I am sitting in my childhood room in Richmond, Virginia, thinking back on the crazy adventure called the Crusade for Collecting Tour. Now that it is over, I feel a jumbled mix of emotions, but mostly I feel proud. That may be a weird thing to say, but after traveling to ten cities and meeting so many new people, I know that this wild ride has made a difference. At some level, to some people, this tour made an impact, and that's all I could have hoped for. In my gallery in Atlanta, I found the most successful programs to get new people interested in art involved meeting the artist and making a personal connection. The Crusade just took that idea on the road, bringing artists onto the streets to meet people and talk about their work. I felt that if I could give people a fun, engaging 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.
One to one interactions, opportunities to learn first-hand about the story behind a piece of art – that’s not intimidating, that’s interesting. Over and over, 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.
If you make art or love art or buy art, you have had that magic moment when a piece speaks to you. You have had that "aha" experience of looking at an image that made your head (or heart) want to explode (at least, that's how I feel it). The goal of the Crusade was to create an opportunity for people who had not been moved by art in this way to experience that lightening bolt moment. . . and want to have more.
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 and 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 description of witnessing this "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. It was so powerful to watch someone realize that art could be so dynamic and have layers of meaning that resonate on a very personal level.
Every interaction makes a difference. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of so many. Let's keep it rolling. . .