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Minor Matters - Publishing Innovation That Matters

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 9.02.52 AM
Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 9.02.52 AM

I first heard rumblings about Minor Matters Books, the new imprint by publishing veteran Michelle Dunn Marsh, earlier this year, but it wasn't until I read this PDN article over the summer that I fully understood the concept.  It's a brilliant win-win(-win) for the artist, publisher, and audience. More and more it seems that photographers are asked to bring a large sum of money to the table in order to get their photobook published.  In essence, the photographer is fronting all of the hard costs of the publishing, and in return they receive a certain number of books that they can sell (without the help of a distributor, like the publisher has) on their own.  If the photographer can sell all of their copies (at galleries, exhibitions, independent bookstores that will buy direct from the artist), they have a chance to recoup most of their investment.

While there are valid reasons for a photographer to want to participate in this scenario, this model definitely economically favors the publisher.  But a publisher with a "pay to play" reputation begs the question - are the books they publish truly the best of contemporary photography today, or just the best of who can afford it?

Minor Matters Books takes a new approach.  They are combining crowdfunding with careful curation in a way that is collaborative, fun, and really smart.  Here's how it works (from the Minor Matters Books website):

In collaboration with each artist, we develop a $50 book, then present it to you, our audience, for a maximum of six months. When at least 500 of you make an advanced purchase, the book goes into design and production, and will be shipped to you upon completion (no more than a year from the book’s initial launch on the site). The first 500 people who purchase are listed within the book, along with the artists, writers, and printers who are part of making the book happen.

This model tests the market for the book before the book is published.  It also engages and helps build the audience for the artist.  I have loved David Hilliard's work for years, and while I probably would have gotten around to buying his photobook once it came out, it was thrilling to be one of the people to actually help make it happen.  And I become a co-publisher!  I feel even more invested in him and his photography, which is something a crowdfunding model can do that ordering a book on Amazon cannot match.

Oh, sweet innovation.

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Paris Photo!!!

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It’s been a week since I said goodbye to Paris, and I am still inspired and energized by all I saw there.  First of all, it’s Paris.  Every time you turn a corner, you are greeted by an absolutely magnificent, iconic landmark.  Oh, hello Eifel Tower.  The French make everything beautiful, from Notre Dame to lamp posts.  It’s a feast for the eyes. . . and soul.

Grand Palais

Then add Paris Photo to the mix, and you have a mind-blowingly amazing aesthetic adventure.  Paris Photo is the largest photography fair in the world, and even after spending two full days walking up and down the rows of booths, I did not come close to seeing it all.  Held at the Grand Palais, the fair has row after row after row (after row) of booths, each with walls full of photographs from a different photography gallery from around the world.  The scope of this fair is so much larger than AIPAD, mostly because of all the international galleries that participate.

Toledano2

So what did I see?  A better question is what didn’t I see?  I saw my favorite Eggelston up close and personal.  I saw a cyanotype photogram by Christian Marclay at Frankel Gallery’s booth.  A chat with Darius Himes (the gallery director) revealed the price to be $45,000.  Alas, it had already been sold.  Sigh.  I got to catch up with Julie Blackmon at Robert Mann’s booth and Phil Toledano, who had three large pieces from his new body of work for sale.  Oh!  Mike Brodie's photographs.  And then there was that Abelardo Morell photograph I was coveting. . .

Julien Mauve
Julien Mauve

There was a small section showing the work of some students who won a competition to be included.  I fell in love with the work of Julien Mauve, who was selling work hand over fist (much to his dismay, I think).  He was lovely, and I strongly encourage you to check out his work.  He’s a rising star for sure.

book

And then the photobooks!  I lugged a ten pound book about contemporary Chinese photography half way around the city.  But the real treat was the section devoted to photobooks from the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation photobook awards.  They were all incredible, but I loved this set of accordion books by Thomas Sauvin called Silvermine (published by Archive of Modern Conflict).  They are typologies created from negatives found at a recycling center near Beijing. The negatives were sent there for their silver nitrate content.  From the description: "Most critically, this project offers a sneak peak at the rise of the Chinese middle class in the twenty years between the introduction of the personal film camera (ca. 1985) and the adaptation almost exclusively of digital point-and-shoot (ca. 2005).

Sugimoto
Sugimoto

There were also exhibits around the city, and we were able to make it to two - Sergio Larrain's Vagabonds at the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation and Hiroshi Sugimoto's Accelerated Buddha at the Yves Saint Laurent Foundation.  I wasn't familiar with Larrain's work, and it was an interesting show.  But the treat was really the Sugimoto.  The Accelerated Buddha looping video piece was unbelievable.  You sit in a small room and the video is projected on three walls, so you are surrounded.  Just trust me on this one.  And if you get to Paris before January 26, do yourself a favor and watch it three times in a row like we did.

So in a nutshell - Paris was amazing.  Go there.

Please excuse my less-than-stellar iPhone pictures. I rented a Fuji X-Pro for the trip, but haven't figured out how to convert the raw files yet. . .

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Crusade for Art - The Announcement!

Last Spring I drove a VW bus around the country in the name of promoting photographers and collecting.  Interacting with people in different communities encouraged me to think about the importance of creating a platform that would help many photographers create, fund, and implement their own ideas to engage audiences with their work.

I am thrilled to bring you Crusade for Art, which will not only talk about ideas, but also make them happen. By inspiring, mentoring, teaching, and funding, Crusade for Art will empower artists to focus on connecting people to their work and thereby encourage systemic changes to create a new crop of art lovers, patrons, and collectors.

