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Matthew Crowther

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Chicago Crusade for Art Local Chapter is Rolling!

Last week I was in Chicago for the Filter Photo Festival, which also gave me an opportunity to meet with the five artist members of the Crusade for Art local chapter. The local chapters are very important to our mission. While Crusade for Art provides resources and inspiration, the goal is to empower photographers to activate and begin implementing ideas and programs at a local level to create demand for their work.

Independent, volunteer Crusade for Art chapters around the country are the ground force of the movement. The chapters are provided with the program guidelines, best practices, support, logo, and brand of Crusade for Art, as well as use local resources and creative talent to develop new programs. Local chapters create and implement programs and events that both create exposure opportunities for their artist members and cultivate new collectors within their communities.

They are like fine art photography collectives. With some extra awesomeness.

photograph that will be available for purchase in the print sale, by Chicago artist member, Barbara Diener

photograph that will be available for purchase in the print sale, by Chicago artist member, Barbara Diener

The Chicago chapter is the first to really get up and running. We have a few others that are still in the organizing phase, but Matthew Crowther (the director of the Chicago chapter), just happens to be a dynamo. The five artist members (each chapter can have up to ten, and the members serve two-year terms) have met several times, and their kick-off event is Friday, October 10. It is a print sale, but Crusade-style (that means unique, exciting and super fun).

They will be offering work from each of their members for sale at great prices in editions of 5, but the twist is that with each print sold from an edition, the price increases $10. So if you are in Chicago, get there early, because each edition starts at $10, but ends at $50. I predict a photographic frenzy! More info here.

photograph that will be available for purchase in the print sale, by Chicago artist member, Jonathan Lurie

photograph that will be available for purchase in the print sale, by Chicago artist member, Jonathan Lurie

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Crusade Summit Creates First Local Chapters

This past weekend marked the first annual Crusade Summit, where directors from Crusade for Art local chapters met to collaborate, plan, and get inspired to bring new ideas back to their member artists. As this was the first Summit, the goal was to set up guidelines and organizational structures for the local chapters and create both short and long-term strategies for success at the local level. While Crusade for Art provides resources and inspiration, the goal is to empower photographers to activate and begin implementing ideas and programs at a local level to create demand for their work.

Independent, volunteer Crusade for Art chapters around the country are the ground force of the movement.  The chapters are provided with the program guidelines, best practices, support, logo, and brand of Crusade for Art, as well as use local resources and creative talent to develop new programs.

Local chapters create and implement programs and events that both create exposure opportunities for their artist members and cultivate new collectors within their communities.

We are launching two local chapters - Crusade for Art Chicago (with Matthew Crowther as director) and Crusade for Art Pittsburgh (with Matthew Conboy as director). So the Matthews came to Atlanta, and we got to work. Each chapter will have a maximum of ten member artists, and artists will rotate out of active membership in the group after two years. Local chapters will have their own websites and will plan and execute a minimum of four programs or events per year.

The challenge (for all of us, yes?) is to create programs that not only give member artists exposure and exhibition opportunities, but also actively cultivate new collectors in the community. That's what Crusade for Art is all about, after all.

And I must say, these two guys. . . incredible. Not only are they absolutely wonderful artists and people, they have the heart, passion, and commitment to really make a difference in their cities and beyond. I am thankful for them, and Chicago and Pittsburgh will be thankful for them to.

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How to Nail a Portfolio Review

Wally Mason from the Haggerty Museum of Art reviews Jonathan Michael Johnson’s portfolio
Wally Mason from the Haggerty Museum of Art reviews Jonathan Michael Johnson’s portfolio

This past weekend I was honored to attend Filter Photo Festival in Chicago as a portfolio reviewer (I was also part of a panel about collecting, which was awesome).  Filter is a really solid festival, and definitely a great portfolio review to consider attending as a photographer.

Over the course of three days, I met with 35 photographers in 20 minute sessions each.  While I saw many photographers who were seasoned reviewees, a lot of the people who sat across from me were new to presenting their work in this format.  It's hard.  Really hard.  You have twenty minutes to show me your work, sell it to me, ask questions, absorb feedback, and smile.

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You want to nail it.  Of course you do.  Here's what I suggest:

  • Develop an elevator pitch and practice it.  Over and over.  "My project is about . . ."  Distill it down to one or two sentences that you can say as I start looking at your images.  Not a dissertation, just some context.
  • Listen more than you talk.  If you run a continuous monologue for twenty minutes, I don't have an opportunity to give you feedback or ask questions.
  • Pay attention to sequence and edit.  The images should have a flow.  Do not include images you don't feel good about.
  • Breathe.  Be open.  Be gracious.

