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Crusade Engagement Grant

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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
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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.

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

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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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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: New Orleans Experience: Pop-Up Photography Festival

New Orleans Experience: Pop-Up Photography Festival is Proposed by New Orleans Photo Alliance

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

Louisiana, and New Orleans specifically, has really mastered utilizing festivals and celebrations to showcase our art and culture. We draw hundreds of thousands of people to our celebrations and it is easy to forget that that mass of people is actually comprised of individuals seeking out a cultural interaction. We wanted to explore the intersection of the mass audience with an individual experience and the idea of a Pop-Up Studio in the middle of the action was born.

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

Each December, the New Orleans Photo Alliance produces a festival of photography, PhotoNOLA. One of the highlights of the festival is the PhotoWALK. During this event, participants in PhotoNOLA’s portfolio review open their work for the general public to see, free of charge. Hundreds of people come from every corner of the community to interact with photographers and be inspired by the amazing. It’s a truly magical event and is eagerly anticipated by the local community.

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

In any and every way possible! There are as many answers to this question as there are artists creating work. Use the resources that are available to you and just start communicating. Get together with other artists and pool your resources – create a community gallery space, partner with local nonprofits to display work in their project space, use social media, create events to attract local media coverage. Get on a platform and communicate why art is important in your life, what inspires you, and keep talking! We need to make a lot of noise, individually and together.

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)?

People like formulas and sure bets. Art doesn’t follow conventional rules so people don’t understand how to evaluate quality and are afraid to make a bad choice or bad investment. We need to reinforce the global concept that public art elevates the community and then on an individual level the idea that the art you collect is a joy and a gift to live with each and every day.

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

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: Elevazioni/Elevations

Elevazioni/Elevations is proposed by Francesco Amorosino

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

In Rome, many people live in condominiums and the elevator is sometimes the only place where neighbors can interact. In the entrance of my place there is a board where people can stick notes and invitations to events. Since the past months, someone transformed the little table in the hall where advertising materials are left in a book crossing spot. This led to the idea of providing people who take the elevator an occasion to encounter art in a non conventional place and an excuse to talk with neighbors about something different and happy.

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

I’m not new on organizing engaging art events: I’ve curated for three years Photox1000, a collective photo exhibition of one thousand pictures coming from more than 500 photographers from all over the world. The visitors could adopt one picture and write to the photographer to tell him or her their thoughts. I’ve also been the coordinator for Rome of the IParkArt project, where we used to place art installations in regular parking slots after paying the ticket.  

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

For me teaching to adults and children is essential. I teach in some schools in Rome and I always emphasize in photography the technical aspect is just the start and it’s not the most important thing. I invite people to consider their art as a “medicine for the mind” or a tool to find inner balance and to sublimate their pain. If you manage to do so, other people will see it and get interested in art. Unfortunately, in Italy art is taught mainly with a focus on history and not as a platform for conceptual analysis. Working with communities on engagement projects is crucial in getting art closer to the public. That’s also why I really appreciate good street art.

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)?

For many people art is just about the authors they studied at school, such as Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci or Van Gogh and Picasso. What we have to make people understand is that art is now, it is everywhere, and everyone can do art. Whether it is "good art" or "bad art" it is something to discuss.  People say they don’t understand art, but art is not about understanding: it’s about emotions. People start collecting when they see that art is making their soul feel better. 

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

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: The Storyteller Series

The Storyteller Series is proposed by Judy Walgren, in collaboration with SF Camerawork

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

I saw the Crusade for Art grant posted on Facebook, of all places, and thought - "What an amazing idea that is totally in line with what we are trying to do with ViewFind - get photographers' work out into the world in new and innovative ways to drive new streams of revenue for them as the traditional media budgets and outlets dry up." I liked the shorter entry requirements for the first round for the grant, as well. That made it much easier for me to apply.

