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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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Around the Block with Fred Bidwell

One of the highlights of the Cleveland stop - probably of the entire tour - was the morning spent with Fred Bidwell at Transformer Station.  Fred and his wife Laura (who regrettably I did not meet but hope to in the very near future) are contemporary photography collectors who have taken their love of photography, philanthropy, and their community to a whole new level. In February, Transformer Station - the renovated transformer substation in the Ohio City section of Cleveland, created to house and exhibit the Bidwells collection as well as exhibits by the Cleveland Museum of Art - opened to the public.  The Bidwells created Transformer Station as a public-private venture to work closely with the Museum to "serve as a laboratory, think tank and place for the Museum to uncover new opportunities, take risks and explore new ideas and new media."  Love, love.  LOVE!  The whole facility will be turned over to the museum in time, along with half of the collection (the other half to go to the Akron Museum of Art).

It was an honor to meet Fred in Cleveland and get a tour of the Todd Hido exhibition, Excerpts from Silver Meadows.  The work was completed, in part, thanks to the patronage of the Bidwells, and to be able to see the photographs executed and displayed entirely as the artist envisioned them was a real treat.  They are hung salon style and often erratically - chronological but only in as much as this conceptual body of work has a timeline.  There is a giant, luscious book that accompanies the show (published by Nazreali Press), that is well worth the shelf space.  Another fascinating highlight was seeing the room they had Todd curate from the Bidwells collection.

Fred was lovely enough to let me pepper him with questions - Why did they start collecting? (when they got married, to have things on their walls, and took off from there) What type of work does he collect? (contemporary photography, mostly emerging and mid-career, mostly color) What excites him the most? (helping artists create work, among other things).  He is a lovely person and an inspirational, force of nature.

And a sport.  Because he agreed to be the guinea pig for our new "Around the Block" video series, where we ask noted photographers, collectors, writers and curators this question: "What are the qualities that make an image really stick with you?"  And we ask while they are driving Lady Blue around the block.  Here's Fred, deftly driving and answering at the same time:

In this series we ask noted photographers, collectors, writers and curators this question: "What are the qualities that make an image really stick with you?" And we ask while they are driving Lady Blue around the block. (Or if the drive is not an option, we have an adorable miniature to be involved in her place.)

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If Chicago Was a Hustle, Cleveland Was a Mosey. . .

Chicago was by far the most challenging pop-up, and with good reason (downtown street corner on a cold, windy Friday before a holiday weekend), and when we got to Cleveland, we were still pretty keyed up from it.  When we arrived at the Root Café in Lakewood on Sunday, we were anxious to get things going and start “selling” our free art.  The photographers arrived, and Sarah and I were rushing around the bus to set up, get the photographers prepared for engaging people who may be incredibly uninterested, and get our game faces on.  No need.  Cleveland just a smooth, easy, lovely walk in the park.  At one point someone asked how it compared to the Chicago pop-up, and I said, “Well, if Chicago was a hustle, Cleveland was a mosey”.  Everyone stopped.  Everyone was more than willing to chat a bit and take home a photograph.  Was it too easy?

When we were able to get someone to stop in Chicago, the energy was high.  The participant was surprised and excited and very interested to see all of the work and get to keep an image.  Everyone in Cleveland was so nice and accommodating ("Sure, I'll take a photograph"), it was hard to determine if a real connection was being made.

And then there was Henry.  Henry is 8 years old, and prior to this event, he did not own any original artwork outside of his own drawings.  He fell in love with this Sarah Moore photograph from The Ten, and was beyond excited to learn she was there in Cleveland and could tell him more about her image.  Henry was able to really articulate what drew him to the photograph and what he loved about it.  It was a really special moment and definitely a highlight of the tour for me.

The next day Cleveland Print Room hosted a Memorial Day BBQ and Crusade talk, which was really relaxed and fun.  Several of the people we met at the pop-up the day before came to hear the lecture, and it was great to get to check out this new facility.  Shari Wilkins, the founder of the community darkroom which opened just a few months ago, was instrumental in getting the Crusade to come through Cleveland.  It was not originally on the tour, but she made a compelling case, and was absolutely amazing as my "on the ground" person, coordinating the entire Cleveland stop.  So thankful - there just aren't words.

On our way out of town on Tuesday morning, we had the supreme pleasure of meeting Fred Bidwell at Transformer Station, where he gave us a tour of the absolutely mind-blowing Todd Hido show.  He graciously allowed me to ask him a million questions about his love of photography, how he started collecting, the mission of Transformer Station, and I will be sharing those in a future blog post, don't you worry.

And finally, the photographers!  Shari Wilkins from Cleveland Print Room curated the five photographers for the local photographer showcase, which was unique to this city (I have curated the photographers in all of the other cities into the project) and super fun.  A huge thank you to the five of them: Donald Black, Jr., Stephanie Mercer, Angelo Merendino, Dan Morgan and Julia Van Wagenen.  