I believe in making a difference, and I believe the best way to continue to do so is by funneling the programming and passion for creating demand for photography through Crusade for Art. Crusade for Art’s mission is to build artists’ capacity to create demand for their work. We do this in two ways: by educating and mentoring artists to higher levels of creative and professional development; and by incubating, through programs and advocacy, innovative solutions that connect artists with their audiences.

The ideas, successes, and experiences of Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, The Ten, and the Crusade for Collecting Tour have informed the mission and direction of Crusade for Art. The remainder of this year will be spent transitioning from a commercial model to one that better allows us to fully focus on creating demand for art on a larger scale through Crusade for Art.  Some of the most important aspects of JSG – promoting and developing the careers of photographers and cultivating collectors – remain at the heart of this new and vibrant non-profit entity, which will have a larger impact on the photographic community as a whole.

Stay tuned for the announcement of several programs that will give amazing opportunities to photographers and inspire all of us to connect people with our art.  Thank you for your continued enthusiasm, encouragement, and support.

Together we can set the world on fire.


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Collaboration Worked for America's Greatest Inventor, Why Not You?

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing innovation expert, Sarah Miller Caldicott, speak about the importance of collaboration for successful business endeavors. A great grandneice of Thomas Edison, she gave a lecture titled "Transforming Innovation Success in the Digital Era: 4 Lessons from Thomas Edison." I seek collaboration in everything I do, and when I first entered the fine art photography community, I was frustrated by the lack of interest in collaborating. It was and continues to be disappointing to learn that instead of subscribing to the "rising tides lift all ships" approach, many people prefer to work alone and consider themselves "competitors" rather than "collaborators". Luckily I have met some bright, shining stars along the way who are likeminded, and according to this lecture, we have chosen the most successful path!

Thomas Edison started over 200 companies (many of which to manufacture his inventions) and pioneered six industries. He was kind of a rockstar. And by "kind of", I mean "totally, completely, mind-blowingly". And in addition to his brilliance, a major component of his success (according to Sarah Miller Caldicott) was his use of collaboration.

Collaboration is not just teamwork - it is leveraging the power of each person to bring about each other's strengths and differences. Here are some take-home lessons on how to have an effective collaborative effort:

  • small teams of 2-8 typically work best
  • create experiences outside of a regular work environment so the group can have shared experiences and become colleagues (not just employees, committee members, etc.)
  • include people with diverse expertise
  • begin with questions (not solutions) so the team can collectively engage in discovery learning and be committed to the same outcomes
  • leaders need collegiality, inspiration, optimism, and expertise
  • reduce hierarchies and engage networks

To dig way deeper, check out Sarah Miller Caldicott's book on the subject, Midnight Lunch.

Now let's all achieve success together - what do you say?

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Art Cloud Helps You…Do Everything

Art Cloud is an art management system designed for galleries, but with functionality (and price points!) for artists and collectors.  And it is amazing.  I sat down with Alex West (the brains and super friendly and arts-minded person behind the operation) this week for a demo, and I was blown away. When I started my gallery almost five years ago, I looked into the available software out there and felt like it was too expensive and not significantly better than my suped-up spreadsheet (I love me a spreadsheet).  But this is not only affordable (for galleries: $500 activation + $99/month, for artists: no activation fee and $19/month - seriously), it is basically a brain, alarm clock, manager, schmoozer, and organizer all in one.  This system is incredibly robust.  And easy.  And affordable.  And no, I'm not getting any kickback, I'm just a huge fan.

OK, here's how it can work for you gallery/artist/collector -

First, you can keep track of all of your inventory, with every bit of information about each piece you could imagine.  And if you (artist) and you (gallery) both have Art Cloud, the information can automatically sync up.  It's a cloud thing.  Brilliant.  Galleries can also have the inventory sync to their websites, so you don't have to update both places.  Also awesome for galleries - you can automatically generate pricing sheets and wall tags for shows (the wall tags export into a label doc that's already set up for the Avery pre-sets), create invoices, track partial payments (once the invoice is paid, the piece automatically takes it out of inventory). . . swooning.

But the best part (in my obsessed with creating demand for art opinion) for artists and galleries alike is the client management component.  A few posts ago I talked about the importance of regularly communicating with your collectors and advocates.  This software makes it so easy.  You can build profiles for each person you enter, add notes ("reviewed at FotoFest and liked my barn project", "met at this cocktail party and said was interested in coming by the gallery", "Super Artist Friend suggested I show this person my work"), set reminders to reach out, and keep track of the type of work they like.  So if you have a person tagged with "abstract", and you add a new abstract piece into inventory, it will remind you to communicate with this abstract lover. . . and you can email the abstract lover the image and info about the piece directly from Art Cloud.  It's genius.  It makes my spreadsheets look sad and wimpy.  And I'm ok with that.

Check out Art Cloud here:  www.art-cloud.co.  You won't be sorry.

Looking for more help to connect new audiences to your work?  That's what Crusade for Art is all about.  Read more here.

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Linking Art Purchases to Special Occasions

Last week I held another Art Circle, a program I love where a small group of people get together to learn about fine art photography and collecting in a laid back and fun way. One of the things that came up in our conversation was how a lot of people like to buy art on vacation, to remind them of a really great trip or experience.  I have thought about this a lot over the years, because Atlanta is not a tourist town, and we do not benefit from that type of art buying.  Also because, even though I buy art seemingly around the clock, my husband and I do tend to buy more when we are away.  We even bought a photograph at the AIPAD fair in New York. . . from a gallery based in Atlanta.  We were having a great time in the city, and money somehow feels easier to part with on vacation.

I've been wondering, how can we make art buying its own memorable experience?  And what non-traveling occasions could be marked by the purchase of a special piece of art?