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

I have worked on and off for newspapers and print media for the past 30 years, which has been a wild ride. I was around for the heyday of newspaper making and traveled the world covering the most amazing stories one can imagine and I also worked for a newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, that was shuttered by its parent company. I had a great time working as the Director of Photography at the San Francisco Chronicle, after I finished my MFA, I knew that it was time for me to embark on a new adventure and try and disrupt the downward spiral for work directed at documentary photography. That is why I joined ViewFind as the Editorial Director - a visual storytelling start up aimed at disrupting and enhancing monetization pathways for photographers who tell visual stories. When Glen Graves, the founder of PhotoArts Marin, approached me about his idea to start a visual storyteller series with Heather Snider, the executive director at SF Camerawork - it was a no-brainer for me. The goal is to support visual storytellers, get their work out in front of a broader audience such as collectors and editors, and give them a platform to talk about their work, their passions and their processes. I know from experience that audiences love to be connected to visual storytellers to hear about the why and how they do what they do and the also appreciate the chance to ask questions and engage with the photographers. We decided to have an up and coming photographer paired with a well-known photographer - to give exposure to those trying to break into the industry. For our first presentation - I invited Leah Millis, a young photographer who I have mentored for the past 6 years and hired at the Chronicle a year ago with my dear friend, Todd Heisler, a Pulitzer Prize winner and staff photographer at the New York Times. He agreed to do the talk for no honorarium, I used miles for his plane ticket and he stayed at my house. Leah lives here. I have a lot of friends who will do this for me - but am running out of miles. We are doing something similar for the second talk coming up May 24th. Artist Suné Woods is coming up from LA and Wesaam Al-badry is a student at SFAI and lives in San Francisco.

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

I think the most interesting and engaging art collecting event I have been to is the SF Camerawork Benefit Auction - their largest fundraising event each year. They showcase a incredible selection of photographic artwork that is donated by local, national, and internationally renowned artists to be auctioned off to attendees. Collectors, members and supporters of SF Camerawork and the photography community come out of the woodwork to check out the extremely high quality prints and have a great time connecting with the community as they bid away.

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

The greatest struggle facing artists today, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, is housing and studio space - both in terms of their own living situation and studio space as well as the ability for galleries and other outlets that monetize their work to also maintain a location in the city centers. It is a huge problem in San Francisco and Oakland and artists are being forced out in droves - draining the cities of the people who helped the Bay Area become a formidable International hub for creatives, the people who comprise the soul of these cities, to be honest.

The opportunities available are also amazing! There is literally no barrier to entry to have your artwork displayed and distributed to the public through social media and websites that are easily updated by the artist, herself! And as you know, humans have always been telling stories visually - think about the cave paintings. And now, more than ever, humans are engaging through visual imagery which is also increasing the visual literacy worldwide - to some degree. I would say that humans are becoming more and more aware when a GREAT image comes their way now as the 1000's of innocuous imagery passes by them unnoticed. I think people are appreciating great visual art now, more than ever, to be honest. Whether they are buying or not - that is another question...

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

This is a great question and really the reason why we started the Storyteller Series - artists - at least most artists - can speak passionately and articulately about their work, their research - about what drives them to create. And the audience - whether adults, teenagers or children - are most times overwhelmingly engaged in these discussions - whether in person, on webinar panels, on hangouts - wherever! I am giving a lunch-time gallery talk at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco on Friday - a 20-minute talk in front of a few photographs by Roman Vishniac. The response has been incredible and it is such a great idea - an easy way for the public to engage with art over a lunch break!

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)?

To be honest, the public today is not the same group of people from 50 years ago. The art, as well as the artists who create the work, is more diverse in concept and creation. The artists and their work are both more approachable and less reliant on the mystic of artistic genius to determine the worth of the work. More and more work is being created through social practice and inspired by the notion of changing bigoted perceptions, stereotypes and other discriminatory legacies. Subsequently, audiences are connecting through commonality of purpose, as well as aesthetic alliances and appreciation.

Ways to lower the barrier to entry for collecting work is through events like the SF Camerawork auction - both brick and mortar auctions and digitally produced auctions, through pop-up shows in non-traditional gallery settings, through First Friday events and Open Studio events in artist communities. Lowering the overhead costs can significantly lower the overall price of the work and the funds go directly to the artist, as well.

