was able to put together a complete Common Grant application that is used by almost all of the foundations in Western Pennsylvania. At this time, I began thinking about who I would approach for funding and talk with in order to receive those grants. In addition to monetary support, I also began looking at in-kind support from vendors that I was already using. Amazingly, on the same day that I received a proclamation from Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto for the 5,000th baby art collector, Epson sent me one of their newest printers, a P800 inkjet printer. Not only was it an upgrade to the printer I had been using for Start with Art, it helped me save more than 20% on ink.

At the end of the summer, New Sun Rising helped me partner with a local whiskey distillery to use their space for a fundraiser, which helped me recoup some costs. In total, though, I spent more than $10,000 from my own funds on the project. I knew that I couldn’t continue to fund this project on my own, so I made a concerted effort beginning in August to meet with the program officers for several large foundations in Pittsburgh.

At the end of August, I was invited at the last moment to participate in an art studio dinner series where all of the diners get to go home with a signed print from one of three artists. Although the artists for this series all come from Radiant Hall studio, the organizer, (Ryan Lammie, who was also Start with Art’s December 2015 artist) included me since I had written several recommendation letters to foundations when he was applying for his own funding. When it was my turn to introduce my work, I made sure to mention Start with Art and how important it was to me as an artist and educator. Before the end of dinner, one of the guests approached me and told me that he was a director of a local foundation (The Opportunity Fund) and, even though the deadline had already passed, wanted me to submit a letter of interest. Within one week, I was then asked to submit a full grant application to his foundation.

January's Start With Art photo, Mt. Washington Landscape by Jake Reinhart

January's Start With Art photo, Mt. Washington Landscape by Jake Reinhart

At the same time, I was also preparing a letter of interest and grant application for The Heinz Endowments. I have no doubt that if I had not contacted their program officer, I would not have been invited to submit a full application to them. Because of the unique nature of Start with Art—twelve artists curated by me each year—I had to edit my application to fit their criteria. Where I would normally have submitted images of previous artists’ and months’ prints, the program officer made it clear that the grant committee would want to see examples of my own work so that they could see my curatorial eye. He also helped me change the wording of my proposal so that instead of simply giving these prints as gifts, these babies would actually be hosting almost 275 simultaneous exhibitions of that month’s artist. It wouldn’t have been the way I described this project, but I also realized that this program officer would be acting as my advocate, so I took all of his advice to heart.

Fortunately for me (and Pittsburgh’s babies), both The Opportunity Fund and The Heinz Endowments decided to fully fund Start with Art for 2017. Even better is that Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania gave me two grants for professional development and the Pennsylvania Commission on the Arts gave me a grant for the second year in a row. Start with Art, and its funding, has turned into a full-time job for me, and I couldn’t be happier. Receiving these grants has given me enough breathing room so that I can finally start thinking about expansion—something that two communities in Wisconsin and Maryland have already expressed interest in.

Even more exciting is the slate of artists and photographers I curated. We will have one Pulitzer Prize winner, one museum director, three emerging artists of the year in Pittsburgh, and finally, our second photographer whose work is being sent to the Moon.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe that Start with Art didn’t exist until I locked myself in my office for a long weekend back in 2014 to work on the Crusade Engagement Grant. Giving photographic prints to newborn babies may have seemed far fetched at the time, but now, after two years, I can’t wait to introduce art and photography to as many babies and families as I can.

July's Start With Art photograph, The Growing Season: July (Excerpt) by Jessica Server

July's Start With Art photograph, The Growing Season: July (Excerpt) by Jessica Server

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CSA Photographer: Carol Golemboski

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CSA Photographer: Carol Golemboski

We still have a few shares available for our 4th round CSA! We are publishing short interviews with the six featured photographers to get to know them and their work a bit better. This is Carol Golemboski!

Dress Form #1,  1998, Carol Golemboski

Dress Form #1,  1998, Carol Golemboski

Your photography looks anything but straight, but you use traditional darkroom processes to create your imagery. Can you describe how you create your photographs?

I begin by searching for unusual objects at antique stores and estates sales. I often photograph the objects with black, gray, or white backgrounds, using a medium or large format camera, and allowing considerable space in the composition for extensive manipulation in the darkroom. My negatives are typically very simple and straightforward—they function almost like sketches.

The real magic happens in the darkroom where I combine the imagery with photograms and carefully crafted drawings. These manipulations create visual illusions that separate the image from photographic “reality.” The end result is a combination of fact and fiction, a metaphor for a psychological or emotional state.  

 

Can you talk a little about the reoccurring themes in your work?

The pictures in That Old Black and White Magic specifically relate traditional photography to the golden age of magic. The images play on photography’s ability to simultaneously delight and deceive through the incorporation of multiple camera and darkroom “tricks.” In this series I employ the most clichéd magic trick props to convey a sense of uneasiness and wonder.

These photographs are also, in part, an ode to the darkroom. For anyone who has ever marveled at an image “magically” appearing in the developer, this series recalls an era in photography that is disappearing into thin air.

 

What are your impressions of the ILFORD paper you selected to work with for this project?

I use ILFORD Warmtone Multigrade paper to make my silver prints in the darkroom. Many of the ILFORD ink jet papers have a similar ivory base color that complements my imagery quite well.  For a long time I felt that silver gelatin papers were superior to ink jet papers for black and white photography. In the past several years, however, I’ve been particularly impressed by the variety and quality of new ink jet papers that are available. 

Birdcage, 1998, Carol Golemboski

Birdcage, 1998, Carol Golemboski

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CSA Photographer: Christa Blackwood

We still have a few shares available for our 4th round CSA! We are publishing short interviews with the six featured photographers to get to know them and their work a bit better. This is Christa Blackwood!

Figures and landscape are prominent subjects in your photography. Tell us more about those themes and the juxtaposition between the two.

I am basically a visual culture junkie and fascinated with images and the power that they can hold over us. 

When I was a student in NYC, I worked for 7 years as a photographer at NYU's Institute of Fine Arts, the graduate school of art history, art conservation and archeology, and took pictures for all of the classes held at the institute. This was in the 90’s, everything was shot on rolls of Kodachrome, sent to a 4 hour processing lab, and then the slide film would be cut up into individual frames, mounted in archival glass mounts, labeled and classified.

In photography as well as painting, nudes and landscapes are two of the biggies in terms of subject matter and within these there is the hybrid-the figure in a landscape category. I shot thousands of images for the institute and noticed the repetitive theme of woman as subject for nudes in the nude category, in the figure in the landscape category, and as metaphor for landscapes. I am interested in responding to this practice that has codified much of what we see historically and still today in art, photography, media.

You use some unconventional materials and paper in your photography. How does that add to the final realization of your concept? 

Getting down and dirty with direct hands on processes/alternative/historical processes, our original layers, is always fun and challenging way to work for me. I am not a snob to technique and will use anything that is available to make an image that I feel is striking and unique. I have worked with  large format view cameras, Rolleis, 35mm film cameras, silver prints, digital prints, etched prints, silk screened prints, cyanotypes, platinum, palladium, cyanotypes, encaustic, collodion ... I find it exciting to combine some of these practices. It makes the work more playful and experimental for me. There is always something to discover and learn from-a new technique, a new tool, new materials. 

What was your impression of the ILFORD paper?

The sample pack of ILFORD Galerie Prestige papers made some very very impressive prints that replicated the look and feel of my alt process images. I was pretty blown away with the quality of the texture and the way the paper seemed to reflect light and duplicate the gold leaf surface quality of the gilded platinum prints on velum. KUDOS ILFORD.

some examples of Christa Blackwood's recent work

some examples of Christa Blackwood's recent work

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CSA Photographer: Nathan Pearce

In advance of launching our 4th round CSA (shares go on sale Monday, September 19), we are publishing short interviews with the six featured photographers to get to know them and their work a bit better. Next up is Nathan Pearce.

You are all about the Midwest. Tell us about that.

I was born and raised in the Midwest. I lived away for several years and came back to find a Midwest that was suddenly incredibly visually fascinating to me. I was seeing it in a way I never did when I was young. I have since photographed it extensively.

from Nathan Pearce's project, Midwest Dirt

from Nathan Pearce's project, Midwest Dirt

Making zines of your work (and in collaboration with other photographers) is an important part of your creative process. How does making a zine help you edit and evaluate your images?

from Nathan Pearce's project, Moving Mountains

from Nathan Pearce's project, Moving Mountains

Zines are a way to experiment and work out ideas for different projects. Printing the work helps me better understand it. Sometimes I make several edits of a project in different zines before discovering something I really love about the work. Collaborating with other photographers on zines (something I frequently do with Rachael Banks) is all about experimentation too. Working with someone else forces me to think about work in ways I never would myself, and the resulting zines are always interesting.  

