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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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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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Crusade Tour Featured on FStoppers

The awesome Joseph Gamble interviewed me for this article on FStoppers. Love the Joseph, love the FStoppers.A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartz’s Photo Road Tripby Joseph Gamble, published on FStoppers on September 3, 2013

Ten thousand miles, ten cities on a coast to coast ramble in a 1977 vintage VW bus all for the sake of promoting photographic art. From April to June of this year, gallerist Jennifer Schwartz was behind the wheel of her microbus on a two-fold mission: to promote photographers and create collectors. Working with five photographers in each city on the tour, she orchestrated pop-up events and curbside photo exhibits designed to educate and engage communities regarding photographic art and the value of starting a collection.

An avid photographer and collector, she launched the Jennifer Schwartz gallery in March 2009 in Atlanta with the hope of reaching collectors and providing an immersive art buying experience. One of the cornerstones of her early success was placing photographers in front of an audience of interested collectors. As she explained, her role was not just to sell work but also to foster a community of collectors.

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Lady Blue replica model in Brooklyn, New York when the van was under repair.

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The Map of the trip.

“In my Atlanta gallery, I discovered the most successful programs to get new people interested in art involve meeting the artist and making a personal connection,” said Schwartz. “They lure people who have had only a limited relationship with art to have a unique, fun experience where they engage with photography and the artists in a thoughtful way. They look, and in a lot of cases, they start to believe in art.”

While the gallery experience created a local nexus for artists and enthusiasts to gather and view work, the space felt limiting as she was only reaching people in Atlanta. Thus, she came up with the idea of a mobile arts promotion traveling across the country in a wide loop from Atlanta to Los Angeles and up the West Coast to Seattle before heading east to Chicago and New York and then down the East Coast.

The trip wasn’t an unplanned, off-the-cuff road show. Schwartz staged pre-trip events in 2012, one at the High Museum of Art and the other in December at PhotoNOLA in New Orleans. These initial stops were instrumental in preparing for the three-month journey that began in April, which she named the Crusade for Collecting.

The idea was grassroots and simple — take the gallery experience on the road, interface with local photographers in each of the tour stops and then bring the photographers and their work directly to people on the street. In essence, breaking down the gallery walls and the exclusivity that exists in the art world. Photographers seeking exposure would give away ten of their photographic prints (between 6 x 9” and 8.5 x 11”) signed copies of an image freely in exchange for the exposure and opportunity of sharing their work and being a part of the tour.

MG 5054 710x473 A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip

Pop-Up Event in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Los Angeles, California Pop-Up event.

“I felt that if I could give people a fun, disarming art experience in an unexpected way – that if they had an opportunity to meet artists, learn about their work and connect to an original piece that became theirs – it may be transformative and put them on a path to loving, supporting and collecting original art,” said Schwartz. “And what could be more fun than walking by a turquoise 1977 VW bus with photographers standing in front giving away original, signed photographs to someone who wanted to chat about them?”

2013 04 13 14.40.16 710x710 A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip

San Francisco Pop-Up Event

To fund the purchase and outfitting of her bus, nicknamed Lady Blue, Schwartz, like many project-driven photographers profiled on Fstoppers, launched a Kickstarter campaign. It wasn’t an easy prospect so her efforts were buoyed by additional sources including sponsorships, a local fundraiser, private donations, and the Collectors Building Collectors program that she developed with an Atlanta collector.

“When I launched my Kickstarter campaign, it still seemed fun and new and I had only known a couple of people who had run a Kickstarter campaign but I did have a difficult time explaining to my non-art friends that ‘yes, they were giving me money to buy a bus, and no, there were not any starving children or sick animals that would benefit from it,’” said Schwartz. “Now that the concept is more mainstream and people trust it, I think it is easier to fund a project, because the pool of potential supporters is deeper.  On the flip side, there is a significant amount of Kickstarter fatigue.  If you are going to do it, I think you have to be very strategic about it.  I wrote a blog post offering tips to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign, based on my experiences.”

Lady Blue, like many Volkswagen microbuses from the past, wasn’t the most reliable choice of vehicle considering she would be subjected to a bi-coastal odyssey. Once on the road, Jen quickly learned to speak ‘conversational mechanic’ and now counts several mechanics around the country as good friends. “Fewer breakdowns would’ve been nice…” she said.

IMG 7014web 710x946 A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip

Mechanics and Sean Dana (photographer who traveled with the tour from San Francisco to Portland) diagnosing Lady Blue. Photo by Kurt Simonson.