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LPS Spotlight: Blake Andrews

Since the photographers featured in the Local Photographer Showcases in each city are supremely talented and excited about reaching new audiences with their work, we will be regularly featuring them to give you more insight into their work and their experience Crusading. Next up is Blake Andrews from the Portland Pop-up:

Tell us a little about your background as a photographer and where you are now with your work.

I've been making photographs for about 20 years. Although I've gone through ups and downs, at this point I feel very good about my photography. I see photographs now that I would've missed 5 or 10 years ago. And I've worked through certain themes and retired them, so I don't need to look for certain things any more. Most importantly, new photographs still excite me. When I expose a frame I am anxious to see what it looks like. I think it's that curiosity which compels me to make new photographs and to care deeply about photography. So that's enough to go on. Really that's the only thing there ever was to go on.

How did you hear about the Crusade, and what were your initial impressions?

I was contacted by you via email through Chis Bennett. I liked the concept from the start because I like giving away prints occasionally. I think the fine art market is quite speculative and sometimes motivated by unimportant concerns. I think that world and the world in general could use more giving and altruism, and there is always a need for inexplicable public actions. This event covered all those bases, plus it was in a VW bus. So it seemed like a go.

Were you excited to participate in the Local Photographer Showcase?  Why or why not?

Photography has become so associated with money we hardly think about it. Any photo on a gallery wall usually has a price tag, and so its meaning is usually tied up with some monetary value. This makes sense for some situations but I don't think it's a blanket prescription. There are many alternate ways photographs can be circulated. My ideas on giving have been shaped by many influences, and from general life experience, but especially by Lewis Hyde's philosophy expounded in is book The Gift, a primer on gift economies. In some ways a gift is the most priceless value that can be associated with an object. Anyone with money can buy any object with a price. Warren Buffet can acquire any item in the world that he wants to, and no photo is beyond his reach. But the acquisition of gifts is much more restricted. One must be a suitable target, and so gifts are relatively inaccessible, even compared to the most expensive photograph you can imagine.

With these thoughts in mind, when I heard about a gallery owner encouraging the giving of photos I was excited.

How did the event go for you?  Was it like you expected or different?  Better or worse?

It was roughly what I expected, although I didn't know the particular logistics. I was a bit nervous about being forced to make a sales pitch or long-winded explanation, but that fear proved unfounded. It was a relaxed experience. How can riding in the back of VW not be relaxed? I expected people to resist our photographs since most people do not like being solicited by strangers in public. This proved to be both true and untrue. Most pedestrians ignored us, but there was enough interest that we were able to quickly give away all of the photos.

What do you hope will come out of the experience for you - personally and professionally?  Do you think those are realistic expectations?

I try to have no expectations about anything photo-related. I think that's the most realistic expectation anyone can have.

Tell us about the image you gave away at the event and how to see more of your work.

I gave away a small stack of random images printed on 8 x 10 RC paper. Most were spare prints from my files, and I added a few new prints of images I thought would have popular appeal. I also put in a few prints of a "bad" photo just to see if anyone would choose that one, which some people did eventually. I probably gave away 20 total.

To see more of my work Google me or else look for me on a street corner.

 

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Crusading in Chicago: the trials, the triumphs, the wind

Chicago, you were a tough one.  To be fair, we popped up on a busy downtown street corner on a chilly, windy Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend.  And I expected this to be a more challenging location, because of these circumstances.  Several people suggested popping up in more art-friendly spots, but that's not the real point, after all.  We are trying to give people an arts experience who were not already seeking one out.  So we just had to zip up our Crusade hoodies and be extra charming.

The events we've had on weekends felt more relaxed - people seem more willing to stop and check out a curiosity on a Saturday.  These business people not only did not stop, they did not even respond.  Occasionally we got a curt hand or head shake, indicating "no thank you,  not a chance", but mostly people just ignored our "Would you like a free photograph from one of these local Chicago artists?".

But that just made the moments we did connect that much sweeter (though not warmer). The five local photographers were really earnest and excited about reaching out to the people in their city, and there were some really amazing moments.  And amazing photography.

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LPS Spotlight: Rebekah Rocha

Since the photographers featured in the Local Photographer Showcases in each city are supremely talented and excited about reaching new audiences with their work, we will be regularly featuring them to give you more insight into their work and their experience Crusading. Next up is Rebekah Rocha from the Seattle Crusade Pop-up:

Tell us a little about your background as a photographer and where you are now with your work.

I have a background in graphic design and photography, as a photographer I work with various camera formats; in color, black and white and historical processes, whichever method gets the message across for me in the best manner. Photography for me is a way to see the world in a more focused and up close manner.  For the last few years have been fascinated in how we use, change, and attempt to control our private spaces, specifically the backyard. In a society where so much of what we do is public, or we choose to broadcast to the public activities through various media, it is interesting for me to see how people act and what they do in their private outdoor spaces, from a small urban yard or a larger, more rural or wilder space. I have always had an interest in archeology and collecting, and through finding objects at these spaces, photographing the occupants and creating tintype photograms from the objects, I am looking at and documenting what happens there. I also teach art, design and photography courses to high school and university level students, and I love inspiring others to observe and react to the world around them in a visual way.

