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Successful in Seattle

Seattle was a fantastic way to end the west coast leg of the Crusade tour.  We had bright, sunshiny days (I’m told not to pack my bags to move West – the weather is not usually so clear) and a really supportive community.  Many thanks to Photo Center NW, Ann Pallesen and the Local Photographer Showcasers. I gave a talk at Photo Center on Tuesday night to an enthusiastic crowd.  I love having the opportunity to talk about engaging new audiences with art – that’s what this whole Crusade is about, after all – and speaking to a group of artists is especially exciting.  I love sharing ideas and helping artists think of innovative ways to build their audience and collector base.  As usual, I meant to film the talk, but alas. . . maybe in Chicago.

The next day we set out on the biggest Crusade adventure yet:  a pop-up event without a pre-determined location.  Fortunately, Lady Blue scored a sweet spot right in the thick of things at Pike Place Market.  There is an outdoor section of artist kiosks where vendors sell jewelry, tie dye shirts, leather things, etc., and parking there seemed like a great fit.  I asked the five local photographers to meet me at the Starbucks.  Ha!  They are everywhere.  The oldest is not the original, and the one I was standing out front of wasn’t even either.  Luckily Ann Pallesen (gallery director at Photo Center NW) was dialed in to the myriad Starbucks locations, and we were able to round up the photographers without too much trouble.

I have mentioned before that the vibe of each pop-up seems to reflect the personality of the city.  Los Angeles was bubbly and an absolute blast – people were practically doing cartwheels about the event, and we had trouble talking to all of the people who stopped to talk to us.  The people on the streets of San Francisco required more drawing out – they walked by quickly, heads down, earbuds in, ready to say, “no – I don’t have any money” at any moment.  Portland was like an episode of Portlandia, start to finish.  So when I first arrived in Seattle, I asked some of the locals what the stereotypical personality of a Seattlite was, and I got this answer across the board:  passive-aggressive.

I wasn't sure how this would manifest itself, but after the first few people manning the artist booths came up to enthusiastically ask what the bus was all about, we were the recipients of lots of icy stares.  Then when we busted out the art and started doing our Crusade thing, the stares turned into glares until one "friend of the artists" declared our event to be inconsiderate to the artists and detrimental to their sales.  First, we were approaching people on the street, not on their sidewalk.  And we were giving away photography, while they were selling anything but.

But it does bring up a concern a lot of people have - how am I encouraging people to collect art if I'm giving it away?  I wrote a long post about this and other criticisms, along with an explanation of the genesis of the project, but here's an excerpt relating to this particular question, which is worth saying again:

My goal is to create an exciting, engaging, transformative experience around art.  I hope people will interact with the pop-up and get a taste for the value art can add to their lives.  I want people to meet the artists who are out creating great work in their own community and make a connection to them and their work.  Hopefully this connection and introduction will get them over a threshold where they will begin to participate in arts programming in their city and will eventually lead to patronizing and collecting original art.

Despite how it may seem, I am realistic (idealistic and realistic) and realize that we are not going to convert every person who walks away with a photograph into a collector.  But this tour is an opportunity to start a conversation about art - not just with the pop-up participants, but also with larger numbers of people through press and social media.

Anyway, the "authorities" got involved, and after a nice chat with them, we decided (the other option being very unappealing) to move the operation to Cal Anderson Park, which was lovely. Three photographers and a very go-with-the-flow art critic (Jen Graves from The Stranger who wrote this article about the event) piled in Lady Blue and we were off to give a new neighborhood a taste of art.

In no time we were out of photos and five Seattle photographers had ten new collectors each. These five (David Adam EdelsteinJoanna Jinselli, Larry LarsenRebekah Rocha, Raychel Rogers) were energetic and fun and super excited to be involved - but not as excited as I was to have an opportunity to work with them.  

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Seattle Pop-Up Press!

Seattle was an amazing way to end the west coast leg of the Crusade tour - more on that in a few days, but here's a great write-up from The Stranger, Seattle's art newspaper:

Art in a Van, Man

posted by JEN GRAVES on WED, MAY 1, 2013

Artists are always trying to get somebody to consider what they've made, even just for asecond. (Have you listened to the second act of this episode of This American Life? You must.)

"Can I interest you in some free art today?"

That's the refrain of the five Seattle photographers stationed outside an aquamarine 1977 VW bus next to Cal Anderson Park this afternoon. Earlier they were at Pike Place Market, but they were asked to relocate by complaining vendors. No problem.Jennifer Schwartz packed up the bus and came up the hill to find another high-foot-traffic area. Seattle is one of 10 cities she's visiting on herCrusade for Art, "a passion project," she calls it.

In advance of her arrival, Schwartz picks five local photographers. Each brings 10 prints, all the same image. They ask people whether they want to stop and talk, people say yes or no (mostly no, but it's only 10 anyway), and if the people want the print after hearing about it, they can take one with them. The artists can exchange information with their new "collectors," if they want to.

"Maybe somewhere down the road it will change the way they feel around art," she said, wearing sunglasses and jeans and acting as a street dealer who charges no fee and takes no cut.

This is what she did rather than stationing herself at IKEA.

"If I could stand at the register at every IKEA in the nation when people were up there buying their mass-produced tulip posters, and I could stop them and say, 'Hey, here's this original artwork and here's the artist,' I really feel that most people would choose the original," Schwartz said.

Schwartz has a gallery specializing in emerging photographers in Atlanta. It's simple: Emerging artists need emerging collectors. "How do you find people that aren't looking for you?" she said. Crusade is how. She bought the bus on eBay and set out for two total months on the road (away from her husband and three children). Her next stop is Chicago.

The Seattle artists featured included Rebekah Rocha, who brought a tintype of a dead bird (she's also working on a series of people in their backyards); Larry Larsen, a street shooter who's a retired boilermaker welderand therefore probably responsible for the light you're experiencing if you're sitting under one in Seattle right now; and Ray Rogers.

Rogers brought along an image of a frolicking naked person in a white-out storm in the mountains. The figure is seen from behind, wearing snow boots and throwing up hands. The gender is not quite definite. Rogers explained it's a self-portrait she shot one day when she was all alone in the Cascades. As the snow came down, she turned a stump into a makeshift tripod and let loose. The portrait has a certain something.

"Making self-portraits with a camera has helped me to see myself with totally different eyes," Rogers said brightly, giving her thoroughly lovable two-minute artist lecture at this pop-up shop. "It's so much different from seeing yourself in a mirror."

Art, ladies and gentlemen. Come and get it.

Link to original article: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2013/05/01/art-in-a-van-man

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