What did you think of the ILFORD papers? (ILFORD has generously donated paper to each of the photographers to use for their CSA photographs.)

I was very pleasantly surprised with the ILFORD paper. I had never thought I would use something like the Textured Cotton Rag for my work, but I absolutely love the way my work looks printed on it. 

View more of Nathan's work here.

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CSA Photographer: Sandra Jordan

In advance of launching our 4th round CSA (shares go on sale Monday, September 19), we are publishing short interviews with the six featured photographers to get to know them and their work a bit better. This is Sandra Jordan!

Your work has traditionally been about solitude in remote locations, but lately you have been photographing in cities. What inspired you to explore similar themes in a much more chaotic place?

from Sandra Jordan's series, Hidden Places: London

from Sandra Jordan's series, Hidden Places: London

It started out because of logistics really - it’s not currently financially viable for me to constantly be traveling to the Arctic and I found that, when not traveling, my camera spent the majority of the time sitting in the cupboard.  I started taking my camera out with me when in London and, knowing that I am not a street photographer, began searching for something to shoot.  It was then that I started noticing all the varied architecture, particularly the more brutalist/modernist style. Something about them pulled me in, their almost human-like appearance consisting of repetitive shapes, details and units within units, they all had their own individuality.  I continue to be fascinated by them.

What inspires you to photograph?

A lot of my photography is based on gut reaction, I either like something instantly or I don’t, but overall I am drawn by the idea that I get the chance to document something that may never be the same again.  In this modern world where things are continually changing, I love that I am able to preserve a moment in time. The whole creative process, from initial research to the final print, is something that I find good for my soul.  

from Sandra Jordan's project, Hidden Places: London

from Sandra Jordan's project, Hidden Places: London

Photography also allows me to completely switch my mind off to any ‘chatter’ and just concentrate on the process at that time.  Nothing else does that for me, life is always busy and, at times, can be rather stressful, so it’s great to have that as a calming tool.  Whereas in my film job (which I left earlier this year to pursue photography full time) I had to think of countless things all at once, photography allows me to concentrate just on that one current moment.  

How was the ILFORD paper selection process for you? What are your impressions of their catalog of papers? (ILFORD has generously donated paper to each of the photographers to use for their CSA photographs.)

It has been great to have the opportunity to look at and experiment with the ILFORD papers that they sent me to try out. In my film days I used to use ILFORD film but since switching to digital, and being a bit of a creature of habit, I have been using the same paper for a while.  There are various papers within the ILFORD GALERIE Prestige range that I think would work really well with different images of mine.  On this occasion I chose Gold Fibre Gloss. I was really impressed with how the final print looked, I love the detail and tonality this paper has brought out in my image.

View more of Sandra's work here.

 

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CSA Photographer: Clay Lipsky

In advance of launching our 4th round CSA (shares go on sale Monday, September 19), we are publishing short interviews with the six featured photographers to get to know them and their work a bit better. Next up is Clay Lipsky.

You photograph a variety of subjects, ranging from straight street photography to more moody, emotionally charged imagery. What motivates you to photograph a particular subject in a particular way?

I often approach a photographic series as filmmaker, contemplating what creative decisions and techniques will help support the story and vision. Is it a drama or a comedy? Black & white or color? Raw or noir? Generally I try to embrace my subject's mood, define the protagonist and work it out from there. With photography, it is easy to document, but it takes more effort to cultivate a style/look and only include what needs to be featured. Additionally, like music, you want to be playing the right instrument for the song. Consequently, the biggest decision for me usually is photographic medium ( film, digital, polaroids...) as it sets the initial tone and defines what technical limitations you will be wrestling with.

Tell us more about the series In Dark Light (the series your CSA image will come from).

In Dark Light is a series of self portraits and landscapes inspired by my journey in life, but it also tells a tale that encompasses universal themes such as loss of home and parent, work, pursuit of beauty and perseverance under no religious compass. It is also a path seen through the prism of depression, imagined here as an internal mindscape, a personal purgatory mired in fog with colors muted and senses numbed. The varied surroundings serve as metaphor for life's many obstacles. The emotional discord and loss of identity is best exemplified by the anonymous urban journeyman, out of place & out of time, who traverses this shadowed plane alone. Beyond the horizon lies hope for brighter days, and so he carries on, albeit cast in dark light.

image from Clay Lipsky's project, In Dark Light

image from Clay Lipsky's project, In Dark Light

You selected the ILFORD Galerie Prestige Mono Silk paper. Had you used this paper previously? What has been your experience with it so far? (ILFORD has generously donated paper to each of the photographers to use for their CSA photographs.)

ILFORD's Galerie Prestige Mono Silk paper impressed me with its hefty weight and great tonal range. I have never used paper specifically designed for black and white printing before, but I enjoyed how the quality elevated it as physical object and reminded me of a traditional darkroom print. 

View more of Clay's work here.

 

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CSA Photographer: Rachael Banks

In advance of launching our 4th round CSA (shares go on sale Monday, September 19), we are publishing short interviews with the six featured photographers to get to know them and their work a bit better. First up is Rachael Banks.

 

Tell us about the flowers in your work.

I am interested in the parallel between my sentimental attachments to flowers and how/when they are used in specific social situations. I have early memories from my childhood of my dad planting (and assigning) specific flowers to me and my siblings. For example, when my brother was born my dad planted a rose bush and for me he always planted gerber daisies or snapdragons. On holidays and special occasions, I always bring my dad irises. I’ve collected flowers from personal moments, occasions, and events as a way to document my life as opposed to writing in a journal. Typically, flowers are purchased for celebratory, commemorative or decorative purposes, but also when asking for forgiveness. While I have saved flowers from these typical social/personal situations, I may also buy a dozen daisies in response to feelings of sadness, that I later store in a labeled jar or bag. The jar or bag becomes a physical representation of a memory or emotion and while it sometimes can appear to be a compulsive act, it is one that I find to be cathartic. 

I hope I remember how to stop this, Cincinnati, OH, 2016 by Rachael Banks, from the series I wrote you a letter I got you some flowers

I hope I remember how to stop this, Cincinnati, OH, 2016 by Rachael Banks, from the series I wrote you a letter I got you some flowers

Place is important in your photography. Even your Instagram posts list the city and state where the image was created. Why?

Place serves two functions for my work in that it represents my identity but also serves as a physical map for memory. I always cite what city and state I am in when I make an image so that I can collectively track how my geographic location relates (if at all) to trends in the work I am making. When I was living in Dallas, TX, I made a lot of work that reacted to my feelings towards not living in my hometown of Louisville, KY. However, now that I live in the midwest again, I am not under the same emotional and physical influences that I was motivated to make work about compared to a year ago. Place is significant in my work because it is frequently informed by how I react to existing within an environment.

How was the ILFORD paper selection process for you? What are your impressions of their catalog of papers? (ILFORD has generously donated paper to each of the photographers to use for their CSA photographs.)

I found the ILFORD paper selection process to be easy, because one of my favorite papers was part of the catalog. I’ve used the Smooth Pearl paper a few times and have always been pleased with the high print quality I get from printing my color portraits. My personal paper preferences have always gravitated towards luster or semi-gloss papers, and I was pleased to discover that Smooth Pearl is a versatile paper that exceeds professional standards without completely draining your wallet. Upon reviewing the entire inkjet paper catalog, I wasn’t surprised to see that ILFORD has and continues to deliver exceptional products that positively contribute to the fine art photography community.

View more of Rachael's work here.

Untitled, Cincinnati, OH, 2016 by Rachael Banks, from the series I wrote you a letter I got you some flowers

Untitled, Cincinnati, OH, 2016 by Rachael Banks, from the series I wrote you a letter I got you some flowers

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Collector Scoop: Carl Bedell

Collector Scoop is a blog series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we are excited to have a little chat with our very own board member Carl Bedell!

Carl has worked with various private museums and art institutions to develop young professional membership groups, including the Corcoran Museum of Art and the Phillips Collection. In 2015, Carl Co-Founded ACCADEMIA DC, a pending 501c3, that aims to build a new generation of benefactors for the arts by connecting emerging collectors with artists.

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art? Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

My introduction to art came in 1992 when my family moved to Germany for a military assignment.  If my weekends were not spent playing sports or in school activities, my parents had my brothers and I in the car traveling to see the wonders of Europe - often times that meant world-class museums. With that background, my appreciation for art developed and continued until I began collecting.

 In 2008, my mother and I traveled to Philadelphia to visit the Barnes Foundation (just prior to its relocation). That weekend happened to be Philadelphia's First Friday when the commercial art galleries were open late and the trompe l’oiel painter Adam Vinson had a solo show that I stumbled across. Adam’s show was the first time I saw artwork in a commercial setting that immediately spoke to me.  I stayed in touch with Adam sporadically for the next five years until I decided to jump into collecting. His Card Sharks was the first piece of fine art that I acquired and remains one of my favorites.