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: The Art of Trade

The Art of Trade is proposed by Bruce McKaig

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

I was inspired to propose building a barter network for the Crusade for Art grant because I see no shortage of artists, no shortage of people interested in having art, but bringing them together remains elusive. Art events can be so eclectic; it is almost comparing apples and oranges. Two commonalities across the board: artists are providing more work than artists are earning and people who want and could afford art are doing without.

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

I have been privileged to work on numerous community art projects in the last fifteen years and working with communities my attention and my art came to focus on issues of work and living wages. As I learn about the fight for 15, or personally live the adjunct faculty challenge, I see artists, including myself, as an additional labor group that struggles to earn a livable wage.

With my background as a visual artist and my academic training in economics and international affairs, I advocate for more humanitarian working models for artists. I am a 2016 Fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies in their New Economy Maryland program. This institutional support provides intellectual resources and rich human contacts for the work. I am turning to the Crusade for Art grant for the necessary resources to build the first working model, in real time, with real participants, real art, direct exchange of goods and services. 

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

Starter Plus is an organization in Paris that opens theater seats to interested viewers in a very clever way. Starter Plus works with theaters to book seats for people for shows that are still running but not to full houses. The seats can be half-price, free, or for two. They mail out availabilities and people call them to book. They reserve with the theaters and people just need to show up. Theaters have increased presence for performances and people who would never have gone discover theater, performers, playwrights, spaces. Unlimited use, it costs about $140/year. Some single tickets cost more than that. People can be risk takers and discover new things without committing a few months spending money. It’s a win-win.

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

The arts are not immune from the greater struggles facing our culture today: what ways will we define and measure work and compensation? Caretakers, educators and adjunct faculty, fast food workers, are just a few. We operate and analyze with tools developed at the great depression when industrialization was the prevailing dynamic. Now, we are waist deep in the information economy, and the industrial definitions and practices are not keeping pace.

This presents a great opportunity for the arts to take on a leadership role in an evolution that has begun and needs traction.

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 this is a very personal thing. Some artists will be more revealing and discursive about their work, which is great. Others less so, and this is to be respected as well. The Internet provides plenty of opportunities to put out statements, images, videos, commentary. Whatever the format or vehicle, maybe the most helpful thing would be to avoid assuming ANYONE you interact with doesn’t want to engage with the arts. I’ve never landed in a community where I was expected to “bring in some art,” that wasn’t already celebrating the arts in many ways without anyone’s help.

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)?

History and culture currently have the artist niched in a very strange position. On the one hand, artist means transcendental, otherworldly, a portal to vision, enlightenment, problem solving skills – holier than everything else combined. On the other hand, elitism is dead so anyone can do it. Holier than thou means it’s priceless. Anyone can do it means it’s worthless.

I think the better we are at linking the labor of an artist to the general issue of labor, qualifications, and compensation, the more obvious and fluid the links will be between artist and viewer. The drives are there. The mechanisms are outmoded.

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

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: Increasing Exposure to Art Photography in the Bakken Region

Increasing Exposure to Art Photography in the Bakken Region is Proposed by Meghan Kirkwood

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

I learned about the Crusade for Art grant last year from a colleague. I was intrigued by the concept and spent some time on the website looking at (and being inspired by) projects from previous finalists. The grant’s emphasis on reaching and connecting new audiences to photography is different than many public arts grants, which are often geared towards supporting known outreach strategies. The particular challenges to artists in the Crusade for Art grant were what inspired me to propose my project. In the Bakken region of western North Dakota there are numerous institutional and perceptual barriers that limit how audiences access and perceive visual arts, and new, creative strategies are needed to move beyond the limitations they impose.

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

I came up with the idea for my project by thinking through challenges I have faced working in western North Dakota. The Bakken region is huge, and comprises many different communities, some of which have been in the area for centuries and others that only arrived after the most recent oil boom. As such, connecting with “local audiences” is not an easily defined endeavor, and I have been challenged to think about what it means to make work that is both relevant and accessible to a particularly diverse set of residents. I believe that photography can uniquely contribute to and inform ongoing reflections on natural resource extraction and its attendant impacts among the various communities in the region, but to do so, it needs to draw upon a non-traditional venues/distribution modes (especially in an area that has few to no galleries or arts institutions).