How did you hear about the Crusade, and what were your initial impressions?

I heard about the crusade through the Photographic Center NW, a photographic gallery and school in Seattle. My initial impression was that the event was an interesting way to engage the public, in a relaxed and fun manner, that I had not really seen before. I love to collect original art, and it makes me cringe just a little when I see all the mass produced prints from Ikea or other stores, when I know original, wonderful art can be collected at all price points. As a teacher I often see amazing art from my students, from teenagers to graduate students, and I know they are thrilled when someone purchases their art! Sometimes it just takes that first purchase at a recent graduate's show, to instill the confidence in them to continue their art-making career.

Were you excited to participate in the Local Photographer Showcase?  Why or why not?

Yes. Sometimes I feel the traditional art venues, such as the gallery space, reach a small audience, in that typically a select group of people attend gallery shows. So to be out in a public space I felt was a way to engage and talk with people who may not see art in a traditional gallery setting very often, and it was a way to speak to people who might not have a specific knowledge of photography as an art form

How did the event go for you?  Was it like you expected or different?  Better or worse?

It went well, I met some really interesting people, many of them from out of town and curious about our project and my work.

I was a little surprised by the negative response from some of the nearby vendors. I understand it is important to value art, and most all artists need to sell their work for cash in order to make a living. I also feel sometimes it is important to do positive things in the world, and not expect to receive something in return. The smiles and genuine excitement from the collectors when they got to hold their piece was awesome to see! and at some points we had a little crowd of people, all there to see and talk about art, in my mind any group discussing art is a positive event.

What do you hope will come out of the experience for you - personally and professionally?  Do you think those are realistic expectations?

I hoped to attract more attention to my project, to encourage people to think about how they use their own outdoor space, or if they don't have them (apartment dwellers, etc) to observe and learn about how others might use theirs.  I am interested in working with the public and at times that can be a bit daunting, I would love to connect with more people who would be interested in having their backyards be documented in my project as well.

Tell us about the image you gave away at the event and how to see more of your work.

The image I gave away was a small modern, dryplate tintype of a "Fox Sparrow" I found in my parent's backyard, my childhood home. The dryplate process lets me explore and collect items, and then in the quiet of the darkroom to create prints. Tintypes are objects themselves, strong and yet fragile at the same time. They have a physical presence and tactile quality that I love, and they will endure as the bird and other objects I collect disintegrate over time. To see more of my work, or to contact me to have your backyard photographed as part of the projects: www.rebekahrocha.com

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LPS Spotlight: Tom M. Johnson

Since the photographers featured in the Local Photographer Showcases in each city are supremely talented and excited about reaching new audiences with their work, we will be regularly featuring them to give you more insight into their work and their experience Crusading. Next up is Tom M. Johnson from the Los Angeles Pop-up:

Tell us a little about your background as a photographer and where you are now with your work.

At 37, I became a photographer fairly late in life.  Before photography I was a fairly successful model.  Many ex-models give photography a go, and some have success.  The most well known photographer ex-model I'm aware of is Ellen Von Unwerth.   Prior to being a model I didn't have any art or photography background.  However being a model introduced me not only to cameras and photographers, modeling exposed me to the world of art and culture.  Initially I photographed models, but that didn't fulfill me and I felt the need to learn technique, so I moved to Los Angeles, took classes and workshops, and got on the assistant circuit.  And after a few years of shooting this and that I became a portrait photographer.  In an attempt to support myself I shot weddings, but it was a wash.  Weddings don't pay nearly enough for the time and energy that they suck out of you.  I shot somewhere around a hundred weddings, enough to where it was no longer exciting, so when the business went digital it was my cue to get out.

I was very depressed after my mother passed away in 2005, and I made a rather bold but not well thought out (unwise) decision.   Although I had some success shooting portraits for different magazines, it certainly wasn't enough or sustainable.  On a whim I quit L.A. and returned to Paris.  I lived in Paris in the eighties, and it was the best time of my life.  Then I was young, making a lot of money, and we, my fellow model friends and I, were the kings of Paris.  My wife thinks this period was a curse, because my life hasn't been nearly as pleasant since.  Anyway I contacted my old modeling agency and thought I could make enough income to support me and my photography project, Au Bout de la Ligne, the artistic statement for the project is on my website.  The project has a lot of potential, yet it was impossible for me to have completed within 9 months.  Unfortunately, I was no longer the king of Paris and modeling was a bust, so I had to abandon the project far short of completion.  If Sydney and I were to ever win the lotto our first payment would be spent on an apartment in Paris, and I would finish the project.  I must note that while working on Au Bout de la Ligne I developed tremendous respect and appreciation for the work of Eugene Atget.

