Photography Accademy is proposed by ACCADEMIA DC

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

One of ACCADEMIA DC’s founders was introduced to Jennifer Schwartz through Tim Hyde, the President of the Board for the Crusade Team. Over dinner, we shared ideas about how to engage young professionals in the arts community and learned about the Crusade for Art grant. For several months prior, ACCADEMIA’s co-founders were brainstorming ways to better engage young collectors in the DC area and testing some strategies among our peers with artist talks, gallery tours, and private collector visits. Our goal was to create a deeper engagement with emerging artists (specifically photographers) and young collectors and this grant sparked the formalization of the Photography Accademy model. 

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

The Photography Accademy concept is a hybrid of a traditional artist talk, a silent auction / raffle, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI (a yearly event which enlisted mixologists across the city to create a creative cocktail inspired by a piece of art in the museum’s collection). ARTINI was one of the most popular social art events in DC year after year so there has been a desire among not only the guests but the mixologists as well (who benefited from incredible exposure and increased patronage) to keep this concept alive. In our model, the traditional time-tested artist talk gets a revitalizing twist with creative food and beverage pairings and the added bonus of one lucky guest receiving a work of art to add to their collection. By limiting the number of guests at Accademy events, we can facilitate more intimate conversations between the guests and the artist thus making entry into the art community less intimidating for new collectors.

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

The most engaging art event that the ACCADEMIA team has attended has been the most recent Armory Art Fair in New York City. While the fair itself was interesting, the team connected with a renowned DC artist who spent nearly a half of a day walking through the fairs, discussing the works, and identifying trends he’s seen in collecting over the years. This intimate engagement with an artist created a deeper understanding of not only the artist’s works but also those of other artists on view. By removing traditional barriers to entry (lack of knowledge, intimidation, etc.) we were able to truly enjoy the fair and learn more than we could have on our own. As a result of this conversation, two ACCADEMIA founders commissioned works from the artist, something that would not have happened without such an intimate interaction. The Photography Accademy attempts to recreate this experience and make collecting more accessible to young people – only through continued dialogue can collectors become more willing to invest in and support artists.

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

Ease of global market access is both one of the greatest threats and opportunities for artists and the art community. Specifically, social media and the Internet allow artists to reach the farthest corners of the world in a fraction of a second. At times, this can cause oversaturation that makes it difficult for artists to stand out as unique. It also means that the joy of experiencing art in person, to really closely look at a work of art, is replaced by the ease with which you can view it online without ever leaving your home. Successful artists are those that can communicate and inspire from afar but still demand the viewer’s attention in person. If an artist can find the right balance to differentiate himself/herself from their peers then technology can be a tremendous catalyst for an artist’s future.

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

Curators, gallerists, and art critics have a wealth of knowledge but there is no one more suited to discuss a work of art than the artist. We believe that artists should play a big role in educating their audience about their work and this can take on many forms depending on the artist – writing articles, doing gallery talks, being active on social media, etc. This is especially true for abstract or more challenging work that might not be so easy to understand on first glance. By engaging more directly with their audiences and potential collector base it removes the barriers often associated with galleries or a museum show and makes the work more accessible. Deeper connection with the artist will lead to increased respect, support, and even patronage.

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)?

There is a misconception that to fully participate in the art community you have to have an extensive, scholarly background in art. People often feel they need to justify why they like a particular work and don’t always have the vocabulary necessary to do so. This combined with the perception that art is not affordable makes art that much more intimidating, especially for emerging collectors. Photography serves as a terrific entry into collecting art – in general, photographs are more easily identifiable, collectible, and affordable. The Photography Accademy further demystifies collecting as it introduces emerging collectors to artists in an intimate atmosphere, allowing them to understand the artists’ works while removing the fiscal barrier to entry.