There were some detractors who felt that the concept of giving away work was devaluing the photographic medium and the work of the artists. Participating photographers were given an opportunity to showcase their work and reach out to new people who might take an interest in their future work. “But the goal was to give people an opportunity to connect with a piece of art, own it, hang it, to recognize value in that experience, and to want to replicate it going forward,” said Schwartz. “The hope was that the engagement would be transformative.”

Overall, the three-month saga was “a blur of awesomeness.” Photographers often came aboard and drove sections of the trip and kept her company. Social media resources including facebooktwitterinstagramand youtube proved to be immeasurable as she documented the entire experience with blog posts and video updates. It was an organic way of keeping up with new contacts from cities past and to forecast and prepare for her arrival in a new city. A few highlights of the trip include: an unplanned stopover in Cleveland with assistance from the Cleveland Print Room, a private tour by Fred Bidwell of the Todd Hido show at Transformer Station and presenting to a sold-out crowd at FotoWeek DC, the final stop on the tour.

DC photogs 710x473 A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip

DC pop up with photographers Frank H. Day, Hannele Lahti, E. Brady Robinson, Jennifer Schwartz, Alexandra Silverthorne, James Campbell.

DC bus A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip

Lady Blue in front of the White House. 

Although the Crusade tour is over, she is developing Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization with a mission to educate, inspire, and support artists to create unique, approachable programs that engage new audiences with art in meaningful ways. She has a variety of opportunities for photographers that are in the works and will be announced at the end of the year.

“This tour was not about a road trip, it was about starting a conversation about art,” said Schwartz. “It is nice to know the conversation not only started, but also continues.”

You can keep up with Jennifer Schwartz by sign up for the email newsletter and following her online at Crusade for Art or check in on her gallery work at Jennifer Schwartz Gallery.

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Crusade Tour Essay on PDN

Crusade for Collecting: A Controversial Experiment Meant to Create New Photo Collectors

Published August 23, 2013 via PDNonline.com.

Earlier this year Jennifer Schwartz, a gallerist and the founder of the non-profit arts organization Crusade for Art, traveled to cities around the country in an effort to create demand for the work of emerging photographers by encouraging people she met on the street to consider collecting art. Working with five photographers in each of the cities she visited, Schwartz organized street-side exhibitions, asking the photographers to talk with passersby about their work, and to give away signed, non-editioned prints to those who wanted them. The project drew both criticism and skepticism, but it also, Schwartz says, created positive dialogue between artists and would-be collectors. PDN invited Schwartz to explain the motivation behind the trip and recap her experiences.

Nearly five years ago I began a journey to cultivate audiences for art, specifically the work of emerging photographers. By creating innovative programs that make art immediately and affordably accessible to new audiences, both online and through special events, my goals have been: to promote and develop the careers of talented, emerging, contemporary photographers and to educate and cultivate a new crop of collectors.

Working with emerging photographers, I recognized from the beginning that the challenge is to find an audience for these artists. Too often as gallery owners, we hang the art and then wait for an audience to come. With that in mind, I created Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating demand for art by creating opportunities to introduce new collectors to artists and their work.

In my Atlanta gallery, I have discovered that the most successful programs to get new people interested in art involve meeting the artist and making a personal connection. They give people who have had only a limited relationship with art a unique, fun experience where they engage with photography and the artists in a thoughtful way. These programs also give photographers an opportunity to interact directly with an audience and advocate for themselves and their work.

In April 2013 I took this concept on the road with a special project, the Crusade for Collecting Tour. Traveling to ten cities over the course of three months in a 1977 VW bus (affectionately named Lady Blue and purchased through funds raised on Kickstarter), I staged spontaneous pop-up events to give away original, signed photographs and bring grassroots art appreciation to the streets, moving outside the traditional boundaries of the art world.

I felt that if I could give people a fun, disarming arts experience in an unexpected way—that if they had an opportunity to meet artists, learn about their work and connect to an original piece that became theirs—it may be transformative and put them on a path to loving, supporting and collecting original art.

It was fun. It was a blast. It was also incredibly challenging. A lot of people have asked: How is giving away photography going to encourage collecting? That is a completely valid question, and there is no real way, at present, to determine how many of the people we met might become collectors of the photographers’ work. But the goal was to give people an opportunity to connect with a piece of art, own it, hang it, to recognize value in that experience, and to want to replicate it going forward. The hope was that the engagement would be transformative.