The first photograph in my collection is by Binh Danh. Binh has several pieces in the National Gallery of Art’s permanent collection and was included in their 2015 exhibition The Memory of Time. This exhibition was especially interesting to me because it was entirely of contemporary photographers - many of whom were relatively young. I visited the exhibition and left with a list of artists’ names that I took home to research. Binh was in that list and after several emails (he may tell you it was many more than several) we met during his visit to DC and shortly thereafter I committed to purchasing his Bridalveil Falls daguerreotype.

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

Discovering new artists is one of the most exciting aspects of collecting. Art shows, gallery visits and museums are obvious ways to identify new artists and I certainly have discovered many artists in that way – for example Adam Vinson and Binh Danh. But I also spend a significant amount of time researching artists online. Much of art in my collection is by artists that I have discovered in more proactive searches and then reached out to directly.

Facebook, Instagram and other online social media provides an incredible resource for identifying new artists.  Most artists now have some sort of online presence and the algorithms that the social media uses to “suggest” new content is pretty successful in identifying your preferences and suggesting new artists. I have discovered many artists this way, many of whom I have come to know personally and in some cases, acquired their works.  Heather Rooney is one such artist.  In 2013, Heather was producing photo-realistic portraits of World Cup stars and posting them online with a time-lapse video of the drawing. Her skill level is incredible – especially as a 22 year old self-taught artist. The video of Heather drawing the Winston Churchill portrait I purchased is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-dke8QaiJo.       

 Whenever I travel, I normally research and contact local artists and try to make a point to fit in at least one studio visit (in addition to the local museums and galleries). This adds a special memory to the trip and allows me to meet artists that are outside of the DC area. The first piece that came into my collection this way was a ceramic trompe l’oeil piece by Cathy Moberg, Good Fortune. Cathy works in Nashville and she allowed me to stop by her studio and see her works-in-progress. 

 Studio visits are important to me as a collector because it allows me to get to know the person and see the process that goes into creating the art. I normally come away from studio visits with a deeper understanding of what the artist was trying to convey and a greater appreciation for what the artist created. Some of my favorite studio visits have been to see the Baltimore based sculptor, Sebastian Martorana, the Washington DC based painter Trevor Young, and the New York based painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan.

Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

My advice to emerging or aspiring collectors is to jump in, collect what speaks to you and make it personal. For me, my collecting began with an appreciation for artistic craftsmanship. Adam Vinson’s trompe l’oeil works were so incredible to me that after five years, the memories of his first works I saw still stuck with me and led me to begin collecting.

My biggest regret in terms of collecting is that I did not start sooner. Before I began collecting, I believed that in order to acquire “good” art, I would have to spend a small fortune. The reality is that there is a lot of great art available at every price point.  Some of my favorite works in my collection were the least expensive.

My appreciation for the art in my collection is largely based on the stories behind the works. Nearly every piece of art in my collection has a personal story for me – a story about the art or about the artist. That personal connection makes the art more than an aesthetic addition to my home. It makes the collection a record of the stories and people in my life.

Artists Referenced:

Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

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Collector Scoop: Jessi Bowman

Collector Scoop is a blog series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we are happy to share a conversation with Jessi Bowman of Houston Center for Photography about how her collection got started.

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art? Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

My grandma is a mixed media artist and my aunt is a poet, so my family has always been very involved in the arts. My love for photography started out very early. When I was a kid I was constantly taking pictures. I had this Barbie toy camera, then I upgraded to disposables, then to a 35mm and finally to a DSLR. I eventually got my degree in Art History from the University of Houston and minored in photography.

I don’t ever remember consciously starting to collect, nor do I remember the first work that I bought, but I’ve always been a bit of a pack rat. I guess I started with McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and refined my taste from there!

The only thing I really remember was the excitement of supporting my friends or my family. To this day my grandma’s work still covers my walls. I do however remember the first “big girl” piece I collected, Untamed by Lori Vrba from Catherine Couturier gallery here in Houston… I am still paying it off.    

Lori Vrba, Untamed, from The Moth Wing Diaries

Lori Vrba, Untamed, from The Moth Wing Diaries

How do you think that collecting contributes to the artistic community?

Being a patron of someone’s work is almost more important than being an artist yourself. It’s kind of a tricky thing for artists to acknowledge sometimes. Obviously if you have the drive to create art you should do it no matter what and I think it’s crucial not to think about whether or not your art will sell while you’re making it, but I think people really underestimate how important it is for someone to buy your work. You can go on and on about art being for art’s sake, and that’s true, but art is a conversation between the person making it and the person experiencing it. If an artist doesn’t get anything in return, how are they supposed to keep making more? I don’t set a goal for myself, but I like to buy as often as I can. I have a list of artists that I would like to collect from and I’m kind of trying to go down that right now.

Has your affiliation with the Houston Center for Photography lead you to discover new artists that you have (or have considered) collecting from?

Oh all the time! There are tons of people whose work I’ve wanted nothing more than to put on my walls. I have been lucky enough to collect from a couple of people this last year, one of whom (Kristin Diemer) I purchased after sitting in on a review of her work.  

Tita Bowman (Jessi Bowman's grandmother), Untitled.

Tita Bowman (Jessi Bowman's grandmother), Untitled.

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

Funny enough, Instagram is one of my favorites. We get a lot of submissions to HCP which has brought many artists to my attention, but nothing beats falling down the rabbit hole of Instagram. I have collected at least four works from people I have found on Instagram.

From personal collection of Jessi Bowman

From personal collection of Jessi Bowman

Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason: collect what you like. Why spend the money on it if you aren’t going to hang it on your walls? Even if you’re buying for the monetary value, it’s hard to sell work to someone if you don’t like it yourself.

Also, don’t get discouraged and think you have to be rich to collect. There are so many talented artists in all different styles at all points in their careers whose work is affordable. I have never made much money. As an artist myself, I’ve worked out many trades and payment plans for my own work as well as for the purchase of other people’s. You don’t need as much money as you would think to collect.

Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

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Behold: Ken Abbott

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers and curators.

The first time Ken Abbott visited Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, North Carolina, was with his daughter on a preschool class trip. Abbott had recently moved to North Carolina from Colorado so his wife could complete her residency in family medicine. He had worked as a photographer back in Colorado for 15 years, but because his wife was working upward of 90 hours a week, he spent a lot of time with his daughter, which didn’t leave him much time to seek out photography projects. But something changed during that visit.

“I saw it as an opportunity to photograph a beautiful place,” he said. “And not just wandering around to look for pictures I really didn’t have time to do.”

You will find some extra Q&A below and can read the original Slate interview here.

Ken Abbott, the book Useful Work.

Ken Abbott, the book Useful Work.

How did the project evolve from a series into a book?
Very slowly!

Initially, I just saw photographing at the Big House at Hickory Nut Gap Farm (the former Sherrill’s Inn) as a fascinating and unusual opportunity. It was fascinating because of the history of the house and family, but also because of the evidence everywhere in the house of the depth and engagement of the lives lived there in the previous ninety years. It took me a while to know the stories and learn the history, but my sense of the extraordinary quality of that life, generally, was immediate, and I knew I wanted to get to the bottom of how it worked if I could.
 
A friend once remarked they thought the reason I liked photographing there was so I could hang out with the family in that beautiful place – just so I’d have a reason to be there. That’s not far from the truth. I never really thought of the pictures as a series. They were just a way of working out what it was that I was drawn to – this sense that I was seeing evidence of something important and true, as well as beautiful, and that I could photograph there.

The unusual aspect of the opportunity was how open the house was to me, a photographer. The tradition of the family over the previous fifty years or so was always to be welcoming, inclusive, and accessible. I love to tell the story of my first visit to photograph. I knocked and knocked but no one came to the door. When I’d finally made enough racket that they couldn’t ignore me any longer, John Ager, the owner, finally swung the door open and said, “Why are you knocking? Just come in!”  I told him I’d like to photograph inside of his house and he told me to help myself! No further questions.
 
Needless to say they had no concerns about presenting the house, rich in its evidence of their very busy lives, as anything other than what it was. People ask me, now that the book is out, whether the family likes the book. They do, and it is because, “I showed the house the way it was”, without pretense.
 
So I was amassing quite a stack of what I felt were good pictures, but as I said, they’d been made with very little thought as to what they could or should become. Eventually I realized that along with that stack I was building up a responsibility to share what I had gathered. The family’s generosity with my nosy photo making needed to be repaid. That was at least part of why it became a book. Of course, I’m of a generation of photographers to whom books are the most important way of sharing and completing work so it was a natural progression.
 
