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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.





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.