Last year a couple approached me with an idea.  They were engaged, and they wanted to register for a photograph. Guests to the wedding would be able to give them money to go toward the purchase of a piece of art they selected. From there, they plan to purchase a new piece every year to mark their anniversary.

So how can we get more people to register for art or think about buying art to mark a special occasion or anniversary?  Websites where you can purchase original art online should consider adding a registry function.  Galleries - offer this service to your collectors.  Let's do this!

Looking for help creating your own innovative ideas to connect new audiences to your work?  That's what Crusade for Art is all about.  Read more here.

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Is Amazon Art Good for Collecting?

As someone who is over the moon when I hear about innovation in art and programs that lower the barriers to entry for people to appreciate and collect it, the announcement that Amazon would sell fine art online should have made me break out into cartwheels.  And I’m not unhappy. . . just cautious.  The launch was only just a couple of weeks ago, so time will tell whether or not this platform has legs.  Of course, plenty of sites exist that sell original art online, and I love the accessibility of that concept.  Fall in love with art in your pajamas? I’m in!

As this Business Insider article says, “there are plenty of people who are uncomfortable with the typical brick and mortar gallery experience who would actually prefer to buy art online. There's less judgment about what you like, less pressure in choosing what to buy, and customers can rely on Amazon's return and shipping policies, so there's extra reliability.”  Word.  Buying art online takes away so many of the barriers a lot of people new to looking at art (and a lot who are not so new) feel:  galleries are intimidating, art in galleries will not fall within an affordable price range, lack of experience looking at art or knowledge about art history will make the whole experience feel unpleasant and disconnected.

With over 40,000 items for sale on Amazon Art, nearly half are priced below $1,000.  You can sort by medium, size, price, color.  There seems to be something for everyone.  And as opposed to the other sites that sell art online, everyone knows Amazon.  Everyone is already shopping on Amazon.  Need to bump up the total cost of the items in your cart to qualify for free super-saver shipping?  Add some art.

Other online art selling sites also give a wide selection and allow the user to sort through the work in the same ways as Amazon, but there are some significant differences as well.  These other online art selling sites have been designed with the art buyer in mind.  Some cater to more advanced collectors and sell high-end art, and others target new art buyers, but they are all set up to disclose the most important information about the art for sale (condition of art that is being resold, edition sizes for photographs and prints), and they seem to be invested in creating (return) art collectors.

Most sites that are exclusively dedicated to selling art online have an educational component to them, so that new art buyers can dig in a bit and learn about the various art terms and get comfortable with what they are looking at.  They also have blogs with artist features and other bits of information to give you a deeper understanding of the art for sale.  Amazon Art has no more information listed about artwork than for any other products they sell.  While buying original art (over mass-produced décor) is the first step to getting people on the path to recognizing the value art can add to their lives, the ultimate goal is to cultivate their interest in art and get them invested – not just financially, but emotionally – in art.  Adding a cool image to your shopping cart along with diapers, an e-book, and shampoo does not seem to do that.  That scenario gives the feeling that art may be an afterthought, especially since the educational component does not exist on Amazon (unless the e-book is about art!).  If someone was interested in learning more about the artist, the medium, or the motivation behind the work, they would have to make an effort to research it themselves online.  To make art personal to new collectors and allow them to connect to it in a deeper, meaningful, multi-layered way, there needs to be more context. 

Also related to the lack of information available about the art and artists, I noticed that photographs listed say only “Unique Work”, with no mention of edition size.  I am very familiar with many of the photographs for sale on Amazon Art, and I know they are not “one of a kind”, which is what “Unique Work” leads me to believe.  Yes, the work is original, but it exists in multiple, but limited, prints.  

The information issue could easily be addressed by creating additional fields for the participating galleries to fill out for each piece of art.  I’m sure Amazon has a small city’s worth of programmers that could knock that out in minutes.  The educational/contextual component could also be added, if Amazon was interested in collaborating with an art “expert” to provide the content.

Another concern I have that would be more difficult to resolve is the added distance placed between the collector and the artist.  This Forbes article touts the anonymity of buying art online, but for artists who are trying to build relationships with their collectors (which I cannot recommend enough, as I wrote about in a previous post), being so far removed from the purchaser would make the development of meaningful, ongoing relationships between artists and collectors impossible.  In this situation, the galleries do not even have the opportunity for personal interactions with the purchasers, so there is no opportunity to build a relationship there either.

Art alone is beautiful.  Art that engages and creates a visceral response is life-changing.  Sometimes some context and personal connection is the difference between the former and the later.

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The Kiernan Gallery Creates Opportunities for Emerging Photographers

Yeah, I like the sound of that. I first met Kat Kiernan as a photographer, and through working with her on a few projects, I got to know more about her, her gallery, and her commitment to giving emerging photographers like herself a platform for experience and exposure.  She is as hard-working and arts-minded as they come, so basically, I'm in love with her.

She has done some really interesting and forward-thinking programs in the two years since opening The Kiernan Gallery and has plenty more up her sleeve.  She has been kind enough to share some of her awesomeness with us. . .

Crusade for Art:  Why did you want to start a gallery?

Kat Kiernan: When I graduated with my BFA in photography, I was surprised at how many of my peers were graduating without having been in an exhibition outside of their thesis show. Of course there were those who had been exhibiting a bit elsewhere, but they were the minority. By the time I graduated I had a handful of juried shows and publications on my resume. Participation in these shows gave me the valuable experience of thinking about my work beyond the critique wall. Editing work for submissions, framing, and shipping are vital components of being an exhibiting artist. These exhibitions taught me to think about my portfolio as a final product, from shooting to packaging and delivery.