The decision to make a book, naturally created the need to formalize my approach to the work. I had to decide what my book would be – a coffee table, photo based biography of the family and history of the farm and its pre-history as Sherrill’s Inn; or an artist’s monograph. There were pictures I needed to make in order to do either of those things. If a biography and history I would need to make sure I had pictures of all the salient material and also a good command of the history. I pursued this idea – an illustrated history – for a year or so, during which I researched collections of historical pictures from the farm and the Farmers Federation (which started there) and videotaped interviews with members of the family and community. But I decided that the family really wasn’t interested in having a biographer; and also, and perhaps more importantly I discovered I wasn’t really interested in turning my pleasure of discovery there – making pictures primarily to please myself – into the chore of illustrating a certain history, regardless of how important that history might be.
 
So it became a monograph. This decided, my project needed focus, and so in thinking about the pictures that meant the most to me, I decided I was primarily attracted to the beauty of the house, which was the legacy of the family matriarch, really. Jim and Elizabeth McClure had bought the old inn in 1916 and transformed it into their family home. Elizabeth was a painter, and had been educated in France prior to World War I, in Giverney, where she and her classmates could walk into the field adjacent to their school and watch Claude Monet painting the haystacks. Jim, her husband, was a minister from a long and distinguished line of ministers, educated at Yale and Oxford. They both had a strong faith in the power they held to help others, and felt a duty to carry it out, which was a legacy of their time and upbringing. This faith led Jim to found the Farmers Federation, which was an important agricultural and educational cooperative in the region. Elizabeth, the artist, proclaimed her faith in beauty, which she believed was essential to human spiritual as well as material development. The house and gardens at Hickory Nut Gap Farm are her legacy, really.
 
Talk about your relationship to the publisher and that influence on the editing of the book?
 
My decision to self-publish came as a result of a long learning curve about what publishers do and don’t do for photographers. Unlike in a book of writing, costs for a photo book are very high per copy, so typically the photographer or someone other than the publisher has to come up with a large pile of money in order to print a book. I did establish a relationship with two publishers in the course of deciding to self-publish, and learned in a slow and frustrating way that for this book self-publishing was the best choice. Working with the two publishers (one after the other, not at the same time) ate up several years of time, and interestingly, during that period of time, self-publishing sort of came into its own in photography and elsewhere. Technology was responsible for a lot of that but also the particular issues relevant to photo books, stated previously – the cost, and who comes up with the money. Ultimately, for me it made no sense to provide $30,000 to a publisher who would edit and design my book (and to whom my editing and design choices would play second fiddle) and then when it came out would also own all but forty or so of the books. Instead, I was able to raise about $40,000, and hire my book packager and pick the press and pay them (and travel to Italy so I could be on press with the book), and own all 1,500 when it was done.
 
Though I was warned by the irritated publisher I fired that my book would be disrespected by the academic world because it was self-published, I felt that for my particular book and its audience that would make little difference (if it was true at all). For my pride a prestigious academic publisher would have been a feather in my cap, but it didn’t make any sense for the book otherwise, especially in distribution, which is frankly where many small publishers fail.
 
 Did you find the completion of the book to be a tidy end to the project?
 

Speaking of distribution, a “tidy end” is probably easier if you leave that up to others, but you might end up not getting as many of the books out there, and you pay a hefty percentage to them. We all want to believe that our books will sell like hotcakes. Mine has done pretty well, but I am not even half way through the print run and the pace of sales has slowed down pretty thoroughly now, just a year after its release, despite how successful the book and project have been in being recognized on blog sites and reviews and such, like this present opportunity. Turning that recognition into book sales is a trick, it seems. Maybe that’s because of who is looking at the sites – maybe people don’t want to collect books as much these days. For me books are still the ultimate form for photography though, and I love having photo books that were made to be held and appreciated as the finished product from an artist.

I’m traveling an exhibit of the project, too, and hope that will generate sales. I also sell books locally at farm related and arts related stores and events, when I can.
 
In terms of being an end to the project, yes, I think a book is a good way to end a project. You do need to move on and do new work, and though when I return to the farm these days to visit or restock my freezer with grass-fed beef and pastured pork I might see things I want to photograph, I usually don’t, unless I can feel the pictures will become part of more current work.

Ken Abbott, the book Useful Work.

Ken Abbott, the book Useful Work.

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FOCAL POINT Group Interview: Storytelling and the Photograph

This Focal Point Q3.16 features photographers Jennifer Garza-Cuen, Ole Marius Joergensen, and Nashalina Schrape. It's a pleasure to share a small chat with these talented artists about the driving forces behind the alluring imagery that is their photographic work.

Ole Marius Joergensen, Stormy Night, from the series Behind the Curtains

Ole Marius Joergensen, Stormy Night, from the series Behind the Curtains

Do you find that in the construction of your images that you are having to balance the roles of both director and photographer?
Ole: My background is from both film and photo. The way I work is very much like an director. I feel that my camera is just a tool I use to get out my ideas..if i was good with words I would probably be an writer..the same goes for painting. I love making stories so I look at myself as more of a story creator.
Jennifer: Yes, I do and I think both are required and equally important in my work.
There is the creation of a mood in order to tell a story and then there is the moment itself, which is more about being receptive to what is happening between myself and who or what I am photographing.
 

Jennifer Garza-Cuen, from the series Wandering in Place

Jennifer Garza-Cuen, from the series Wandering in Place

What amount of planning and preparation goes into making one of your photographs? Do you find that you work more intuitively?
Ole: My work flow is very much the same as movie making. It all starts with an idea, then location/set building, finding models ,shooting, post production. Everything has to be planned..but lately I have tried shooting without any preparation and it was quite liberating.
Nashalina: I start with a concept in my mind but rely on what an object, person, landscape, and/or light bring to the particular moment. This requires me to be very present and open to the process and final product.

Do you find your images to be autobiographical or fictional? To what degree does the use of symbolism and/or metaphor play a role in your work?
Jennifer: My work is based on my own set of experiences, and from memories that are shared culturally. Historic and cinematic memory as well as the personal play a roll in what I am looking for but I also find and create my images based on the places I am documenting. Strictly speaking, my images are fictionalized in that there is often a staging element but I see them more as reenactments.
Ole: My work is all fictional. I don't like to tell much about myself but my personality is present in the images together with things I like. I love mysteries and things that doesn’t have any answers. Love the feeling of not knowing and that is something I try to make my viewer feel
too. So my stories comes without a beginning and end. Hitchcock had a thing for what different colors meant and I adapted that into my images. I also use different props to amplify my characters
Nashalina: My images run a fine line between autobiographical and fictional in their
mood and tone. The symbolism and the metaphor lie in the lighting, the objects and composition. I crave a certain mystery and elusiveness in my images which allows the viewer to fill in some of their own story.

Nashalina Schrape, My mother's hands from berries that are used to make jelly. My mother continues to carry on the traditions of living close to the land, from the series Whispers in East Berlin

Nashalina Schrape, My mother's hands from berries that are used to make jelly. My mother continues to carry on the traditions of living close to the land, from the series Whispers in East Berlin

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Collector Scoop: Colony Little

Collector Scoop is a blog series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we are happy to share a conversation with Colony Little of Culture Shock Art about how her collection got started.

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art? Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

I created Culture Shock Art in 2010 as a passion project and a creative outlet from my career as an underwriter for an insurance company.  At the time I was drawn to street art I’d discover during my commute to downtown Los Angeles and I came across this incredible JR mural from his Wrinkles of the City series.  I had no idea who created the piece, so my quest to learn more about the artist/photographer led me to his TED Talk and I ended up writing about him on the blog.  JR’s career trajectory and the work he’s created to visually capture the stories of thousands of people around the world was fascinating to witness.  I ended up buying one of his early lithographs in 2011.  Since then I’ve collected art that is best described as eclectic.  My husband and I collect illustrations, graphic art, vinyl records (I love Blue Note covers), photography and low brow art. We have three pieces of art floating around here inspired by the show Arrested Development. I love them simply because they make me laugh!  

Image from personal collection of Colony Little (Left to Right) Graham Erwin, I am a Monster! 2012 ; Ralph Ziman, Mbara Bara, 2014

Image from personal collection of Colony Little
(Left to Right) Graham Erwin, I am a Monster! 2012 ; Ralph Ziman, Mbara Bara, 2014

How do you think that collecting contributes to the artistic community?

Patrons are the fuel that keep artistic communities running.  I’m inspired by creative collectives of artists, writers, designers, musicians and collectors that build synergies to support one another. During the past 5 years, L.A. has seen an artistic evolution taking place among creatives that drove the growth of the Arts District.  This in turn has resulted in a huge uptick in gallery openings there.  In my early years of writing and collecting I found the gallery system exclusive and limiting, but now those barriers to access are slowly disappearing as technology and media encourage galleries to create more open and (somewhat) democratic spaces for building communities.  Additionally, artist-run spaces are cultivating stronger bonds among artists, the community and future collectors. For example, I love what’s happening in Leimert Park--the Hammer Museum has partnered with artist Mark Bradford at Art + Practice and I’m also inspired by Michelle Papillion’s groundbreaking work at Papillion.   