In April, David Bram and I worked with Matt Crowther over five days at the Flash Powder Retreat on. . . everything (you can read more about the retreats here).  Matt is a super talented photographer, and at Filter his portfolio won "best in show".  Now I'm not saying it was a direct result of dedicating time and energy to tighten his work, but he might. . .

I had been to a couple of review events before, but the recent Filter Photo Festival in Chicago was my first since attending the Flash Powder retreat in Astoria last April. While previous reviews have been decent experiences, this one was like a whole new world. I was showing my most tightly edited portfolio yet, having worked on the editing and sequencing at the retreat. Also, having worked so hard on my artist statement helped me talk about my work much more clearly and concisely, which helped the conversations flow better and meant I could get more out of the limited time with each reviewer. And perhaps most importantly for me, all that preparation plus having talked through goals and strategies with Jennifer, David, and my fellow Flashers meant I was more focused and confident than I've been in quite a while. In the end I came away with some great new connections, some concrete opportunities, and my portfolio was the voted best in show. --Matthew Crowther

Spending time and energy working out the kinks in your portfolio, getting comfortable talking about it, and being beyond prepared - that's how you nail a portfolio review.

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Crusade Thoughts from the Co-Pilot

Sarah Moore has been an amazing co-pilot and cheerleader on the east coast leg of the tour.  Here are some of her thoughts from the first portion of our trip:

I first found out about Jennifer’s Crusade for Collecting over a year ago, when her Kickstarter campaign launched.  The idea to drive around the country in a VW bus and give away photographs was exciting and new for me, as I’m sure it was for many.  I would have never imagined all those months ago that I’d be joining Jennifer on the East Coast leg of her tour.  Not only has this opportunity allowed me the chance to spend time with someone I admire and really like, but I even got to meet the bus (Lady Blue) in person!

This rather unique road trip has been filled with some trials and tribulations, but mostly a lot of joy and learning.  I met up with Jennifer in Chicago, where we immediately had a mild airport miscommunication.  Luckily, we both arrived safely at our lovely hotel, the stylish and hospitable Hotel Indigo Chicago.

We spent our blistery days in Chicago running around seeing photographs, picking up Lady Blue (a two hour turned five hour journey), talking it up with talented Chicagraphers (their own coined term), eating deep-dish pizza, and dodging the never ending rain.  Jennifer wrote a bit about our Chicago pop-up event, so I’ll spare you those details.  My impression of Chicago was that it was a windy, welcoming, photo-filled city looking over a beautiful lake from stunning architecture.  Even if many of the pedestrians of downtown Chicago didn’t want our free art, many amazing connections were still made.  We left Chicago with grateful hearts and a purring and happy Lady Blue.

Cleveland was our next stop, a destination Jennifer, Matthew Crowther (awesome Chicagrapher who joined us for the Cleveland journey), and myself had few expectations for.  Yet, after spending a few soggy and cold days in the Windy City, we were pleasantly surprised to find Cleveland both sunny and awesome!  We bunked up in the Cleveland Hostel, a new and hip hostel for the modern and funky people of Cleveland’s west side.  We enjoyed drinks in a Speakeasy, where we were also graced with the presence of the great photographer and friend, Matthew Conboy.  We even ate some of the best meals of this trip so far!  However, my absolute highlight of the Cleveland leg was seeing Todd Hido’s new show up at the Transformer Station.  Jennifer and I got a private tour of the exhibit by owner and collector Fred Bidwell.  Fred was kind enough to share his insights about collecting, contemporary photography, the Cleveland art scene, and what things draw him to an image.  It’s always nice to talk to someone who cares about photography in the ways that I also care about photography.

Upon leaving Cleveland, we managed to hit a few road blocks in the Lady Blue department.  I’ll save those stories for a later date though.  Suffice it to say, Jennifer and I had a few long days trying to get to New York, but like any true road warrior women, we did in fact make it!

We’re currently stationed at the Hotel Indigo Brooklyn, yet another lovely hotel complete with swanky murals and lovely staff.  New York is hot and muggy (mugginess is not one of my favorite things, as I’m a Santa Fe gal now), but proving to be yet another awesome piece of this Crusade puzzle.  We’ll keep you posted on how this one ends up.

It’s been amazing to be able to meet photographers, collectors, gallery owners, and inspired strangers over the past week and a half.  I feel so lucky to be on this journey, and I know I’ll return back to the desert with a new sense of what it means to collect and appreciate art, new friends, and a new admiration for the woman who decided to make the leap and travel around the country in a VW bus!

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