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

The “job” of the artist has changed so much in the past few years (artists must be excellent makers, designers, writers, marketers, and personal advocates), that I’m hesitant to offer suggestions on what role artists should play in educating the public about their art. That said, I do think artists have a responsibility to think about who their audience is when they design long-term projects. If artists (like so many of us do) want to take their work beyond the white cube, we need to do more than find a new, more public “cube” to show our work in after we’ve finished it. Rather, we need to develop new strategies to integrate art into the public sphere (where it can reach a completely different set of audiences), and these strategies need to be a part of our working process from the outset.

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 many people find art intimidating because they’ve had limited opportunities to interact with it.  If you’ve never had the chance to study art, work with an artist, or view art made from and about your community, how do you learn what art can do? How do you know that art can be relevant to you and your life? Moreover, I think many people associate art with a specific set of venues and events, which may be places or occasions that they do not themselves feel drawn to. To encourage more people to engage with photography, artists need to find different ways to meet audiences where they are at and – through their work – show them what art is capable of. We (photographers) were all lucky enough to have had some experience that created a desire in us to make and collect images; we need to think of ways to create such experiences for audiences who haven’t yet had the same opportunity.

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2016 Grant Finalist Interview: The Curated Fridge

The Curated Fridge is proposed by Yorgos Efthymiadis

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

After returning from a portfolio review, I gathered all the promotional pieces from fellow photographers and arranged them on my fridge. I then posted some snapshots on social media and the response was enthusiastic. Some requested there be an opening reception to celebrate the works and the discovered space. Some sent magnets!

A couple of months down the road, The Curated Fridge was born and the first call for entry opened. Photographers from all over the world sent their prints and digital files. The guest curators (Refridgecurators) juried the work in my kitchen. A year later, the shows are running on a bimonthly basis. The accepted images are posted on social media and the dedicated website. This promotes the work of the photographers and creates connections and long-lasting friendships between the artists.

Since last December, the project has evolved. The Photographic Resource Center (PRC) in Boston invited The Curated Fridge to participate in one of their exhibitions. Three images of the fridge were mounted on the PRC’s gallery walls and a whole new idea was born. What if we could use The Curated Fridge shows as a starting point to break "gallery" limits, making photography more accessible for a wider audience?

The proposal is to print life-size photographs of The Curated Fridge show every two months. In collaboration with schools, colleges and universities, the prints are mounted on their walls. The aim being to reach out to a young crowd while educating them visually and introducing the world of fine art photography.

In addition, a contest will run, where students could write a short statement about their favorite featured photograph (e.g. why where they drawn to it, what do they like about it, what does it mean to them) and the winner from each school, selected by the guest curator, will win a small print of the photograph. Finally, students will be prompted to curate their own fridge at home, photograph it and email the files to The Curated Fridge, where they will be posted on the website and social media.

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

Unfortunately, most people don't have the time to slow down and appreciate art. By bringing photography closer to audiences at a younger age, we can build a stronger connection between the younger generation and fine art photography. The Curated Fridge was born in a kitchen, then there were opening receptions (in the same kitchen!) and it even traveled to a gallery. It’s a quirky project, fun and cool, that never took itself too seriously. Because it’s unconventional and alternative, it connects easier with the audience.     

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)?

In my opinion, people find art intimidating because there are no boundaries or rules; anything can be art, good or bad. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be but the general audience needs to understand and appreciate this, through education. By doing so, all the barriers that one might have will be removed because when something speaks to the heart it's price doesn’t matter anymore. Art becomes priceless, therefore affordable to the right audience.  

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

It has to be the Instantly Yours exhibition at the PRC in Boston, where all the members brought their Polaroids or created some prints with the Impossible Project for the audience to collect. It was a very successful exhibition that ran through a whole month, with gallery talks about instant photography, events and lots of sales!