Your career as an arts writer has allowed you the opportunity to discover many established and emerging artists. Has there been a situation where your career lead you to collecting art from a new artist or a similar experience?

When I worked in the insurance industry roughly 1/3 of the business my company produced came from high net worth individuals, and many of them were collectors of fine art.  This afforded me opportunities to interact with collectors, artists and galleries at fairs.  In the early years of Culture Shock Art I would use the blog to research and write about artists that I collected or wanted to collect.  Now that I’m writing exclusively, my wish list of art to collect has grown but my bank account hasn’t!  With that said, there is fantastic art that can be had at any price point. I’m amazed at the growth rate of art purchased on-line in the past few years.  Also, events like L.A.’s Incognito at the old Santa Monica Museum of Art (now known as the ICA and is moving downtown) are a good example of leveling the playing field between emerging and established collectors. 

Incognito was a fundraising event disguised as a fun artistic experiment--hundreds of works of art donated by emerging and well known artists were placed on display, each piece priced the same.  The catch was that the identity of the artist was hidden, so you could potentially walk away with an Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari or Catherine Opie if you were lucky.  At the end of the day there was no wrong choice because you were ideally basing your decision on instinct and love for the piece.  That’s how we came to own a work by Rena Small.  It is one of my favorite photographs because my husband chose it and he was not familiar with her work at all.  Years later we were at the Norton Simon museum and he came across one of her photos of Basquiatthat was part of her “Artists Hands” series in 1985.  Moments of serendipity lead us to beautiful discoveries!

Rena Small, Untitled, 2012

Rena Small, Untitled, 2012

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

Hands down Instagram! You can find me @cultureshockart

It has been an amazing platform to virtually interact with artists while getting a behind the scenes look into their lives and their process.  Many of the relationships I’ve cultivated through Instagram have turned into friendships and great collaborations.  Years later I'm still obsessed with Instagram because it is a convergence of all the things I love (art, coffee, handbags, records, photography and dogs). To satisfy my wanderlust, I’ll follow someone like photographer Rick Poon and for creative inspiration I love fashion designers like Duro Olowu and Reuben Reul.  Kim Drew @museummammy curates amazing work by black artists on her blog Black Contemporary Art.  My queen of kawai is Hana Kim @supahcute who introduced me to some amazing work by Martin Hsu (@martinhsuart) and for a shot of pure colorful joy, I love the photography of Kimberly Genevieve (@kimgenevieve).  Another great resource for collectors is One Art Nation.  They have a very informative video series on topics ranging from the art market to protecting your collection.  

Yoichi Kawamura, Untitled, 2012

Yoichi Kawamura, Untitled, 2012

Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

Collectors are largely driven by status, investment or love for the art.  Always stick with love and your instincts! One of the goals of my blog is to make art accessible for my readers because many close friends and family struggle with contemporary art and feel that it is intimidating.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Whether I’m in a museum, gallery, art fair or a studio I don’t try to make sense of everything I see.  I simply trust my gut and ask questions.  What are you drawn to?  What does the piece remind you of?  Does the work make you happy, sad, angry, confused? Allow yourself to go with those simple questions and keep asking why.  If I find myself thinking about a piece days after I’ve seen it, I know I am onto an artist or work that I want to learn about and explore more deeply.   

Learn more about Colony Little and Culture Shock Art
Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

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Behold: Ruben Natal-San Miguel

In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers and curators.

Ruben Natal-San Miguel might be one of the hardest working people out there. The trained architect turned to photography after the September 11 attacks in New York City. “The world became more of the moment,” Natal-San Miguel said to Slate in a 2013 story. “Photography became a passion to collect as an art media and for me (a medium) to communicate all the activities, the costumes and traditions of everyday life.” Using mostly a bicycle to get around his beloved New York City, Natal-San Miguel’s photographs of the people he encounters are intimate, sometimes alluring, other times provocative, and always overflowing with emotion. He has also curated a number of shots including the current one on view at Station Independent Projects in New York titled “WE:AMEricans” that asks (and answers) the question: what does it mean to be an American? We caught up with Natal-San Miguel before he left for Boston and the Griffin Museum; he has work included in The Peter Urban Legacy Exhibition.

You will find some extra Q&A below and can read the original Slate interview here.

Ruben Natal-San Miguel, AMEricano (selfie), 2013, Rockaway, Queens. Image Source: Slate

Ruben Natal-San Miguel, AMEricano (selfie), 2013, Rockaway, Queens. Image Source: Slate

You work as both a photographer and a curator. Talk a bit about wearing both hats.
 
It can be quite challenging. The amount of time that you spend curating takes away from working on your personal work, which, it is sort of taking off. It is a tough act to balance but, there is a great learning curve that can be applied to your own personal work while curating.

I am fortunate enough that every single curated show I have been the creative director of so, it gives me the freedom to create the concept theme, select the works, and create installations with it .
 
What do you feel are some of the major changes in the art world these days?
 
I think that artists need to be very careful in selecting from the opportunities listed out there. There are a ton of competitions, call for entries etc, etc out there now (which it is a positive thing) but, most of then have turn into fundraising events for institutions which are considered non-profit. Yet, the artists are subjected to spending tons of money just enter and and participate with no guarantees. I only charged $25.00 per five entry photos, kept the exhibition's print size small (so printing and framing will be affordable and more accessible) and even referred a very affordable master printer to keep costs down for artists. To print, frame and ship a print with return label (besides entry andorganization membership fees) can be extremely expensive for most artists. Something needs to be done about it.

The art dealers and galleries are at times more conservative and afraid to take chances on new work, so when I curate exhibitions, I try to bring and combine selected new work with more established big names. In doing this, the dialogue between both has a great learning curve and more impact. It also inspires and motivates newer talent to do their best to have great image quality on the wall. The established artists benefit also because they tend to resonate well with the press, fan following/audience, reviews and any type of show coverage. It is a Win -Win.
 
How would you like to change things in the art world?

It is very important to give a voice to new talent.
                                     Hope Will Never Be Silent.
                                                            -Harvey Milk
 
You are a prolific photographer. How has your work evolved over the years and where do you want to take it?
 
After more than a decade photographing the five Boroughs of NYC non-stop, I am approaching communities in nearby states to see how they mirror each other in terms of gentrification, street life, and sense of community.

The good news is that my work is reaching and getting museum attention. I am currently on display at the Alice Austen Museum on their First Triennial of Photography , The Griffin Museum of Photography, The African American Museum of Philadelphia ( 10/1/16-1/30/17)  and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I also just recently just taught a photo seminar based on the Rashaad Newsome exhibition at the Studio Museum of Harlem where the work was shot live and displayed.

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While You Were Out: Keeping up with .LDOC

It's been an exciting summer so far for Crusade for Art with the unveiling of our newest Engagement Grant recipient and the recent success of former winners. We decided to check in with 2015 Crusade Engagement winners Danielle and Joseph Wilcox to get caught up with the current happenings of their program LDOC.

LDOC boc, Chicago, IL. Image Source: LDOC Blog

LDOC boc, Chicago, IL. Image Source: LDOC Blog

Since its inception and winning of last year's Crusade for Art Engagement Grant, LDOC has received a variety of recognition in various forms, as well as flourished as a platform for artists and writers to publish work for an audience outside of their typical circles. We have printed and distributed ten issues featuring twenty different individuals who have also received opportunities as a result of LDOC, including representation contacts, additional features of their work, and collaboration opportunities. In addition to our print version of LDOC, we publish each issue on the Issuu website which has already received hundreds of views.
Image Source: LDOC Facebook Page

Image Source: LDOC Facebook Page

Our main goal when starting LDOC was to get photography and writing into the hands of Chicagoans who might not typically encounter either on their daily commute. This we have overwhelmingly accomplished. With the help of our LDOC newspaper boxes, and the volunteership of our photographers and writers through person-to-person distribution, LDOC has made its way into new homes and unexpected hands.
It has been a rewarding experience seeing the excited faces of commuters who have become regular readers of LDOC and hearing stories of success from our contributors. We look forward to the continued collaboration with artists and the evolution of LDOC as a publication and organization, and we are grateful to Crusade for Art for their financial support and confidence in the project.

- Joseph and Danielle Wilcox

Learn more about LDOC at their website
Follow LDOC on Instagram
Follow LDOC on Twitter
Like LDOC on Facebook

 

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Collector Scoop: Tytia Habing

Collector Scoop is a blog series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we are happy to share a conversation with photographer Tytia Habing about how her art collection got started.

Angela Bacon-Kidwell, be still they will rise, from Home by Nightfall in Tytia Habing's personal collection

Angela Bacon-Kidwell, be still they will rise, from Home by Nightfall in Tytia Habing's personal collection

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art?