The other side of the same question addressed concern for the participating photographers: Won’t giving away work have a negative effect on the photographers? Not every program or idea is the right fit for all artists at all stages of their careers. None of the photographers were coerced into participating. On the contrary, I had photographers reach out from all over the country wanting to be a part of the project, and most were selected as a result of submitting to my open, free call for submissions. For an artist who is trying to get more exposure and get more eyes on their work, participating in a project where they can connect with potential new collectors in their hometowns may be worth a try.

Could I promise the participating photographers any specific, tangible benefits from participating? Of course not. The hope was that they would connect to ten new people in their community with whom they could follow up and continue to build the relationship, and who may in the future purchase work from them. But I suspect the photographers chose to participate not because they expected any concrete benefits, but because they also believe in art and artists and wanted to be a part of something that was trying to make a difference.

As it turns out, it is really difficult to give away something for free. In each city (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Cleveland, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C.—Atlanta and New Orleans happened in late 2012 as “test” cities), five local photographers (each of whom were curated for the project to participate in the pop-up in their city) and I pulled up to a high foot-traffic area and, armed with photographs, Crusade-wear, and a lot of enthusiasm, tried to get passersby to stop and talk to us. Each photographer had ten small (between 6 x 9” and 8.5 x 11”) signed copies of an image to give away over the course of the pop-up, which typically lasted two hours. Saying things like “we are five local artists here to encourage art collecting in our city” and “become an art collector today for free,” we got both the hand and high-fives.

We were not asking for money or requiring email addresses (although exchange of contact information was highly encouraged, and each photographer included information about themselves and their work in the envelope with their print), just the participant’s attention. All you need to do is look. The art will do the rest. Some cities were more challenging than others, and the day, weather, and type of location were all important factors. It was significantly easier to engage people on a beautiful Saturday in a trendy retail area in Los Angeles than in Chicago on a windy downtown street corner on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend.

But no matter the city, the quality of interactions between the artists and the people who did stop to participate was consistent. Most people wanted to see each of the five images, listen to the story of the photograph from each photographer, and make a thoughtful, informed selection. The artists and I both received great feedback in person and through follow-ups from people who really connected. There were hugs and amazing moments on the street, and also emails, phone calls, and photos of the newly framed pieces hanging on the new collectors’ walls. These were powerful and eye-opening moments for everyone involved.

The best example of witnessing an “aha” moment happened at the last pop-up event in Washington, D.C. A young woman was talking to us after selecting Hannele Lahti’s photograph. She said this was her first piece of art to own, and when I asked her why she selected that image over the others, she said it was Hannele’s description of what the image was about that really moved her. When she heard Hannele describe the photograph, she realized this art was about an experience she was having at that exact moment.

In city after city, the same lesson emerged: People value connection. A lot of established collectors buy art because of the artist’s reputation or the proven value of the piece—the art world as we know it is driven by trends and price tags, not experiences. But the status quo is not cultivating new audiences for art. To attract people who are not already connected to art, we need to provide opportunities to facilitate a personal connection between the artist, the collector and the image.

This is not to say I am anti-traditional gallery. Not at all, and I think that has been one of the common misconceptions about the project and about me personally. Helping emerging photographers get a foothold in the art world is just one piece of the puzzle, because that is exactly what it is—a foothold. Once that foothold feels secure, and the artist begins to gain traction—exhibitions, collectors, positive exposure—they need to take the next step.

The same is true for collectors. Helping someone start on a path of appreciating and collecting art is incredibly exciting and rewarding. But as they continue farther down this path—the more they look and buy and hone their tastes and collection—they will feel more comfortable and confident about engaging with traditional galleries and museums and cultural institutions. It will be a regular part of their world.

The other question I received several times caught me off-guard: Isn’t this whole project just a way to promote you and your gallery? All I can say is that I am just not wired that way. I believe in collaboration and community building and doing whatever I can for the greater good. Even writing this sounds ridiculous, but I do believe that doing good is important, and it drives me. Will there be some side-effect benefit to me personally? Maybe. But this tour was altruistic. We were giving art away, not selling anything. If I had spent the last year and a half working on something with the potential to make money and did not involve leaving my husband and three kids to drive around the country on a shoe-string budget, crashing on couches. . . well, that may have been smarter. But I would not change it. The opportunity to make a difference does not come around every day.