After returning from Paris I pretty much quit photography, and for nearly two years I rarely picked up a camera.  By chance a friend told me about a workshop at Julia Dean on the first step to becoming a fine art photographer taught by some woman named Aline Smithson.  I had this work from Paris, so I enrolled in the workshop.  I don't know whether to thank or curse her, but it was Aline who got be back into photography.  She encouraged me and supported my work.  So I got off my ass and returned to a project that I had been working on before I departed for Paris.  "Portraits of Sacred American Suburb" is what most people in the fine art world of photography know me for, and it's the work that most people seem to be drawn to.  It's been featured in blogs and several on-line magazines.  However, it's not the type of imagery that's easily marketable.  I've showed the project to enough gallery owners to know that even though they appreciate the work and its quality it's not something they believe they can sell.  I've also approached book publishers, and I imagine if I was monomaniacal about getting Lakewood published I could, but the money to publish it would most likely becoming out of my pocket.  Rather, I prefer to invest my energy and money into new work.

For the last year my focus has been redeveloping my portraiture portfolio with the desire to get back into the editorial market.  It's my goal that sometime in the next couple of months to return to New York and hopefully make some face time with photo editors.  During this last year I've been mulling over the idea for a new project, and it's been extremely frustrating.  I would love to come up with something conceptual that is truly my own and completely different than my prior work.  I don't know whether it's fear of failing, being a derivative of other work, it not being artistiic enough, or that I will take on another project that will ultimately end in a dead-end, but for reasons I can't seem to fathom I've had a very difficult go at making that first photograph.  Yet, in less than a week I am going to disappear to a location I've been thinking about for a year now.  I'm really looking forward to it.  We shall see.

How did you hear about the Crusade, and what were your initial impressions?

Somehow through the photography community I started following your blog and Facebook page.  I'm also friends with David Bram and Michael Sebastion, so your name and efforts kept popping up on my radar.  I read about the Crusade, but because I'm so bombarded and overwhelmed with so much photography stuff I really didn't have time to develop any initial impressions.  I only began thinking about The Crusade after you asked me to participate in the Abbot Kinney event.

Were you excited to participate in the Local Photographer Showcase?  Why or why not?

I wasn't excited about the event when I showed up.  In fact, I was a bit hesitant and ambivalent.  I wasn't sure it was worth my time and energy.  But once I say yes to something, even if I have my doubts, I give it my all and do my best to contribute and be a positive team member.  However, I did look forward to meeting you and the other participants.  Since I live outside of L.A. I'm in a bit of a cultural vacuum, so I miss the interaction and camaraderie with other creatives.  As well, I did have a bit of anxiety due to the fact that I wasn't thrilled by the quality of my prints.  It had been a very busy week prior to the event, and I didn't get around to making the prints until the day of the event.  If you recall I telephoned you that morning to ask if I could use a different image once I found out the original image I selected to donate looked horrible when I attempted to print it.  And the image I did print was not properly color balanced, and I didn't have time to correct it.  And even though no one else at Abbot Kinney could see it, I did, and it annoyed me because it fell short of the expectations I have for my work.   Also, I feel a letter size print lessens the impact of my work.  In sum, I was somewhat embarrassed giving away work that I felt didn't best represent me.

How did the event go for you?  Was it like you expected or different?  Better or worse?

Much more than imagined I really enjoyed the event.  It was fun.  I sensed that everyone made the best of it, and we didn't let the apathetic "I'm too cool for this" L.A. crowd hinder our enthusiasm.  I was actually a bit nervous about that.  Abbot Kinney neighbors Venice Beach, and I was worried the hipster crowd would think we were just a bunch of hucksters.  Ultimately we had a good group, and it was great that Aline and other photographers either connected to you or Aline came to support us and participate.  And once things got rolling I got over my initial apprehension and the quality of my prints, and I allowed myself to appreciate the joy of just giving something to somebody without any expectations.

What do you hope will come out of the experience for you - personally and professionally?  Do you think those are realistic expectations?

I didn't participate in the event with the anticipation of getting anything out of it other than connecting with you and other artists.  So in that sense my expectations were met, and I walked away well-satisfied.  And yes, I would do it again.  I've been at this long enough to know that one event like this or any one event is not going to dramatically change things for me.  Having success for me is cumulative.  It's a long slog of making new work, showing it, and repeating that process over and over.  I've learned that it's best if I enjoy and embrace the process and let things happen.  I took up surfing rather late in life, and it's the hardest sport I've ever tried to become good at.  I struggle at it, but I thoroughly enjoy it because catching a wave is a tremendous high.  I'll never be as good at surfing as I would like because I started way to late, 49, but that in a way is good because my expectations are not high.  I also enjoy surfing because the sport tests my mettle, and through confronting my innate fear of the ocean and large waves I've learned a lot about myself.  I can be such a coward, yet I keep returning to the ocean to confront my fears.  One huge lesson I've taken from surfing that I try to apply to photography and for that matter life in general is: be patient, but not passive.  And to surf a wave, no matter the size, you have to be fully committed to catching that wave.

Tell us about the image you gave away at the event and how to see more of your work.