I grew up in the Midwest, southern Illinois to be exact, on a family farm. My parents grow corn, beans, wheat and raise cattle. I spent my days immersed in nature, wandering on my parents acreage. Art was always interesting to me and was always my favorite subject in school.

Not only is my mom naturally artistic, so was my grandmother and my great aunts, so loving art came natural to me. While I loved being artistic, I never had any knowledge of famous artists or knew anything about the art world.

I ended up graduated with degrees in both horticulture and landscape architecture, but life had a different path for me. After taking a darkroom photography course to fill an elective in my last year at university, I was completely and utterly smitten with photography. I had finally found my calling. Naturally, because of my love for photography I collect mostly photographic artwork, but I also collect many other types of artwork, whether it be painting, pottery, sculpture or any number of other types. Collecting wasn’t something I ever ‘got into,’ it was always part of my life even when I was quite young. We would go to art fairs and I would pick up little inexpensive pieces that I was drawn to and I still do that. I don’t care if an artist is known, if I like the piece and I can afford it, I’ll buy it.

Heather Evans Smith, Collide, from The Heart and the Heavy in Tytia Habing's personal collection

Heather Evans Smith, Collide, from The Heart and the Heavy in Tytia Habing's personal collection

Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

I’ve collected artwork my whole life and I can’t say I remember the first piece I bought. The first pieces that I can remember vividly were all purchased around the same time. I was working in the Cayman Islands for many years and I had some extra money, so I decided I wanted to buy some artwork that I normally couldn’t have afforded. I bought an Eddie Soloway print, a large painting by surf artist Shannon McIntyre, and a print by Joyce Tenneson from her Light Warriors series. To say I was overjoyed with these purchases is an understatement. I adored them and enjoyed looking at them on my walls every single day. Unfortunately, a few years after I acquired them, we had a house fire and we lost everything. Those pieces of artwork along with my wedding video are the only things I still think about losing. Everything else was replaceable. 

How do you think that collecting contributes to the artistic community?

I love to toot other artist’s horns! It gets tiresome constantly marketing my own artwork and if I find a photographer or other artist that I like, I’ll post about them. Every time I acquire a new piece, I try and post or talk about it somehow. I don’t do it to brag, I do it to promote the artist’s work and hopefully introduce someone else to them. Artists need to eat and pay their bills just like everyone else and I love being able to help in any manner I can. 

From Tytia Habing's personal print collection: (left to right) Angela Bacon-Kidwell, Aline Smithson, Ben Huff, Kurt Simonson, John Brinton Hogan, Unknown, Maryanne Gobble, S Gayle Stevens, Unknown, Elizabeth Ellenwood, Angela Bacon-Kidwell

From Tytia Habing's personal print collection: (left to right) Angela Bacon-Kidwell, Aline Smithson, Ben Huff, Kurt Simonson, John Brinton Hogan, Unknown, Maryanne Gobble, S Gayle Stevens, Unknown, Elizabeth Ellenwood, Angela Bacon-Kidwell

As a working photographer, do you find yourself having a juggle a balance between collecting art and marketing your own work? 

Not at all. Like I said above, I genuinely enjoy promoting others any time I can. There’s a plethora of talented artists out there and I believe there’s room for everyone to succeed. I think the photography community is wonderful about promoting each other. I’ve had so many people go out of their way to help me get my work in front of new eyes and I like to do the same. 

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

My favorite is Lenscratch. I’ve discovered so many artists through Aline’s creation. I find a lot of artists through Facebook too and I’m just now getting into Instagram. Yeah, I know, I’m kind of behind the times. I’ve also purchased two of Crusade for Art CSA offerings and I couldn’t be happier with them! 

Emma Kisiel, Toxostoma Rufum 2, from Cher Ami in Tytia Habing's personal collection

Emma Kisiel, Toxostoma Rufum 2, from Cher Ami in Tytia Habing's personal collection

 Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

The only advice I can give is to buy what you like. Buy what calls to you and makes you happy. You don’t have to be wealthy or know art history. Anyone can be a collector. Not only do I purchase artwork, but I also do exchanges with other photographers. I’m not a wealthy person and I’ve amassed quite a nice little collection of prints and other artwork I love. 

Learn more about Tytia Habing

Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

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Collector Scoop: Joshua Farr

Collector Scoop is a series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we had a conversation with Vermont Center for Photography gallery director Joshua Farr about how he got into collecting art.

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art? Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

I feel almost as though I've sort of stumbled into collecting photographs. You could say it's a side-effect of my job!

Backing up a little bit... I attended the NH Institute of Art for my BFA in Photography, graduating in 2011. My time there certainly helped build a foundation of understanding of both the technical aspects of photography as well as my exposure to many historic and contemporary artists. Since 2011, I have been working as the Gallery Director at the Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro, VT. The last 5 years of working at VCP has really exposed me to a whole new world of arts management and curatorial endeavors. The process of jurying exhibitions and seeking new work for our gallery walls each month inevitably exposes me to a diverse array of work.

I can't recall which was the first piece I actually bought, but perhaps the one piece which most inspired me to start actively collecting work is a large portrait given to me by photographer Siri Kaur of a young female wrestler titled "Kristie". (*Photo attached*) This piece holds both a stunning glow of color, creating such a technically beautiful print, as well as a beautiful capture of her subject. The combination of the color, the subjects stark expression, and the simplicity of composition triggered an emotional response in me.

 

Siri Kaur, Kristie, 2007

Siri Kaur, Kristie, 2007

How do you think that collecting contributes to the artistic community?

Collecting artwork seems to me to be a win-win scenario on many levels. When an individual walks into a gallery and decides to purchase a piece they want to take home with them, they are not only supporting the artist financially, they are also supporting the gallery or institution that is hosting the exhibition (which, one would hope, would then support said gallery's ongoing efforts of sharing additional fine works in the future) - and of course, the buyer is also benefiting via a beautiful new piece to add to their home or place of business.

I happen to live in a town with boundless enthusiasm for the arts - which is crucial - but I often see artists struggle because I feel like there is not enough of a buyer-population. I often find myself grappling with the general principles of how many artists price their work simply because I see the time, energy, materials and thought put into the creation of ones work, which can give merit to some of the prices you see work listed at today - however, I feel like it is important for artwork to be accessible by individuals of all financial abilities and for the arts market to not become an elitist or exclusive community.

Do you feel that the notion of collecting art can be intimidating or inaccessible to the general public? If so, how do you think that barrier can be lowered?

As I mentioned in my previous response, I do feel like collecting artwork frequently comes across as intimidating or inaccessible to the general public! Particularly for younger individuals who many not have the means to walk into a gallery and buy a piece off the wall. I'm not sure I have any immediate suggestions or thoughts as to how to actively seek to lower that barrier, but I will say that the majority of folks I have chatted with or spent time with who consider themselves to be collectors have simply decided to make collecting a priority for themselves. I feel like many things as far as our day to day lifestyle and financial abilities come down to priorities. Would you rather purchase a $5 latte every morning for a year, or that that nearly $2000/yr and invest it in artwork? With that said, I do realize that no matter what your priorities are, there are still going to be financial limitations for some of us, myself included. I feel like this is where creative trade & bartering skills can come into play! I've done numerous print swaps with professors, friends, and other artists whose work I admire and I feel like this can be a very non-intimidating approach to getting the ball rolling. You don't (and shouldn't) need to be wealthy to be a collector.

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

I would have to say that one of my largest sources of exposure to new artists has been the juried exhibitions we have hosted at the Vermont Center for Photography. Often times, these calls for entry bring together hundreds of photographers from around the globe, each submitting a sampling of their work for consideration for the exhibit - and even if their work is not selected overall for the show, I do keep a running list of photographers whose work I've come across who I would like to follow up with at some point in the future or at least make mental note to keep tabs on their work. I have been known to find myself tumbling through artists websites after seeing a sampling of their work as a submission for a juried show and wanting to see more. Invariably, their sites have links to other friends sites, and I very quickly get sucked deep into the corners of the world-wide web!

In addition to juried shows, there's always social media (Facebook & Instagram primarily). We are living in an increasingly digital era and it's nearly impossible for me to scroll 3'' through my Facebook or Instagram feed without stumbling upon either a new artist who I wasn't previously familiar with, or new work by someone whom I was already familiar with.

Joshua Farr's home - image provided by Joshua Farr

Joshua Farr's home - image provided by Joshua Farr

Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

I would simply encourage any aspiring collectors to collect what they love. Collect work that moves you emotionally. I can't always explain what it is about every single piece that I own that keeps me coming back to it, but I know that every single piece that I own has triggered some level of raw emotional response from me. Personally, I never acquire or hold onto work because of it's monetary value (or potential future value) - doing so would feel too removed for me - removed from the beauty of the image as simply that...an image - or idea, rather than as an object or possession.