I knew this project would be a challenge—logistically, financially—but I could not have guessed it would have pushed me so much personally. I never imagined I would spend so much energy defending an idea that was solely meant to do good. Emails and online comments from people I did not know, questioning my motivation, process, and intentions, were upsetting and unsettling. I wish I could say handling these criticisms thickened my skin, but my skin only gets but so tough. What it did, however, was help me hone in on what exactly I was trying to say and do and why. It forced me to critically and objectively examine every element of the project and make changes that dramatically narrowed and improved the focus.

For example, my original plan was to partner with museums and arts spaces and stage the pop-up events in front of their facilities. But it became clear that if we did that, we would be directing our outreach at people who were already connected to art. If my goal was to give an arts experience to people who were not currently seeking one, then I needed to truly go to them.

I also added the Local Photographer Showcase component to the tour. I had planned to only bring photographs from an online project, The Ten, which features photographers from across the country. But the more I was asked to explain the motivation behind the project and the generation of the tour idea, the more I realized that if my experience had shown the most significant and transformative connection point to be the interaction between the audience and the artist, then it was important to create an opportunity for people to meet, engage with, and potentially continue a relationship with photographers who lived in their own communities.

I am proud to be known for being a champion and advocate for photographers, especially those who are at the beginnings of their careers. I am passionate about the ways individual artists can advocate for themselves and for creating ideas and programs to help them find the people who will best appreciate their work. I am an idea person and also a doer. I am not just complaining about a problem with the current art hierarchy, but I am actively trying to do things to create a more sustainable arts ecology—openly sharing successes and failures with equal parts laughter and tears and a whole lot of heart.

I believe in art, and I believe artists. I am happy to shout it from the rooftops. Or from a VW bus. Every interaction makes a difference, and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of so many. Let’s keep it rolling. . .

Jennifer Schwartz is the owner/director of Jennifer Schwartz Gallery and the creator of the non-profit organization, Crusade for Art. Crusade for Art educates, inspires, and supports artists to create unique, approachable programs that bring new audiences to art and allow them to engage with art in a meaningful way.

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First Crusade Stop Sets the Bar High

Get it? High? High Museum? Sorry. Couldn't help myself. . . A year of planning, more than a few tears, and a tidal wave of supportive and encouraging emails, messages and hugs and here we are, pop-up number one a huge success and pop-up number two just a few days away. I am on cloud nine. Maybe even cloud ten.

The first official Crusade for Collecting pop-up event was hosted by Atlanta’s High Museum of Art the day after Thanksgiving, one of their busiest days of the year. Early that morning I loaded the Lady, removed the side mirrors (the final pass-through to drive onto the piazza is very narrow), and held my breath as I steered her onto the High’s Sifly Piazza, then had a gear-grinding victory lap.  

Later that morning we came back to set up, and before we could get the first thing out of the bus, people were stopping to see what the Crusade was all about.  The ten Atlanta photographers featured in the local photographer showcase came just before the event start to sign their prints and get the run-down.  It was such a talented group, and the images were amazing.

Atlanta LPS.jpg

Anyone who stopped could take a look at the images, meet the photographers, and choose their favorite to keep. We gave away nearly 100 images on Friday, and people were shocked and thrilled to be able to choose a piece of art to own. The photographers really engaged with people, and on several occasions conversations lasted so long, they moved away from the table and talked and talked. For me, that was everything. The exposure, the connection, the conversation.

We also had work from The Ten displayed, and there was one extra special encounter that I will save for its own blog post (the anticipation!).  There was a video loop of the Ten photographers talking about their work, that you can watch here (extra special thanks to Sean Dana for making a lot of disparate parts come together in the coolest way), which gave some context for the images displayed.  And then my kids took it upon themselves (their dad may have indicated there could be a commission involved) to hawk the Crusade merchandise to anyone on the grounds.  Lila even learned a lesson in upselling.

It was an amazing day and the perfect way to launch this tour.

Crusade away!!

Our Atlanta sponsors came through in a big way – Binders with custom mats for the Ten work and some cash money to make things happen, PPRPix with the printing of the local photographer showcase images, andDigital Picture with all of the signage.  Thank you again for the support – it means so much.

Local Photographer Showcasers and their websites – please do check out their other work:

Kendra Adams

Bill Boling

Stephanie Dowda

Nikita Gale

Michael McCraw

Mary Anne Mitchell

Nathan Sharratt

Jerry Siegel  

Anderson Smith

Karley Sullivan

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