The image I donated to the event is called "Les Couleurs de Marie d'Ivry."  It was made in the fall of 2006 near the metro terminus Marie d'Ivry.  It's an image from my project "Au Bout de la Ligne" where I went to the terminus of every metro line in Paris to make images in that quarter of Ile de France.  The majority of these terminuses were outside of Paris in the Paris Banlieue (suburb).  To see more of my work please visit www.tommjohnson.com and be sure to check out my "One a Day" tumblr blog.

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The Ten + Zatista Collaboration

The Ten is thrilled to have connected with an incredible online art selling site, Zatista. Zatista's goal is to give people an exciting, fun, accessible way to buy original art. Sound familiar? Zatista’s commitment to reaching new audiences and giving them an opportunity to connect with and collect original art. . . well, it was like finding a creative soulmate.

And as a sponsor of the Crusade for Collecting, Zatista is offering a little something extra for art collectors! Enter the coupon code “Crusade” for 10% your purchase of any art on Zatista.com.

Collect photography. Collect the World. The Ten.

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A Tale from the Backseat by Kurt Simonson

I first met Jennifer Schwartz at the inaugural Flash Powder retreat in Astoria, Oregon last summer.  It wasn’t long before I was deeply impressed by her passion for art and for people, and her brilliant out-of-the-box thinking.   When she first told me about the upcoming Crusade for Collecting, I loved the idea, and I had the distinct premonition that I’d find myself involved in some way (ok, actually, I had visions of being broken down in the middle of Texas, having repeatedly told Jennifer that I did not drive stick...) Still, this all sounded strangely appealing, so with a teaching sabbatical on the horizon, I figured I’d jump in. I was fortunate enough to participate as one of the featured photographers in both New Orleans and my own home of Los Angeles before I actually joined Lady Blue on the road in San Francisco.  The experience of giving my work away to strangers in both of those cities was a whirlwind of energy.  Whether the people passing by were genuinely interested in my work, or whether they were just bewildered and took a photograph to get me to shut up, it didn’t matter—my work was making it’s way into the hands of new collectors.   Who knows, maybe they got home and threw it away, or maybe they put it on the wall and it’s their new favorite thing… either way that’s okay.  What I found so valuable was the interpersonal connection of artist to collector, giving artists a chance to forge a vibrant network of relationships in the community through their work.

The next week, I met up in San Francisco with Jennifer and our fellow Astoria mate Sean Dana, ready to begin my leg of this adventure on the road.  As promised by Jennifer, I was not allowed to drive Lady Blue, due to my aforementioned ignorance of manual transmission (yes, I’m a bad Minnesotan).   So instead, I took up residence on the backseat bench, where I could get lost in all the street noise and be left to shout “what?!” to Jennifer and Sean as they had their conversations in the front of the bus.   The first story I heard was about how Lady Blue had spent most of the weekend in the shop, being tenderly serviced by an amorous mechanic named Coby.  Sean seemed reassured by Coby (who wore a jumpsuit with the name Paul on it, so Jennifer called him Fake Paul from the start) that things were going to be in good shape for the drive to Portland.   After a leisurely morning of preparation and b-roll footage, we hit the road.

The camera was rolling, the music was cranking…. and the oil was leaking.  Heavily.  We didn’t even make it over the Golden Gate before Lady Blue decided she missed Coby.  With only a couple miles under our belt, we had to go back to Valley WagonWorks to spend some more quality time with Fake Paul Coby.   I was beginning to wonder if we would spend more time crusading for mechanics to become collectors than anyone else.  This photo says it all to me:

The generous sponsorship of the “Impossible” project, written on a decal along the side of the bus, threatened to become an ominous prophesy of doom.  However, long story short, and a mediocre Mexican dinner later, Coby found what was wrong (or did he?) and sent us off on our way, just barely before sunset.

After spending the night in Willits, CA, Sean chugged ole’ Lady Blue out of the parking lot of our hotel and into the middle of the road, where she promptly decided that she was done … only two minutes into the day.  We forced her to chug along a side road to Ron’s Muffler, where we would meet our next batch of collectors mechanics.  This time, however, the experience and wisdom of Ron was on our side.  I had a good feeling about this and was optimistic: I grew up around repair shops and mechanics.  It’s the type of work my family has done for generations, and while I’ve always been a total misfit to that world, I still had a good feeling about Ron and his two guys, Cesar and Matthew.   Sure enough, within minutes, Ron could tell what was happening, and Matthew found a bolt that was loose, or broken, or something like that… I don’t know… Sean talked to them.  I was busy taking photos of junk piles.   Again, I’m a bad Minnesotan and I fell far from the mechanic tree in my family.  In any case, with a sense of great relief, we hit the road again, with our mechanical woes behind us.  Lady Blue was finally happy, it was a beautiful day, and the lush wooded landscape of the 101 northbound was ahead of us.

The day was marked by two epic stops:  first with John and then with the Giants.   Jennifer has already shared a bit about John, and his toilet in the middle of the field along the side of the 101.  (You can see some of Sean's photos here.) This was truly your quintessential road trip experience.  John’s roadside wunderkammern was a definitely a “cabinet of curiosities,” but it was John himself, and his hospitality and generosity, that left us feeling so much joy.  