Learn more about Joshua Farr and the Vermont Center for Photography.

Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

 

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Pittsburgh Baby Day: A Conversation with Matthew Conboy of Start with Art

Since receiving the 2014 Crusade for Art Engagement Grant, it would be safe to say that Matthew Conboy and his proposal Start with Art has been both successful and embraced by the city of Pittsburgh,PA. Just this week, the mayor of Pittsburgh declared July 5th the official Start with Art: Pittsburgh Baby Day. Upon hearing this exciting news, we decided to check in and have a small chat with Matthew about his present success and what the future has to hold.

What gave you the idea for the proclamation for the Start with Art: Pittsburgh Baby Day? Was extensive was this process?

I’ve had several friends who work with nonprofits or have done projects around the city be recognized with proclamations from the city. However, that wasn’t my original intention. I really just wanted to make sure that the Community Affairs representative for the city was aware of what I was working on. In addition, I was hoping that Mayor Bill Peduto could write a letter of support for Start with Art that I could then include in grant and funding applications.

As far as the process was concerned, I submitted a form online detailing Start with Art’s goals and accomplishments including the 5,000th baby who will receive a print this July.  Thankfully, I was not responsible for deciding where all of the “therefores” and “wherases.”

How has Start with Art grown since you received the Crusade for Art Engagement grant in 2014?

We’re in our second year and although we are still just working with the three original hospitals (UPMC Mercy, St. Clair, and The Midwife Center), I have helped enlarge the program behind the scenes. I now employ a poet to compose written descriptions of each month’s artwork. These descriptions are then posted online for the benefit of individuals with vision impairments. By the end of this summer, the descriptions will be recorded and audio files will be available on the Start with Art website. Second, and more importantly, I have increased the honorariums that each artist receives. As a practicing artist myself, I felt very strongly about compensating the artists for their time.

With the continual growing success of Start with Art, what are some long-term goals that you have for the future?

I have several long-term goals for Start with Art. First, I want to ensure that we have sufficient funds to allow for the continuation of the program. For 2016, I am paying for the program from my personal savings but that will not be a sustainable source of funding for the future. I have several foundations, which I will approach, and that work will keep me busy for the rest of the summer. In addition to grants, I am also looking at earned income from the sale of individual prints or portfolios on the website.

The other big, and very important, goal is to include the other two hospitals in the city that have maternity wards. Combined, these two hospitals would add 14,000 babies to the current number of 3,300. That is quite a dramatic jump, but it is manageable, particularly if I am able to treat this like a full-time job. It would also be made slightly easier by a recent gift from Epson’s Focused Giving Program of a new P800 printer. With features that are not on my current printer, the P800 would create savings for both paper and ink.

How do you think that art collecting (at such an early age!) has had a positive impact on the city of Pittsburgh?

I realize it is still too soon to tell what type of impact the art has had on these 5,000 children and their families, but I can tell you about how it’s had an impact on the artists. Every month, these artists find themselves with almost 275 new collectors. When you include the families, extended families, friends, and neighbors who could see this work, the number grows exponentially.

Just a couple of months ago, a mother who had a baby the previous year wrote to thank me for that gift and to let me know they were going to continue the tradition of buying art for the daughter for each of her birthdays. I let her know that the particular artist they collected (Kara Skylling) was actually having an opening that weekend. I also told her how much it would mean to Kara to hear what this gift meant to this family. Several days later, Kara wrote to tell me that not only did the family show up to her opening, they actually commissioned her to create a unique piece of art just for their daughter. Here was a family that may never have thought of collecting art, but by receiving one of 270 prints from Kara, they actually decided to invest in a local artist. Several other artists have written to tell me that friends of theirs have been gifted their print which goes to show how small the world can be sometimes.

Finally, my vision is to not only see Pittsburgh as a City of Champions, it’s to see it as a City of Culture. It really just comes down to reminding the residents of Pittsburgh of our wealth of museums, galleries, and art schools. Hopefully this gift of art will provide that spark to remind all of us to take time to recognize and appreciate the art that already surrounds us.

You can learn more about Start with Art by visiting their website here or you can follow them on Facebook!

 

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: Libraries and Visual Literacy: Ryan Spencer Reed

Libraries and Visual Literacy is proposed by Ryan Spencer Reed

How did you hear about the grant, and what inspired you to propose this specific project for the Crusade for Art grant?

I’ve followed the Crusade for Art project, the grants, and other programing with keen interest for several years now and believe I first learned of it through my good friend and colleague, Christopher Capozziello.  I appreciate and admire the elegant simplicity in the approaches taken by the founders in connecting with audiences.  I’ve found that, often, it is really about digging in and getting out there to connect with people and this seems to rest at the core ethos of Crusade for Art.  This is at the heart of my project proposal as well; I’ve completed a thoughtful body of work: (click here) with unique access to an interesting, important, and timely subject.  With that work, I’ve produced both a museum-grade exhibition and an approachable publication to introduce the work.  All that remains is to connect with an audience that will provide a sustainable base of support for the future.  A collaboration with Crusade for Art would afford me an opportunity to refine my approach while providing the means to put it to work.

How did you come up with the idea for your project?

I’ve always sought to show my work with venues that could maximize the educational opportunities inherent in the subjects on which I’ve chosen to focus.  Recently, however, I had successes in applying my previous university symposium model to a few cities (non-academic communities).  Following the publication of my zines on my last completed project, the question of where to position them to reach the most people with the work in a meaningful way was born.  That question was answered for me this past year during a collaboration with the city of Waukegan, IL in which their public library served as the epicenter of a series of events around a unified theme and my work on the military became the cultural backdrop.  Since many communities have libraries that are looking for events to bring people through the door in the digital era, the concept of using my zines to catalyze the conversation about how their communities could utilize my work became apparent.  Whether through lectures, workshops, or exhibitions, I’m willing to apply a voracious work ethic to my projects and their distribution models.  Therefore, the tried and true ‘door-to-door salesperson’ model is absolutely within my reach and suits the necessity to make personal connections with people in various communities who can provide a bridge for the work to be showcased, engaged with, and collected.        

What is the most engaging art event/collecting event you’ve been to?

ArtPrize, coming up on its 7th year in Grand Rapids, MI, is a radically open arts competition where over $500,000 is awarded annually and where the public plays a large role in vote for the winners.  My last entry in 2014 at the Grand Rapids Art Museum was seen by over 200,000 people and I had the opportunity to sell hundreds of zines to new ‘collectors’ during the 19-day competition along with a number of prints.  In past years I was able to sell books and prints as well.  While photographic work of any kind does not perform well in the competition, is a unique opportunity to show to a massive audience and discover new collectors.  
 
From a strictly photographic event standpoint, for me it would have to be anytime I have seen a great body of work shown by professional museums or galleries.  Robert Frank’s Americans at the National Gallery of Art in D.C., the work of Lee Friedlander purchase by MOMA, Salgado's work on people who work with their hands, or Larry Towell's work on Mennonites.  I say this not only because of the respective bodies of work but for the time, process, and dedication to an idea that was followed by them to produce such a complete body of work on a subject for which they cared so much.  One also has to be aware of the sacrifices made to put such bodies of work together; the sheer depth of the work; the quiet nature of the work with little regard to the distribution while in the process of bringing it together.  Luc Delahaye's work on Russia depicted in Winterreise is another example which comes to mind.  

Distribution or recognition or remuneration was likely never the goal of any of these works.  It was the pursuit of the experience and the knowledge that propelled such work. Gilles Perez's work in Iran in 1979, Joseph Koudelka's work in Gypsies, Eugene Smith’s work from Minamata, Anthony Suau’s work in Beyond the Fall - all are works that were the result of a focused mind, great vision and clarity of voice in their production.  Well thought out and clearly executed work will never go out of style as these are the kinds of work that separate great and thoughtful photographers; applying their craft without regard for the marketplace.  Therefore the investment in time and resources to insure such a dignified viewing experience raises the stature of that kind of work.

What do you think is the greatest struggle/weakness facing artists and the art community right now? What is the greatest opportunity/strength?

It’s my opinion that the greatest struggle for the artist is, as it’s always been, to find one’s own voice amidst the madness of the modernizing world.  Then, if an artist discovers their voice, to pursue it and maintain it today amidst the pressures of a society that seems barely to honor those who work with their hands.  The evidence comes in the form of the dwindling tradition of patronage which is also the great struggle of the art community.  The greatest weakness for the artist is discipline, to which the medium of photography is particularly susceptible due to its reliance on technology which continues to ‘improve’.  The art community is weak in its ability to offer the kind of support necessary to develop the voices of those emerging photographers who show promise and then sustain them.  The greatest opportunity for the photographer is to have a life full of incredible experiences and to meet incredible people along the way; for most to be forever changed by allowing curiosity to direct their path will be the only tangible reward they will ever receive.  The result of following that path is also the great opportunity for the art community.      