I wanted to create a gallery for emerging artists like myself and my peers to gain these experiences. I also wanted to present the work of emerging artists to highly respected artists, curators, and editors to help foster connections and further careers.

C4A: What adaptations or model changes have you made since you first opened?

KK: The Kiernan Gallery has been open for two years and has grown quite a lot in that short time. A few months after opening we started a blog to highlight the Juror’s and Director’s Choice winners of each show, interview jurors, and share our thoughts and ideas on the business of being an artist.

More recently, we have begun exhibiting solo shows in conjunction with each of our group shows. Three times per year we also hold calls for non-photographic artists to submit their work for a solo exhibition. These non-photographic shows broaden our base of patrons, some of whom would not normally consider themselves to be collectors of photography. They come in to see abstract paintings, for example, and often walk away with a better appreciation for abstract photography.

I am most excited about our pop-up studio salons. Twice a year we convert an artist’s studio into a gallery of their work for a one-night celebration of their art. My goal is to combine the energy of an opening reception, the excitement of meeting the artist, and a behind-the-scenes experience of a studio visit into one event. Meeting the artist, spending time in their workspace, and, when possible, seeing how the work was made, creates a connection between patrons and artists that would not exist otherwise. More importantly, these events help build a collecting community for that artist in their own area. This is a project that we hope to expand in the future.

C4A: Tell us about your upcoming publication.  What is it, why is it, what are the goals for it?

KK:  In the beginning of September, The Kiernan Gallery will launch Don’t Take Pictures, a biannual print & tablet-ready magazine. Don’t Take Pictureswill feature six artists per issue who have previously exhibited in The Kiernan Gallery in addition to book reviews and articles on art business.

The title, Don’t Take Pictures, is a reference to the language of photography. Over the years the term “taking pictures” has been replaced with “making pictures.” This publication focuses on the creative process involved in the making of photographs.

In addition to the magazine itself, each month one of the six featured artists will have one of their images for sale exclusively through the gallery. Each image is roughly 6x9, signed, numbered in an edition no higher than five, and has a sale price no higher than $200. This work can be purchased exclusively through magazine’s website. The full amount of the sale goes to the artist.

C4A: Tell us about your mission and why it was important to you to take this route (showing unrepresented photographers).

KK:  I believe that there are some extremely talented emerging artists in photography today, but some of them are not yet ready for representation. Maybe they have only one body of work or are still building their exhibition history, but the work they do have is very good and deserves to be seen.

The majority of artists that we exhibit do not have representation. Our calls for work are a good way for me to find emerging talent. I keep a list of photographers who have participated in our group exhibitions whose work I would like to show more of. These artists are taken into consideration for solo exhibitions, pop-up studio salons, and future issues of Don’t Take Pictures.

C4A: How has your experience as an emerging photographer shaped your vision for The Kiernan Gallery?

KK:  The fact that I am an emerging photographer myself is intertwined with everything The Kiernan Gallery does. I created this gallery for artists who, like myself, are just beginning their exhibiting careers. True to this mission, I do not allow the gallery to do anything that I would not want to participate in myself. I think the strongest example of this is our commission policy: The Kiernan Gallery does not take commission on works sold from our group shows. We believe that if artists are paying a submission fee, the gallery should not also take a portion of the sale. We take a commission (30%) only on work from solo artists who have been invited and have not paid a submission fee.

When selecting jurors, I look for people who are interested in the work of emerging artists and may have opportunities for them. For example, Christopher James juried both of our alternative process exhibitions. He liked some of the images so much that he included them in the upcoming edition of his textbook. Vicki Goldberg juried our most recent Portfolio Showcase and wrote a few paragraphs on the work of each selected artist, one of whom is now including this review in his upcoming book. 

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Good Morning Atlanta, Hello Inspiration

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of being a guest on "Good Morning Atlanta", a live podcast series on Atlanta Business Radio X, hosted by the awesome Dana Barrett.  Last year I was on a show about art and ethics on the same program, and this time the other guests and I discussed art, religion, and meaningful work.  I love everything about these juxtapositions.  Yesterday before we went live on the air, one of the other guests, writer Jeffrey Small told us about his journey from real estate businessman to novelist.  He said he realized there was a difference between success and significance, and he realized that he wasn't being fulfilled in fundamental ways by his success as a businessman.  Isn't that why we make art?  To be fulfilled and find significance?  And isn't that what we are hoping to give to others through our art?  I think sometimes we get can caught up in thinking dollar signs signal success, and of course sales are important for all kinds of reasons, but being a part of this podcast inspired me to think about focusing on the core of it all and letting success come from within. Click here to listen to the podcast.

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Around the Block with Brian Ulrich

A question that fascinates me is this - What is it about a photograph (or any piece of art, really) that makes it stick with you?  For any given artist, collector, or art lover, what qualities take an image to that next level for you? On the tour we started asking people who have a reputation in the photography field this question and recording their answers - sometimes while they were driving Lady Blue around the block.  Fred Bidwell was our guinea pig, and he rocked it (because he's just like that).

When I was in Richmond in June, I had an awesome studio visit with Brian Ulrich.  His brain is just on fire.  He agreed to drive Lady Blue around the block, and was even gracious enough to do it twice when I thought the audio may not have recorded on the first go-round.  

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.)

This "Around the Block" features photographer Brian Ulrich. Brian Ulrich was born 1971 in Northport, NY. His photographs portraying contemporary consumer culture reside in major museum collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Ulrich earned his MFA in photography at Columbia College Chicago and a BFA in photography at the University of Akron. He is an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Photography and Film department.