Upon first getting out of the bus, I was led by John directly to the far back of his large shed where he opened a fridge packed full of beer and soda and proceeded to tell me all about his Chrysler New Yorker, his various collections, and all the different people he gets to meet when they stop to use his toilet in the field.  He pulled up chairs for us, offered us many gifts, and even sang along to some of his favorite songs (he would regularly grab the remote to his Bose speaker system and play whatever song he felt appropriate in the moment).  Eccentric, definitely, but crazy?  Not at all.  John struck me as a man who delights in simple pleasures, and loves to meet anyone who comes his way.  He is a collector of experiences, and a perfect person to meet on this Crusade adventure.

Our next stop was to see the redwoods in the Avenue of the Giants, a sight I have always wanted to see.  Needless to say, I found myself deeply in awe of the beauty of this place… but having been told by Sean that this is where they filmed Return of the Jedi, I was sorely disappointed that there were no Ewoks and speeder bikes.

Our second night was spent in Crescent City, which afforded us this beautiful view the next morning (see above). Day three would be spent driving up the Oregon coast, which is really beyond words in its beauty.  Much to our delight, Lady Blue behaved herself all day and managed to control her addictive desire to meet new mechanics in each major city.   That night we finally found ourselves in Portland, enjoying the warmth and hospitality of my friend Tom, slowly peeling off the layers of clothing that we wore to keep warm inside the bus.  Photolucida was the next day, and my adventures with Lady Blue were coming to a close.   I didn’t participate in the Portland pop-up, due to review appointments at Photolucida, and I have to admit, it felt a little strange to not be part of it.  It had been a total pleasure to be included on three legs of the Crusade and to be along for the ride between two of them (even if I never did get to drive the Lady). Jennifer and the Lady are headed to the Midwest and East Coast next.  If you’re in one of the remaining cities of the Crusade, don’t miss your chance to see what it’s all about, and even go home with some free art.

Kurt Simonson is a fine art photographer and professor based in Los Angeles.  He is also one of the best people on the planet.

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LPS Spotlight: Jennifer Georgescu

Since the photographers featured in the Local Photographer Showcases in each city are supremely talented and excited about reaching new audiences with their work, we will be regularly featuring them to give you more insight into their work and their experience Crusading. Next up is Jennifer Georgescu from the SF Crusade pop-up:

Tell us a little about your background as a photographer and where you are now with your work.

I grew up in a very artistic family, and I have always known that that was also the path that I would take for my life.  My father is a well-known folk artist and my mother is a painter and so I started painting at a very early age and was really into oils.  At the age of 13, my parents enrolled me in an art high school in Chattanooga, TN where I was first introduced to the medium of photography.   My love of painting and photography quickly became intertwined, and I began searching for ways to combine them.

I painted from my photographs for a number of years until I was introduced to Photoshop: it blew my mind.  Photoshop was the answer for what I was searching for; a way to paint with photographs.  I never used oil paint again. My work is influenced by artists such as Sandy Skoglund, Duane Michals, and the ParkeHarrison’s who all look at art making as a conceptualized production rather that an instant captured.   In my work I utilize medium format film, sets, sculpture, studio lighting, and digital technology to create purely pre-conceived, pre-visualized images.

How did you hear about the Crusade, and what were your initial impressions?

I had been following the Jennifer Schwartz Gallery for the past year and saw the Crusade for Art as a great opportunity to get to meet Jennifer and do something new and different in my own community.  I expected that people would be standoffish when approached on the streets and certainly wasn’t expecting any “heavy” conversation about my art.  I was mainly excited to network a bit with the other four artists chosen to participate in the event.

How did the event go for you?  Was it like you expected or different?  Better or worse?

I was pleasantly surprised by how enthusiastic people were when I approached them and how open they were to receiving my explanation and thought process for creating “Sand, Stone, Dead Leaves & Bone.”   It was also a fantastic feeling to be able to approach random people in the street and have them really respond to what I’m doing.  I had 30 people sign up for my newsletter, people were trying to buy my book (I only brought one!), and best of all I made contact with people I hope to encountered again.

What do you hope will come out of the experience for you - personally and professionally?  Do you think those are realistic expectations?

I am uncertain if this crusade will result in any major sales or gallery exhibitions, but it did result in my having access to the most unexpected of audiences.  It was a great experience just to have had conversations with people about my art and make some friends that I otherwise would have just passed by in the street.  This was a really engaging project for the community, a new experience for me as well, and I would definitely wish to participate in something like this again.

Tell us about the image you gave away at the event and how to see more of your work.

The image I chose to give away was from my new body of work:

“Sand, Stone, Dead Leaves & Bone”:

It seems that while that we can recognize that we are a part of nature, there is evidence of a disconnect taking place.  We have no solid definition of what it is that we claim to be a part of, and rationality is privileged over wildness and chaos.   We set aside small areas of land for enjoyment, we pay to see caged animals; we want to “dabble” in nature so that we can feel closer to it.  “Sand, Stones, Dead Leaves & Bone” examines our relationship to nature and the anxiety that comes from our lack of contact with it.