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

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Crusade for Art Announces 2015 Engagement Grant Winner

Jennifer Schwartz, Executive Director of Crusade for Art, is excited to announce the winner of the second year’s $10,000 Crusade Engagement Grant, awarded annually to the applicant with the best idea for engaging new audiences with fine art photography.   

 

Jennifer said, “Last year’s project has been so successful that I am especially pleased to have another grant project this year with the potential to achieve that level of attention and overall success.”   

The 2015 Crusade Engagement Grant winning project is called “.LDOC,” the centerpiece of which is a free weekly newsprint publication developed by Danielle and Joseph Wilcox. .LDOC will put 2-part photo essays and creative writing directly into the hands of Chicago Red Line commuters, creating an accessible, installment-based art experience for the Chicago commuter. “Our target audience, the 9-5 Chicago employee, would have .LDOC with them on their way to and/or from work, creating for them a moment of respite, artistic awareness, and as Picasso says, a moment to wash away the dust from everyday life.”

Out of hundreds of initial applications for the grant, a group of ten finalists were selected.  These finalists all proposed promising and innovative projects.  The entire list of finalists can be seen here. These finalists’ proposals were reviewed by an esteemed jury of photographic professionals, including Alison Zavos (Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Feature Shoot), Brian Sholis (Associate Curator of Photography at Cincinnati Museum of Art), and Ann Jastrab (Gallery Director at RAYKO Photo Center of San Francisco). .LDOC was selected was selected for its wide scope of engagement, giving a large number and variety of people exposure to art on an on-going basis.

Juror Brian Sholis says, “LDOC was the proposal that best balanced effective cost management and distribution with artistic quality. It imagined a captive, repeat audience for the publication and has the potential for long-term sustainability. It is an ambitious but exciting project.”

The Crusade Engagement Grant was created to foster the exploration of innovative programs to connect new audiences to photography. The grant will underwrite the full execution of the Wilcoxs’ idea. Danielle and Joseph say, “We are humbled to be given the opportunity to showcase Chicago photographers and writers to such a wide audience, and we look forward to helping the 9-5 commuter find time in their daily life for art.”

Sample .LDOC publication that will be distributed to Chicago Red Line commuters

Sample .LDOC publication that will be distributed to Chicago Red Line commuters

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2015 Grant Finalist Interview: Alternative Photo Share

Alternative Photo Share is proposed by Linda Lyons

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

I initially heard about the grant last year via a call for entry, and then more recently, I saw Crusade for Art postcards at the national Society for Photographic Education conference in New Orleans. 

I really enjoy alternative photographic processes and I’m especially drawn to their tactile, hand-made qualities. I appreciate the extensive time and labor that is needed to make these images and I love how they provide a different perspective on photographic work. My inspiration came from the desire to promote this type of photography in a unique way. Essentially, I wanted a project that shared my excitement about alternative process photography with artists and non-artists alike.

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

As I developed my project idea, I considered several areas that are important to me. I knew from the outset that I wanted to incorporate alternative process photography, due to my personal interest in the area and due to the lack of general knowledge about it. As an educator and artist, I often feel that digital methods are dominating the experience of viewing photography in our contemporary time. I wanted my project to deal with a tangible sharing experience, which utilized physical, hand-made prints. Even as a child, I always loved receiving mail and it seemed ideal to use the U.S. Postal Service as a distribution method. I also know many talented photographers who are underrepresented and I wanted my project to assist them in their artistic endeavors. It was important to me that the project provide ample opportunities for connection between participating artists and potential collectors.

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

Maryland Art Place in Baltimore, MD, hosts an annual event called Out of Order in which any artist (during one day only) is invited to install one of their pieces in MAP’s galleries. The work is hung salon style and the event attracts artists in all stages of their careers, from emerging to established. A few days after the install, there is a huge gala and silent auction for the exhibiting artists. This is major community event and has been a wonderful way to see art, buy art, and sell art.

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

Primarily, I believe the greatest struggle facing artists now is finding the time and having the space to actually create their work. Balancing life, with all of its commitments and distractions, while attempting to make art is hard, especially when working alone. I think self-promotion is also a major struggle for artists at the moment. Being proactive in making your work visible requires a lot of diligence.