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Photographer Dawn Roe Uses Storefront Windows to Engage Her City

Dawn Roe is a mover and a shaker and a photographer I have enjoyed getting to know over the past couple of years.  We first met at a portfolio review, and then she participated in the very first Flash Powder Retreat.  Her work is unique, and she has done a great job working her angles and getting her photography in front of people, making her a rockstar in my book. She recently launched a project called Window, utilizing a storefront window in downtown Asheville to exhibit work from national and international artists.  Here's a little Q&A with Dawn about the project:

What is the arts community like in Asheville, and what has been your experience there?

There is definitely a vibrant and diverse arts community in Asheville, which is one of the reasons I choose to live here part-time (during the academic year I’m in Florida where I teach at Rollins College in Winter Park).  But, because I’m only here some of the time, I want to acknowledge my status as somewhat of an outsider.  I realize this aspect might diminish my experience of the community somewhat, but I’ve been fortunate to form relationships with a fantastic group of artists, local business owners and others over the last 8 years.

The arts and crafts tradition the region is known for definitely still dominates in terms of overall presence, but there is a burgeoning contemporary art scene that is beginning to thrive as well.  And, of course, the two are not mutually exclusive - nor should they be. Distinctions made between these poles are just as meaningless as those arbitrarily placed upon pop/low-brow and “high” art practice.  But, I have noted a disconnect in terms of how “the arts” are conceived of in Asheville that relates pretty directly to this type of confused categorization.  (I should note this complication is certainly not exclusive to Asheville, as many smaller communities struggle with this as well).

You mentioned wanting to start an artist collaborative.  What was the impetus behind that?

In large part, it had to do with a certain amount of frustration with what I was beginning to get at above.  Even though Asheville is often described as having a strong arts community, it is difficult to bring together the scattered groups of people who want to have thoughtful, critical discussions about art and culture.  Many in the community share this concern, and finding ways to bring these people together is a challenge.

I was part of a small group of likeminded artists brought together by local photographer Scott Hubener last spring.  We had some excited discussions where we tried to think of ways to promote the serious discussion of contemporary photo-based practices in particular.  A lot of us were discouraged by the dominant public conception of what photography should be or what it should look like, so Scott organized and curated an exhibition at a local gallery called Coop that showcased our work and diverse approaches to the medium.  We talked about the possibility of renting a collective studio space, or finding some way to host regular pop-up style exhibitions around town, but ultimately these things weren’t economically realistic. 

What made you seek out an alternative exhibition space?  Do you have openings and hours, or is it meant to be viewed "on the fly"?

Realizing that a collaborative studio or small space rental wasn’t going to be feasible, I started thinking about what I might be able to do relatively simply and on my own at first, just to get the ball rolling.  I thought about what other platforms might work, which led me to consider local storefront spaces in the downtown area.  The partnership with Henco Reprographics (the local business that hosts the site) has turned out to be a perfect match, as they print the works on site each month and apply them to the designated portion of the storefront (a side window, angled toward passersby on the street) as well as vinyl lettering with the artist’s name and dates of exhibition.  A permanent logo with the project’s website is always on display in the lower corner of the window, and informative press releases are available inside the shop, during regular business hours.  The public is encouraged to pop by anytime throughout the month to see the work, as it’s on view from outside the building all hours of the day.

But, we do have openings the first Friday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. as well.  I’ve been working to get more people out for these as this is a great time to have informal discussions about the current month’s installation and the issues and questions this kind of public art can bring up, as it’s counter to the way many of us are used to engaging with artworks.  I’ve recently implemented a new strategy that involves placing small pads of handouts around town that include prompts for discussion related to the current and/or upcoming exhibitions.  The hope is that people will be intrigued enough to come to the opening and chat, or that they will go to the blog and comment. 

What goals do you have for this type of exhibition?  Are you trying to get more exposure for the artists you are showing, engage new audiences, or both?

For this project, it’s really not so much about exposure as generating dialogue.  The artists I’ve shown so far are all invested in the ideas behind the project and are essentially donating their work to the cause. I’ve been amazed at how generous and flexible people have been in allowing me to display their work in this manner, and for no monetary compensation, as the project is not funded at this time. But yes, engaging new audiences is certainly a primary concern.  Ideally, I’m hoping to add something to the mix of ongoing conversation in the community and in some ways challenge the viewing public to reconsider some of their preconceived ideas about what a work of art should be, or how it should be seen.  Although the inaugural exhibition season is by invitation only, in the future, I plan to have an open call extending the opportunity to new or emerging artists to enter this conversation with their work.

How do you think this model is being successful?  What challenges have you come up against?

Because the artwork is decidedly not for sale, the viewing audience can engage with each installation without the preoccupations that sometimes accompany commercial gallery exhibitions.  As well, placing the artwork in plain view in an exterior space makes the work accessible to everyone and allows the public to engage with it at his or her own pace.  This model seems especially suited to photo-based works as they lend themselves to reproduction and experimentation with various modes of representation.  But, I want to emphasize that this is not a photo-specific project.  One of the most exciting things about this project is seeing how artists who work in various media (sound and video, zines and photobooks, digital imaging and coding, installation based practices, etc.) actualize their work within the conceptual and physical parameters of the space. 

The primary challenges have to do with educating the public about the space in terms of the mission of the project (engaging with issues of representation and reproduction specifically) and encouraging people to take part in discussion at the openings or via the on-line blog, which welcomes both authored and anonymous posts and comments.  I’m optimistic that with each successful installation, word will spread and people will be encouraged to become contributors or participants.

Is this something you think could be/should be replicated in other cities?  Why or why not?