Presented in this project are slightly unsettling images of humans being engulfed by nature and vice versa; attractive and repulsive in their approach.  This dualism suggests that perhaps we fear nature might win if we don’t dominate it, while at the same time alluding to the acceptance of not being in control. Through the use of medium format film photography, installation, and digital technology, I explore “backyard” suburban nature and the integration of the physical and mental self into its surroundings.

You can see more of my work at

Http://www.jengeorgescu.comhttp://jennifergeorgescu.tumblr.com and http://jennifergeorgescu.wordpress.com.

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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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LPS Spotlight: Jeff Rau

Since the photographers featured in the Local Photographer Showcases in each city are supremely talented and excited about reaching new audiences with their work, we will be regularly featuring them to give you more insight into their work and their experience Crusading. Next up is Jeff Rau from the LA Crusade pop-up:

Tell us a little about your background as a photographer and where you are now with your work.

I came to a contemporary art practice through a rather unconventional path. My undergraduate degree was in Structural Engineering, and I didn't really get interested in art until after I'd graduated. I was living in Long Beach and happened to start making friends with lots of artists using their contemporary art practice to engage with the local community in exciting ways. Through my participation in some of those projects, I developed a real passion for art myself. Soon I had quit engineering and was taking classes in photography, going on to receive an MFA in Photography and a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies  from Cal State Fullerton. My work today is not always what one might readily identify with the practice of "photography" in a traditional sense--as it often incorporates other media, including: video, performance, journaling, audio, installation, mapping, etc.--so I don't usually identify myself directly with the label "photographer". I could perhaps say that I am a conceptual artist who works in projects or series, establishing systems of documentation and engagement that unfold over time, but that doesn't really help describe it in any useful way. Maybe I should say that my recent interest has been exploring how we interact with the landscape, both individually and as a society.

How did you hear about the Crusade, and what were your initial impressions?

I first heard about the Crusade through my friend (and fellow Crusade participant) Kurt Simonson. He has participated in other workshop events with you (Jennifer Schwartz), and has been very excited about this project since he first heard about it back in the Kickstarter fundraising phase. I have to say that I was fairly skeptical about how it could be good for the participating artists; I mean basically we're just giving stuff away for free. But Kurt's enthusiasm is infectious so he won me over. Then as I found out more about how we were managing this special run of prints and looking to connect personally with potential new collectors, I began to see it more and more as a great opportunity to connect with people and engage in conversation about my work. For me prompting those conversations has always been the number one goal of my art practice, so it was natural to participate in an event that shared in the goal of getting people talking about the work.

Were you excited to participate in the Local Photographer Showcase?  Why or why not?

I had real mixed feelings on the day of the event here in LA. As I mentioned before, I was definitely excited about the possibility for conversations, but I was also very nervous about whether anyone on the streets would really care.

How did the event go for you?  Was it like you expected or different?  Better or worse?

I thought it was spectacular! On one level, we had beautiful weather so it was just plain fun to hang out outside with fellow artists for several hours; then on top of that, we had a very steady stream of people passing by our location and the folks we ran into on Abbot Kinney were really excited to engage with us! All around I felt it could not have gone better! Lots of great conversations with people who were genuinely interested in the work we were doing, and I was also very excited to find myself frequently engaged in conversation with arts professionals who had randomly happened upon our event (including well-respected established artists, museum professionals, and designers who were inspired by our work)!

What do you hope will come out of the experience for you - personally and professionally?  Do you think those are realistic expectations?

As I just mentioned, there were several folks who came by who are professionals in art related business, so those connections could potentially payoff in a variety of ways... It is tempting to hope that at least one or two of those folks will keep in touch and those gifts may eventually lead to future professional opportunities. But honestly, I don't know if that is realistic. So I remain happy to have simply had the opportunity to converse with them for an afternoon. Hopefully our random encounter on one Saturday will leave a lasting impression in their lives, through the gift of a print displayed in their home or office, or as they contemplate our conversation and seek out other opportunities to engage with artists and their work. I have no expectations for immediate returns, but I hope that seeds have been planted that will continue to grow and bear fruit for weeks/months/years to come. Maybe someday I'll see some of that fruit, but even if I don't see it personally or directly, I expect that the exposure and networking will payoff in quieter ways.

Tell us about the image you gave away at the event and how to see more of your work.

I gave away a print titled "HAZE - 30 Days Over L.A. (April 2012)". This image was part of larger project (HAZE) employing various photographic strategies to represent the immaterial, ever-shifting cloud of smog/grit/marine-layer that cloaks the city of L.A. in an obfuscating fog. The project as a whole spanned two years, but the specific image printed for the Crusade for Collecting used a series of 30 images of the L.A. skyline--one from each day of April 2012, all taken from the same location--and stitched them together to represent one continuous landscape under a shifting sky of blue/grey/brown, with the city and mountains constantly disappearing and re-emerging from the haze day after day. To see more of my work you can visit my website -- www.JeffRau.com. Also I have been featured in the current issue of Fabrik Magazine (www.fabrik.la) as one of the "Fresh Faces in Art: Eight L.A. Artists You Should Know". You can read the magazine online here - http://issuu.com/fabrik/docs/fabrik20.