One of the greatest opportunities for artists is the many ways to find and connect to other artists. I believe the making of art and promoting of your own art is much easier when you have a supportive community of others working towards the same goals. Having a collective effort to research opportunities and provide encouragement is of immeasurable value. 

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 artists should speak and write about their work in as many forums and venues as possible, in order to educate others about their work and art in general. I think it is extremely beneficial for artists to provide a frame of reference for their artwork in their artist talks and artist statements. Presenting their work in the context of the history of their medium, as well as as explaining any societal / cultural connection is imperative to promoting a deeper understanding of what they doing and why. There is an abundance of opportunities to do this, such as speaking about and showing work in academic institutions, local community art organizations, and public spaces (such as libraries). I believe artists should also strive to have a strong online presence as a means to connect to non-local audiences.

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 believe a lot of it is due to being unfamiliar with and feeling disconnected from art and artists. Art is subjective by nature and an artist’s intent and objectives for their work aren’t always clear. I think these factors contribute to the obstacles facing potential first-time collectors.

Perceptual barriers can be lowered by making art more accessible, affordable, and understandable.  A big part of it is having audiences more informed about art. This is mainly achievable through knowing more about artists and having a connection with them. I believe if collectors of photography are confident in their knowledge about their collected artists’ work, then not only will they be more invested in long-term collection, but they themselves will also become educators and advocates for the photographers whom they support. I believe it is primarily the role of artists to seek out potential collectors and to educate others about their work.

 

 

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2015 Grant Finalist Interview: Hand in Hand

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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2015 Grant Finalist Interview: #HiddenArtSLO

#HiddenArtSLO is proposed by Catherine Trujillo, Charmaine Martinez, and Jeff VanKleeck

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

Jeff: Catherine told me about it.

Catherine: Jeff found it.

Charmaine: Catherine and Jeff.

But really, San Luis Obispo is halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. For our local community and our two collectives, we feel like the center of the universe at times and exiled into Siberia at times because of our coastal and rural location. Photographer Jeff Van Kleeck heard about the Crusade4Art grant and pitched it as an opportunity to expose our community to national photographers and to promote our talented pool of regional and emerging photographers.  

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

Jeff: I stole the idea from Catherine.

The projects is based on the Nothing Happened Here mission: A full-circle gesture to place art in an entirely unusual and unexpected context. All we leave behind are smiles. Curator Catherine Trujillo started #HiddenArtSLO last year partnering with area artists, writers, musicians, and creatives, to hide their work throughout the county for the community to discover. The hope is that the finder shares via social media and helps generate interest for the partner artist and their work. And in a quiet way, we want to provide an incentive so that finders can become collectors, and find a love for our local artists and creatives to become life-long collectors of awesome artists.  

Building upon this concept, #HiddenPhotoSLO seemed like a perfect evolution to encourage the collecting of fine art photography. Photography inspires and tells enriching stories that connect us all.

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

Charmaine: the Wisconsin Tryagainnial: an alternative exhibition held in a rented Ryder truck by University of Wisconsin art graduate students who were all rejected from the Wisconsin Triennial exhibition at the Madison Art Center. It was a freezing night and we served hot cocoa in the truck “gallery” which was lit with several clip lights from Home Depot. The curators of the Wisconsin Triennial were kind enough to visit the Tryagainnial exhibition—they were supportive and encouraging and they thought our show in the back of a truck was hilarious.

Catherine: Typing In Public-- Reading In Public's 2010 community event. The event primarily focused on people writing on typewriters around town, but folks shared comments via TwitterFlickr, and texted their submissions. To spark some inspiration, we received submissions from a variety of people, including Gerald Casale for Devo, and Dr. Paul Frommer writing in Na'vi (with translation to English). This by far was the most hysterical, collaborative, and joyful venture where everyone and their brother was able to contribute in one form or another.

Jeff: Anderson Ranch Art Auction in Snowmass Colorado. I almost spent $1200 on a teapot and I only had $200 and it went for $3,000. It was addicting and exciting.

