Hand in Hand is proposed by Mark W. Wlaz

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

In 2014 I had begun working with Jennifer under a fee based mentoring arrangement. I was instantly impressed with Jennifer's knowledge, and her crusading concept. But most of all, her enthusiasm and energy were contagious.

I entirely bought into the notion that each of us as artists bears responsibility not only for creating art, but also for increasing the demand for art. 

It wasn't instantly clear how to accomplish this goal, but I knew it was something I would commit to trying. I read what I could about Matthew Conboy's winning concept from a year earlier, and let his idea percolate. It was several months later before my idea would take shape. 

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

One morning I was reading an email from my local, non-profit, public music radio station. It was my anniversary as a donor, and as they had done in prior years, they were offering a thank you gift. It is a very kind and well intentioned act, but it seemed to miss the mark. The gifts were of little interest to me. I wondered if other sustaining donors felt the same way.

This was when I had my "aha moment". Listeners who donate to keep the station on air, are actively demonstrating an interest in the local arts scene and a willingness to pull out their wallet in support. What an ideal target market for promoting local photographers and their art.  

By introducing artwork from local photographers into the mix as Thank You gifts - there is the opportunity to gain exposure for the artists, and stimulate the donors to collect local photography. As a partner, the radio station has the marketing muscle to lever its on-air advertising, social media efforts, website, and member email communications to promote the artists and the program. 

Why do people find art intimidating and what can be done about it?

There is no escaping the fact that for centuries Art was funded by the wealthy, and carried its own vernacular - both of which tended to create real or perceived separation from the masses.

Mural arts projects, free museum nights, inter-city youth arts, and a host of other programs work to increase accessibility, demystify, and increase exposure to the arts. They help immensely to break down barriers. Yet the notion of collecting art maintains some of its old bugaboos: "What if I choose the "wrong" piece?" and "I can't afford to collect art." are both common concerns.

By turning galleries into "art stores", and by selling art in more accessible ways - through art fairs, Thursday night art crawls, over the Internet, and at street festivals and events - we gain greater exposure, become more knowledgable and less intimidated. Upon seeing the diversity of art available, hopefully we conclude that there is something to suit everyone's taste and everyone's pocket book.

What is the greatest opportunity facing artists right now?

Technology is a fantastic enabler creating immense opportunity. Mobile phones, tablets, apps / software, desk-top computing tools are all powerful facilitators. They are inexpensive, readily accessible, and they unleash the power of our creativity and enable us to produce unique works of art.

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