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San Francisco Crusade Video

Curious about these Crusade pop-up events where we pull up on the street and give away photography?  Check out this short clip from our SF pop-up on our YouTube channel!

The Crusade for Collecting arrived in San Francisco and popped up in the Mission in front of Photobooth SF on Saturday, April 13.

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Photolucida Photographer Highlights

Last week the Crusade made a stop in Portland for a pop-up and to attend the Photolucida Portfolio Review event.  At a portfolio review, photographers at the mid-career level register for one-on-one meetings (20 minutes long) with gallery owners, curators, critics, collectors and publishers from around the world.  As a reviewer, I met with 48 photographers over 4 days and was fortunate enough to informally see work from dozens of others. People seem to ask me pretty regularly about current themes I see in photography, and although I don't like to categorize, I will say that I saw a lot of work dealing with contemporary landscape - human intervention, neglect, urbanization. . . And I learned a new word!  "Dross" - ok, now that I used the google, the definition isn't exactly as it was explained to me by one of the many photographers dealing with this topic, but as I learned it, dross is the in-between space in the landscape - places that have fallen away from use or that are coming into use.  Dross.  Photograph that.  (or don't, since lots of others are getting that covered. . .)

So dross aside, I'd like to highlight just a few images/photographers that peaked my interest.  Some of this work is finished and ready to launch, and other portfolios are still working out issues and growing, but these are just few that I keep thinking about.

This image by Amelia Morris made me cry:

I pretty much loved everything about Marico Fayre, including her meditative series, White. Kids With Guns: The Childhood Gravity Games by Kim Campell intruiged me - I think it's going somewhere.  K. K. Depaul's mixed-media collage and assemblage pieces about secrets was wonderfully haunting.

A lot of talent always shows up for this review, and Portland of course is my love, so the whole time there was wonderful, start to finish.

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Art Partner: Zatista

I am really excited to have connected with an incredible online art selling site, Zatista.  Zatista's goal is to give people an exciting, fun, accessible way to buy original art.  Sound familiar?  Zatista’s commitment to reaching new audiences and giving them an opportunity to connect with and collect original art. . . well, it was like finding a creative soulmate.  And as a Crusade supporter, you can get a little Zatista love too!  Enter the coupon code “Crusade” for 10% your purchase.  Art on! About Zatista

There is nothing quite like the feeling of owning something truly unique. Knowing that only one exists in the entire world. Hand-crafted, with a story behind it all its own. In today’s world of copies and reproductions an original is increasingly hard to find.

In the world of art, Zatista understands its rarity and is championing/taking a stand for the original. For those lucky enough to discover Zatista, an incredible world of beautiful/original art awaits you. It is quickly emerging as the best place to buy original art online and causing many savvy buyers to ask:why buy prints when you can own an original?

Zatista is the leading destination to buy original art online, giving you unrivalled access to exclusive collections from all over the world.  With over 4000 highly curated works from the most talented emerging and established artists, Zatista provides access to the types of works previously only available to seasoned collectors. Buying online with Zatista is easy with their complimentary art consultation, certificates of authenticity and a buyer guarantee that allows you to try art in your home with free returns (as well as free shipping within the US for all purchases). Their platform makes it fun to discover art you love, with an experience so unique it’s like you are right there in front of it.

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Portland Pop-up - Put Some Art On It!

Lady Blue rolled into Portland last Tuesday, and while I hunkered down in a conference room for four days to  meet with 48 different photographers and give feedback on their work for the Photolucida portfolio review, the Lady luxuriated in a garage across the street.  The trip from San Francisco was gorgeous and an absolute blast, but after three days of driving, Lady Blue deserved some downtime. But by Saturday afternoon, she was ready for some Crusading!  We decided to mix things up in Portland, after big events in Los Angeles and San Francisco where we parked on a busy street and set up display shelves and tables on the sidewalk.  We wanted to be more rogue and have a roving Crusade event, and so we had just three local photographers participate to more easily pile into the Lady and move from location to location.

I mentioned before how each city's personality has influenced the way people engage with the pop-up, and Portland was no exception.  The vibe of the city seems to be pretty low-key and unassuming, and that was definitely the vibe of the participating photographers!  When we were driving over to our first location, we talked about how to engage people walking by. . . if the bus had not been moving, I'm pretty sure these three would have jumped out and run away.

But alas, we got into a groove, and being on the move made it a lot easier to reach out to people.  We also received a lot of unsolicited treats in exchange for art - cookies, candy bars. . . Portland is awesome.  One man did refuse to participate in protest of the mandatory art tax just imposed here.  Portland is kooky too.

All of the photographs were gone in record-time, and we didn't even have a chance to move the bus to a different part of town.  It was really fun to be on foot and spread out a bit, and it has been exciting and educational to speak with people about art and gauge their reactions to the project.  More on that later. . .

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