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

The greatest weakness is that people spend all their time viewing screens, not people. In addition, creative work is not valued in our society. The greatest opportunity is that there are so many people out there making cool stuff.  We want to be the bridge that connects artists and emerging collectors.

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

Artists need to give context to their work. It is not enough just to put it on the wall. People crave story, context and experience. Why not be whimsical about it!

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)?

Many people find fine art photography intimidating because it is so often presented in an austere, white box. Most galleries are not fun and do not engage people as people. There is a perception that building an art collection is for the wealthy. What we aim to do is place art in context for the masses. Moms, dads, students, neighbors, uncles, kids. Anyone and everyone.

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Thank you for your grant submissions - Photographers, your creativity is off the hook!

We just wrapped up our second Crusade Engagement Grant cycle, and I could not be more excited by the submissions we received and the direction the program is moving in.

When we announced the grant last year, it was not only a new grant for a new organization - it was a new type of grant. We give money for building audiences, not for making work. We received a lot of applications, and a lot of strong applications, but it was clear that many of the people who submitted did not completely understand the purpose of the grant.

But this year it clicked. Maybe reading last year's finalists and winner ideas and having a full year to let ideas germinate allowed the collective lightbulb to go off. The ideas were creative and well thought out. There were so, so many solid ideas.

We made our decision based on which ideas were most suited to our mission – to connect people to photography. While many of the projects were very compelling and worthy of execution, their goal was to raise awareness about a different issue through the use of photography (instead of awareness of the art itself as the end-goal). While many others did fit our mission, ultimately we selected the ideas we felt were the most innovative, logistically feasible, and would have the most impact. 

We hope you will take a look at the 2015 finalists and get inspired -
let's create demand for photography!

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$10,000 Photography Grant - It's for Creativity, Not Magnitude

Last year's $10,000 Crusade Engagement Grant went to Matthew Conboy in Pittsburgh for a big idea. BIG idea. But don't think it was the magnitude of the program that earned him the bucks - it was the creativity.

Any person who has an innovative idea to connect people to photography is eligible to apply. A photographer who has thought of a creative way to get exposure for her work and draw in new potential collectors is as likely a winner as someone with a city-wide program idea involving multiple photographers. 

So are you out in the world, trying to figure out how to build your audience and sell some work? Then put your thinking cap on, because $10,000 would probably go a long way to putting you on that path. Am I right?

Apply now!

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Why the Engagement Grant is Important for Photography

Yesterday we announced the winner of the $10,000 Crusade Engagement Grant, and while Matthew Conboy's idea is downright badass, I have said from the beginning, this grant is about a lot more than the winning idea.

Most photographers (and artists in general) don't think about what to do with their work after they've made it. Art school programs focus heavily on the art-making but leave out the practical applications like how to sell it and how to get it in front of people. And not just anyone, but the people most likely to appreciate it and want to buy it. We are churning out art and artists but not addressing the elephant in the room:  demand is not keeping up with supply. Not even close.

Crusade for Art as an organization was created to pick up where art schools and artists' minds left off - our mission is to educate, inspire and empower photographers to connect new audiences to art.

The idea for the Crusade Engagement Grant came before the idea for the non-profit organization, and Crusade for Art was built around it. This was the question I was trying to figure out: How can we get photographers to think about how to connect people to their work? It seemed like if I could crack that nut, then our most creative people would be working en masse to solve the supply and demand imbalance in art. Bam! Let's do it, right?

So here was the answer I came up with: offer a lot of money. Simple. All that was left to do was raise $10,000, create a non-profit organization (get a board of directors, a website, fill out the IRS paperwork), figure out how a grant gets announced and administered, publicize it with no budget, and pull the trigger. Well, it seemed pretty straight-forward after driving a temperamental VW bus around the country.

The goal is to get a lot of photographers to think about how to connect people to their work, whether or not they even apply. And by publicizing the finalist ideas and tracking the progress of the winner, hopefully even more photographers will be inspired to take action and work to build a collector base for their photography.