How do you think artists should play a role in educating the public or their audience about their art or art in general?

This begs the question as to whose job it was to "educate" in the first place and whose it is today. In my view (although we do it in one form or another all the time) it is not the job of the photographer to educate.  The production of great work requires focus and research in depth of the material being collected.  Rarely are we so fortunate to be presented an audience that views, understands, and is "educated" on a subject that we have spent great deal of time producing.  In it's purest form - the acceptance or rejection or education of (for the purpose of convincing) an audience is the last thing the creator of a body of work wants to be involved.  More often than not, the material was never made for the "audience", necessarily.  Some of the best work was made seemingly because of a desire on the part of the artist to experience the subject in depth or because he or she felt they had little choice but to the pursuit of the subject.  And while this intimacy causes a storyteller to wish for greater exposure for the communities covered, along with the issues those communities face, they are rarely the best suited to play that role.

Until recently, it has always been the role of the museum, magazine, or galley to bring the work to the public.  It was the reputation of those institutions over time with a "voice" of their own on the taste of an editor or curator that convinced and educated the public to the point of view of any particular artists' work being worth seeing.  Again we find ourselves faced with the question of what happened to them...Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post...where are they now in the mix?  In many but certainly not all occasions, gone is the back and forth and face to face conversations with those who contributed to the voice of an artist being developed because of an underlying talent that was recognized by an educated, experienced layer between the artist and the audience.  

So, is it really down to the fact that the artist is responsible for the concept of the material, the creation of the material, the production of the material, occasionally educating the curator or editor before taking on the role trying to educate the public too?  It may be a requirement in the digital age and perhaps there are legitimate opportunities to build a market online, but the photographer still needs to be afforded the space, time, and support to make thoughtful pictures; that’s a pretty tall order for most.  Learning my own limitations is why I’ve sought to collaborate with educational institutions such as schools, universities, and now libraries.  Working in concert with educational professionals to place my work into the context of their communities and their curriculum has helped people connect with my pictures in meaningful ways.  It’s also allowed me to replicate my own efforts for outreach.         


Why do you think many people find art intimidating, and how can we lower the perceptual barriers to entry for collecting art (and specifically photography)?

I think that people find anything that they don't necessarily understand somewhat intimidating.  Photography has always been a technical medium from the devices to the chemistry of analogue processes, which has, until late, prevented it from being a universally shared experience the way that drawing and painting are.  Many children have the opportunity to draw and paint growing up, yet few become working artists as adults.  I would venture to say the majority of adults would likely come down of the side of admitting they couldn’t draw to save their lives, but yet this shared tactile childhood memory leaves a trace latent appreciation for art and design - forever a means to communicate universally, if only awkwardly, in the way that two foreigners might be forced to rely on body language for the first time to communicate.  As technology has lowered the bar to entry for the medium of photography, the medium is becoming increasingly democratized.

I, for one, believe the barriers to collecting photography are also lowered as a function of this process because a greater portion of humanity is creating, sharing, and consuming images more than ever.  This trend is growing exponentially and will for the foreseeable future.  This broader participation is likely yielding a broader literacy of the image and hopefully an appreciation for quality work.  I predict this will usher in an exponential growth in the collector base of the medium of photography as a much larger share of humanity becomes involved in the making of images, even if they are created and consumed on a mobile device.  I have this faith because I sense there exists some innate human yearning that drives us to fight back against entropy and the fleeting nature of our bodies and our lives; that of all living things; that this forces compels us to strive for permanence, which will lead to a vast expansion of the market for photographic books and prints is in our near future.

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: Operation Art: Connecting the Military Community

Operation Art: Connecting the Military Community is proposed by Stephanie Shively

How did you hear about the grant, and what inspired you to propose this specific project for the Crusade for Art grant?

I first became aware of Crusade for Art through Society for Photographic Education. The website and past submissions motivated me to submit a proposal for the Crusade Engagement Grant. I was particularly inspired by the language - “…to create unique approachable programs that bring new audiences to photography and allow them to engage with art in a meaningful way.” As a military spouse of five years and an artist for most of my life, I have noticed the need and potential demand for art within the military community. Military installations, particularly army bases, are often located in remote areas where hubs of art and culture are not readily accessible. The military lifestyle can be isolating, frustrating, and stressful at times. I have found that creating and viewing art related to this experience can be therapeutic and cathartic.

How did you come up with the idea for your project?

I developed the concept for Operation Art from the isolation I’ve experienced as both an army wife and an artist. I felt caught between two very different and disconnected worlds. My MFA thesis exhibition, All Requisite Parts, explored this experience and communicated my struggle to balance the roles and expectations of a mother, army wife, and artist. Through showing this work, I learned that even though military life is relatively unfamiliar to most people, it is not completely beyond comprehension. Universal feelings and sentiments connect us all, regardless of occupation or lifestyle. I hope that by bringing photographic art that explores the human condition onto military bases, a connection will be fostered between visual artists, the military community, and the general public.  

How do you think artists should play a role in educating the public or their audience about their art or art in general?

I think education about art is extremely important. Intention, detail, and the overall experience of art is lost in translation when solely viewed on a computer screen. It is our responsibility as artists to share our work and explain why and how we make it. We must bring our art and information about art to communities who would benefit from it. Whether it is a workshop or class, open studio event, panel discussion, lecture, anything, to engage the community, cultivate connections and spread awareness.  

Why do you think many people find art intimidating, and how can we lower the perceptual barriers to entry for collecting art (and specifically photography)?

Things that are unfamiliar are often intimidating. I think many people find art intimidating because it may not be readily accessible to them. Perhaps they feel ill-equipped to judge or understand something that is uncommon to them. I think transparency and education are key in lowering the perceptual barriers of art collection. Having a website, marketing oneself online, and exhibiting at galleries and traditional venues is great, but to broaden our audience and gain potential collectors we need to think past the norm. Art is still shrouded in mystery, especially for people who are very much removed from the art world. Programming in non traditional venues like schools, community centers, military bases, rehabilitation centers, etc. would deconstruct barriers. The programming, such as artist talks, panel discussions, and workshops could focus on development of ideas, the process of art making, and the role and responsibility of art/artists. These events could foster personal connection, enabling art collection to become more of a transaction and interaction between artist and audience rather than the exclusive, pressure filled environments of auctions or gallery openings. 

Like this idea? Vote here for your favorite and the winner receives $1,000!

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: Nomadic Bookshelf

Nomadic Bookshelf is proposed by Caitie Moore

How did you come up with the idea for your project?

Nomadic Bookshelf was founded two years ago after a dinner conversation with Greer Muldowney and Paula Tognarelli. I had just stepped down from a role in a publishing companyand needed a new project. With the renewed interest and dialogue around the book, I started to wonder why we as a creative community weren’t also discussing the antiquated bookstore format. (Gotta have someplace to sell your books once you make em!) Nomadic Bookshelf is my response to the changing market. Rather than waiting for customers to come into a fixed location, Nomadic Bookshelf is more nimble and can seek out new customers. In general it’s challenging to sell artwork by an unknown artist to a new crowd. Knowing that it was easier to sell books in person, I chose to make the store nomadic. The thought was to bring books to new communities and encourage folks to interact and flip through them. I could then talk to my customers about the book, or artist, or process and project, and effectively sell more books simply by connecting my customers to the products. The shop instantly makes collectors out of folks who may have never considered collected art before.

What is the most engaging art event/collecting event you’ve been to?

I’m a big fan of trading artwork. I went to an interesting exhibition earlier this year that was called Insider Trading. All of the artists were hand selected for this exhibition and commissioned to make one piece of artwork to donate to the show. At the end of the evening, all of the work was raffled to the other artists in the show — each artist came and left with a different piece of art work.

What do you think is the greatest struggle/weakness facing artists and the art community right now? What is the greatest opportunity/strength?

The Internet

Why do you think many people find art intimidating, and how can we lower the perceptual barriers to entry for collecting art (and specifically photography)?

I think a lot of people do not have a literacy or extensive understanding of art or art history,  and the thought of feeling dumb in public is really intimidating. When I go to book fairs, I tend to watch the way that people interact with the books. Books are great, unlike a museum, they are not very judgmental. You can flip through a book and no one will judge you. Often at a museum there’s this unspoken understanding that you have some kind of understanding or background knowledge about the art to begin with. It’s a very intimidating thing. I try to explain my products to people in a very personal way. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than taking the time to talk to someone about one of our books, to later watch them come with friends, as new experts on the subject. Instilling that excitement about art and giving folks the tools to share with others is so incredibly satisfying.

Like this idea? Vote here for your favorite and the winner receives $1,000!

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