Yes!  In fact, that is precisely what I am hoping for.  I have visions of this first incarnation becoming Window:Asheville, followed by Window:Portland, Window:Orlando, Window:Atlanta, Window:YourCityHere, etc.  It could be easily replicated, as all you really need is a business in a (hopefully) prominent area of town willing to give up space in their storefront and the means to print and install the work (which can be done at minimal cost, even if you are not able to partner with a reprographic company).  In fact, there are window projects in existence around the country and internationally already, and this is not an uncommon method of display (off the top of my head I’m thinking of the Window Project at PDX Contemporary in Portland and the window exhibitions at Mixed Greens in New York).  Those that I know of are affiliated with and/or adjacent to brick and mortar spaces though.  The difference with Window is that it is not an offshoot of anything other than itself, and the specificity of the mission differentiates it from public art window projects that are more general in terms of the kind of works that are displayed.

So there you have it artists - start shopping for your window!

Looking for help creating your own innovative ideas to connect new audiences to your work?  That's what Crusade for Art is all about.  Read more here.

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Long Shot: "Open to Anyone, Any Camera, Anywhere"

Now that's an opportunity! When I was in Seattle, I had a chance to hang with the folks at Photo Center NW and hear about this really amazing program.  Check it out:

Long Shot is a 24-hour photo marathon around the globe in support of the Photo Center NW. We invite people anywhere in the world to to hit the streets with their cameras on June 21st, the longest day of the year, and photograph what they like. The result is a celebration and exhibition on July 27th that represents one day in the world through photography (and our community). The event is open to anyone, anywhere, with any camera (iPhones too!). Last year we saw 700 participants and raised $33,000 through the event! 

Long Shot is now in it's fifth year, and we have grown participation from 100 people to over 700 hundred in just four years.  This year our goal is 1,000 participants.  Last year we had people participate in more than 14 countries and 29 different states. Long Shot celebrates community more than anything and the most unique part of this event is that anyone, with any camera, and any where in the entire world and participate in Long Shot.  Because of this, the event attracts amateurs, professionals, and photography lovers alike.  This year we are encouraging people to upload their photos and share their adventures through a form on our website, as Long Shot is happening, to enhance that connectivity piece. 

It takes literally one minute to sign up for Long Shot, and here is what it can do for photographers that participate:

  • Sparks Creativity

Long Shot motivates, and it automatically gets that camera off the shelf and into your hands for a day (or just a few hours) of creativity.

  • Provides Community

By signing up for Long Shot you're joining a vibrant community of thousands of photographers, students, and advocates.

  • Exhibits Your Work

By signing up for Long Shot you're guaranteed at least one image in the Long Shot exhibition in the Photo Center gallery on July 27th (if you choose to take part in the exhibition)

So pick up your camera on June 21 photographers!  More information and how to sign up here: www.pcnw.org/longshot

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The Crux of the Crusade

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. . .

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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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The Coat Check Gallery - Making Chicago More Accessible for Emerging Artists

As I travel around the country, I keep meeting people who are doing the most creative things to get exposure for emerging artists, and it inspires me beyond measure.  In Chicago, there seemed to be cool things bubbling up everywhere I looked.  Maybe because Chicago was one of the forerunners of the apartment gallery scene (along with San Francisco), the arts community there has seen the success of DIY and how to run with it.  Apartment galleries have become such a fixture in the arts scene, that many established galleries consider them feeders for bringing new talent to their attention.  (This warms my Crusading heart!) Matthew Avignone - a photographer, curator and energetic advocate for all things Chicago and art - is the studio manager at David Weinberg Photography, and he has transformed a section of this gorgeous space in the epicenter of Chicago's iconic galleries for a curatorial project called The Coat Check.  The Coat Check puts on exhibitions by emerging artists and gives them the opportunity for high visibility and exposure, due to the location and built-in audience the Weinberg Gallery brings.

They have put up two exhibitions, and I was able to catch a sneak peek at the super top-secret upcoming work.  But one of my favorite parts was this newsprint publication they produce for each show that acts as poster, souvenir, informative guide and collectible publication.  This is a great branding idea - each is unique, but the consistency makes you want them all. 

Looking for help creating your own innovative ideas to connect new audiences to your work?  That's what Crusade for Art is all about.  Read more here.

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Looking vs. Owning: Why Collecting is Awesome

The past two days in Chicago have been a whirlwind of photo awesomeness.  The photographers here - Chicagraphers, as they call themselves (clever, right?) - are an enthusiastic and welcoming crew.  They seem to love the medium and love their community, and we have felt like VIPs every minute. Yesterday we (the "we" is Sarah Moore - my trusty co-pilot on the east coast leg of the tour - and me) and I had the biggest treat.  Jess Dugan, a supremely talented and incredibly thoughtful and sharp Chicagrapher who is in the MFA program at Columbia College and works as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, pulled out photographs from the museum's collection for us to drool over.  When we were setting this up, she asked what we might like to see, and I told her I wanted her to pull some of her favorites.  I didn't know the museum's collection, and I knew she would know the jewels.

We got to see Sally Mann, Larry Sultan, Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Mappelthorpe, Dawoud Bey, Alec Soth's prototype of Sleeping By the Mississippi. . . it was a dream.

When Jess and I were speaking about how fortunate she is to be able to work with these images and view them daily, she said something that struck me.  She said that just knowing an image and loving it is different than living with it every day.  That when you get to see a photograph that speaks to you hundreds of times, it becomes part of you and the connection becomes intrinsic.  (I'm paraphrasing.)