We will give this grant again next year. And the year after, and the year after. So you keep thinking, and we'll keep funding, and together we can create the kind of change the art world desperately needs.

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Matthew Conboy Wins $10,000 Crusade Engagement Grant

That's right folks! Matthew Conboy will receive $10,000 cash money to implement his program to create newborn collectors in Pittsburgh.

Here's a description of his project, straight from the application:

This project was born from the fact that a local hospital sends every baby home with a Terrible Towel, the towel that is waved at Pittsburgh Steelers football games. While I am a proud Steelers fan, I believe that babies could be sent home with something else that could change their lives and the lives of those around them—art. My project will ensure that each baby born at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania goes home with an original signed photograph from a local emerging photographer. The 3000+ babies born here represent a cross-section of the city and county and include everyone from the most isolated of neighborhoods to the most exclusive addresses in Pittsburgh. These photographs will include biographical information on the photographer and any pertinent information regarding the print. They will then be inserted into the bags that are sent home with new mothers and include other basic staples like diapers or formula. 

Out of hundreds of initial applications for the grant, a group of ten finalists were selected.  These finalists all proposed promising and innovative projects.  The entire list of finalists can be seen here. These finalists’ proposals were reviewed by an esteemed jury of photographic professionals, including Whitney Johnson (Director of Photography at The New Yorker), Karen Irvine (Curator and Associate Director at Museum of Contemporary Photography), and Rupert Jenkins (Executive Director at Colorado Photographic Arts Center). Conboy’s project was selected for its off-the-charts creativity.

Juror Karen Irvine says, "Matthew Conboy’s proposal for new audience engagement displayed dazzling creativity. We are excited to award this grant to someone whose idea feels completely original and unique. We also like the way his project will engage an extremely diverse audience, one that is for the most-part probably not already circulating in the fine art realm."

The Crusade Engagement Grant was created to foster the exploration of innovative programs to connect new audiences to photography. The grant will underwrite the full execution of Conboy’s idea. Conboy says, “The thing that excites me the most about this project is that I am sharing my love of art with an entire generation of kids in Pittsburgh. From the moment they're born, they will be collectors of art and photography and that is something that no one can take away from them.”

In addressing application questions about target audience, Conboy gave this compelling response:

The target audience includes underrepresented minorities within the city of Pittsburgh who might not otherwise be exposed to the world-class cultural and artistic institutions that their city has to offer as well as those children who will grow up within a culturally rich family. If these families (regardless of socio- economic status) can see from the moment that a baby is born that the arts provide a meaningful and important component of their lives, they will gain an appreciation for the power of art. 

This project will engage my target audience simply by not requiring them to “opt-in.” There is no need to cross the threshold of a gallery, no requirement to sign up for a mailing list, or purchase shares for a CSA (Community Supported Art). In fact, the only way to acquire one of these photographs is to have a baby within the city of Pittsburgh. 

We are thrilled to be launching this grant with such an innovative and democratic way to connect new audiences to art. We will be following Matthew closely over the next 12 months and giving you regular reports on the progress of this exciting project!

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Vote for Your Favorite Grant Finalist Program Idea - There's Cash-Money on the Line!

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Vote for Your Favorite Grant Finalist Program Idea - There's Cash-Money on the Line!

When we created the Crusade Engagement Grant, the goal was to get a lot of photographers to think about how to connect new audiences to their work. After all, we're all about creating demand for art and helping photographers find collectors. Creatively. Because nobody clicks with boring.

The applications came in droves - apparently, winning $10,000 was pretty appealing! And we painstakingly reviewed each program idea, assessing them for innovation, practicality, and impact on community/sustainability. Ten finalists were invited to fill out a longer application with budgets and timelines, and the selection committee is reviewing them now.

While we wait, we wanted to get your input on which ideas you like best. And maybe one of them will spark an idea for your work! So get your inspiration on and take a look at the ten finalists. The winner of this popular vote will receive $1000 to help implement his or her project, so help an artist out and cast your vote today. Voting ends this Friday, July 25 at midnight EST.

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