That is why collecting is so amazing.  You get to interact with an image you love on a daily basis, and it seeps into your soul.  That may sound mushy and overly-romantic, but hey, I'm driving a bus around the country to talk about collecting, I'm pretty mushy about it.  You should be too.  Art is awesome.

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I Got a Corn Pipe and a Moon Pie in the Mail

for reals. A few days a box came to the gallery, addressed to me.  Because we have a show opening on Friday night and we are literally receiving deliveries every hour, we assumed this box was work for the show.  When we opened it today, we found this. . .

Yes, that is a Moon Pie.  Along with a corn pipe, a bag of tobacco, an obituary, and a hand-made zine made on an inkjet printer from 1998.  In other words, this was the best gallery submission in the history of the universe.  If that's what it was.  I'm not even sure.  But I do know that I have now scoured Matt Ivey's website, and if and when I get to meet him face to face, I will give him a high-five for being a badass.

What's the take-home lesson here?  Be creative.  Be you.  Art is about the connection, so give people an opportunity to connect.  I have written ad-nauseum about submissions where people send an unmarked disc in a cardboard mailer.  Now this didn't have a cover letter either, but it had a Moon Pie, and it gave me enough to be curious and want to figure out whether or not the Moon Pie was safe to eat.  Matt Ivey, you totally rock.

Looking for help creating your own innovative ideas to connect new audiences to your work?  That's what Crusade for Art is all about.  Read more here.

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On the road, meeting collectors

Today was a travel day - not slugging through the airport and dealing with luggage carts kind of travel day, but beautiful, open-road, California Redwoods to Oregon coast travel day. Crusading is pretty rad. On this leg of the trip, we have a photo dream team assembled with Sean Dana (SF pop-up) and Kurt Simonson (LA pop-up) on board, and we have been having a blast talking photo, stopping every few minutes to make pictures, and having loads of unplanned adventures. These activities all came together at once when we were driving through Willits, California this morning on our way north.  Sean mentioned once seeing a toilet in the middle of a field in that area, and how he had always regretted not stopping.  This led to a common photographer conversation, where we all lament those missed opportunities at what in hindsight we can say with certainty would have been the photo of a lifetime. (As a side-note, Michael David Murphy's project on this very topic, "Unphotographable" has been one of my most favorite for years - definitely take a look.)

Suddenly, we passed by the toilet field, gasped, and made a U-turn (or "flipped a bitch", as I just learned it is called - this Crusade is so educational!).  We pulled the Lady in front of a welding shop-turned eclectic assemblage of bizarre wares all housed in a barn-type building.  As it turns out, John, the owner of that place is also responsible for the toilet.  If you use it, you get to sign the toilet guest book!

We ended up spending over an hour with John, learning about his place, his four grown sons and seventeen grandkids, and how he likes to spend his time (apart from monitoring the toilet log).  Because he works quite a bit with a salvage yard, he collects a lot of different types of things he finds in old cars.  He is also unbelievably generous, and we each left with a new (to us) pair of sunglasses, a lapel pin of our choosing, a pocket knife, and a Mr. Potato Head arm.

But although John collects - gathers and stores is maybe a better way of describing it - lots of random items, what made me really think of him as a "collector" was his carefully curated assortment of noise-making metal parts.

In a special metal garden out front, John has collected all different shapes and sizes of metal cylinders, each of which makes a unique sound when hit.  At first glance it looks like a parts pile, but in actuality, this is John's collection.  He even has a fog horn or two to make you wish you had used the toilet across the way.

Last month I wrote a blog post titled, "Isn't Everyone a Collector?", where I made the point that we all collect something, and that the term "collector" in reference to art should not be considered intimidating or stuffy.  John is the perfect example of a collector.  He has found something he loves and has purposefully acquired pieces that make him happy.

John made our day, and I loved hearing him speak passionately about his collection.  Collectors are everywhere.  Join in the fun.  Crusade away!

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Art Day Out in San Francisco

San Francisco is so full of art, it’s overwhelmingly cool.  With one day to hit a few highlights, it was a whirlwind of intake, with the digestion TBD.  I started off by meeting Julian Cox at the deYoung Museum, where he is chief curator.  Julian was formerly the head of photography at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and we had a bit of overlapping photo community time together before he accepted this position in California. We went to the top of the tower, and Julian gave me the lay of the city.  This is a breathtaking experience, even if you are getting over-run by school children.  The building sits on the grounds of the California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894, which accounts for the formal garden and amphitheater that separate it from the Museum of Arts and Sciences.  The original building suffered structural damage in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and the new building opened in 2005.  (I can really geek out over these things. . .)

While significantly smaller than SFMOMA and without the beefy permanent collection of heavy-hitters, the deYoung is actually the most visited museum west of the Mississippi.  Julian and I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of this position, and it did not seem disimilar to some of the challenges and solutions I write about bringing new audiences to art.  For example, SFMOMA has the ability to bring in large name blockbuster type exhibitions, and the deYoung does not have the same resources to do so at that level, and since an art museum in the same city is already doing it, you could make a case for redundancy by going that route.  So instead of directly competing, the deYoung has the flexibility to capitalize on its wider scope of art (SFMOMA is contemporary, the deYoung has a wide range of collections - more like a mini Metropolitan Museum of Art) and its larger number of visitors by adding some unknown/lesser-known artists into the mix.  So while they may be drawing people in with the Girl With the Pearl Earring, those guests will also see Kael Alford and ThorneAnderson's Iraq photographs.  And because the deYoung has a huge Friday night program with thousands coming out every week, they coordinated the artist talk for Kael and Thorne to be on a Friday night, where they presented the work to an enthusiastic crowd who most likely was unfamiliar with the work and these artists prior to that night.  I think that's what it's all about - using the connections you already have to your target audience to get over the obstacles to reaching them.

Next I breezed through the Garry Winogrand exhibit at SFMOMA.  It is a huge exhibition and shows a lot of previously unprinted work the curators selected from contact sheets.  Although this isn't typically the style of photography I am most drawn to, I appreciate the talent and the sheer breadth of American experience he covered.  And while I generally associate Winogrand with whimsical, clever imagery, it was interesting to see how he seemed to be right at the crux of American life through three decades and how certain events shaped his perception of America which resulted in images that seemed darker and cynical in his later work.

To round out the day, I met up with a collector in Atlanta at 49 Geary Street to pop into Fraenkel Gallery, Cordon | Potts and Modernbook.  She loves Modernbook (has bought from them at art fairs), but had never been in their space.  I am a fan too, and always stop by when I'm in town.  We were both surprised by the current exhibit, which seems so different from the Tom Chambers/Jamie Baldridge selections we are accustomed to seeing, but it was nice to see the space, as always.  I also enjoyed chatting with Jan Potts (who I will see next week at PhotoLucida and hope to catch up more) and bumping into Darius Himes at Fraenkel.  I just love photography people.

Today is the pop-up at Photobooth SF from 1-3pm, and I can't wait!  Last week was the most fun, and we have another sunny California day to enjoy.  So come one, come all - art is awesome!

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Walk Away With Art, Send Me Off With Love

I am so fortunate to be part of such a warm and supportive community.  The last few nights have been incredible - a small send-off party co-hosted by a dear friend and a long-time project supporter on Tuesday night, and then the big Walk Away With Art Party + Fundraiser on Wednesday night.  I am exhausted and glowing and ready to hit the road. Here's the language from the Walk Away invite, to give you an idea of the awesomeness:

Walk away with an original piece of art from one of Atlanta's hottest emerging artists and support an important arts-forward cause at the same time.  

This is your chance to party it up in style and then literally take the art off the walls when you go.  For $100 per person ($125/couple) you can be a part of this unique event.  It's going down Wednesday, March 27 from 7 to 10pm at the W, Midtown.  

Fifty pieces of art (five each from ten Atlanta artists) will be on display and ready to hit the door with you.  Walk Away ticket holders will draw a number that determines the order they can select from the fifty pieces.  (Any white-elephanting or bartering that happens after the selection is on you!)

Walk-Away-Artist-Collage
Walk-Away-Artist-Collage

Supporter tickets are also available at $25 per person.  While you won't be able to snag a piece from the Walk Away, you will being able to enjoy the party, and there will be plenty of amazing pieces of art to bid on during the silent art auction.

On deck are complimentary drinks, live turntable action, and a silent auction, which also benefits Crusade for Collecting.

It was absolutely the most fun.  Since I typically just work with photography, it was really exciting to have a chance to collaborate with Atlanta artists of different mediums, all of whom I have long-admired and in many cases can call myself their collector.  We also were fortunate to have great sponsors - W Hotel Midtown, Binders Art, Cathead Vodka and The Atlantan.  Also a special thank you goes out to Liz Lapidus PR for doing a great job promoting the event and even landing me this tv interview!

All photographs taken by the talented Joey Appie: http://www.joeyappiephotography.com

artist-huddle
artist-huddle
Stuart Shapiro from Binders and his wife check out the silent art auction pieces
Stuart Shapiro from Binders and his wife check out the silent art auction pieces
Cathead Vodka sponsored the event and mixed up the “Crusade Cocktail”
Cathead Vodka sponsored the event and mixed up the “Crusade Cocktail”
More silent art auction lookers
More silent art auction lookers
Guests could sponsor different items for the tour and hang their selection on the nails on this poster (see next image).
Guests could sponsor different items for the tour and hang their selection on the nails on this poster (see next image).
For different dollar amounts, guests could sponsor certain things for the tour. For example: “Choose the theme song for the tour”, “Put a bird on it in Portland”, “Caffeinate me for the tour”, “Sponsor a tow”, etc. (This is an image from my iphone, not one of Joey’s pro shots!)
For different dollar amounts, guests could sponsor certain things for the tour. For example: “Choose the theme song for the tour”, “Put a bird on it in Portland”, “Caffeinate me for the tour”, “Sponsor a tow”, etc. (This is an image from my iphone, not one of Joey’s pro shots!)
Each of the Walk Away artists spoke for a few minutes about their work. Nathan Sharratt gives us some insight here.
Each of the Walk Away artists spoke for a few minutes about their work. Nathan Sharratt gives us some insight here.
Rapt Audience
Rapt Audience
Meghan and I call out the numbers. Background: When guests arrived and checked in, they selected a tile. Each tile had a number on the back, from one to fifty. The number you choose is the order you get to select any of the fifty pieces of original art. So if you chose number one, you are psyched (no trading). If you chose number fifty, not so much (although with such talented artists, you would be lucky to have any of the fifty pieces!).
Meghan and I call out the numbers. Background: When guests arrived and checked in, they selected a tile. Each tile had a number on the back, from one to fifty. The number you choose is the order you get to select any of the fifty pieces of original art. So if you chose number one, you are psyched (no trading). If you chose number fifty, not so much (although with such talented artists, you would be lucky to have any of the fifty pieces!).
I shouldn’t be allowed to have a microphone.
I shouldn’t be allowed to have a microphone.
Another happy collector (with a Kevin Byrd piece)
Another happy collector (with a Kevin Byrd piece)

It was a fantastic night of art, but also for me personally, it was wonderful to experience such an outpouring of support and encouragement.  I intend to do you proud Atlanta!

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