At Artfetch we are all about connecting talented artists with art collectors (both new and seasoned) through the Internet, and when we heard about what gallerist, author and founder/director of the non-profit Crusade for Art Jennifer Schwartz has been doing for these same audiences we were intrigued by her novel projects and effective solutions. Moyah Skye Sutherland, COO at Artfetch, sat down with Schwartz to learn more about her inspirations, the state of the art world in the internet age, and advice for collectors and artists.
Jennifer Schwartz is passionate about photography. Her interest has led to projects aimed at both helping emerging photographers find their place and market and helping collectors and would be collectors finding art that they love. After running a brick-and-mortar gallery in Atlanta, Georgia, where she showed primarily emerging photographers for 5 years, Schwartz felt that it was time for art to connect with new audiences – people who would appreciate and want art but might be put off by the traditional gallery space – so she took the art to the road. She continues to connect artists and audiences through a CSA-style scheme (“Community Supported Art” as opposed to the more familiar “Community Supported Agriculture”) and a grant for talented budding photographers. Read on to find more about her projects.
The Crusade for Collecting tour was a 10-city cross-country journey with the mission to encourage new audiences to engage with art. Do you feel that your mission was successful?
In April 2013 I took this concept on the road with a special project, the Crusade for Collecting Tour. Traveling to ten cities over the course of three months in a 1977 VW bus (affectionately named Lady Blue and purchased through funds raised on Kickstarter), I staged spontaneous pop-up events to give away original, signed photographs and bring grassroots art appreciation to the streets, moving outside the traditional boundaries of the art world.
I felt that if I could give people a fun, disarming 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.
No matter the city, the quality of interactions between the artists and the people who stopped to participate was consistent. Most people wanted to see each of the five images, listen to the story of the photograph from each photographer, and make a thoughtful, informed selection. 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, 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….
In 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. The tour was one of those opportunities, and for that, I do believe it was successful.
Were certain parts of the USA more open to your mission than others? What unexpected challenges did you face?
As it turns out, it is really difficult to give away something for free…Each city was a different experience and challenge. LA was definitely the most enthusiastic crowd, but it’s just so sunny and beautiful there, I think people there are pretty happy about life anyway.
How did the idea for Community Supported Art come about?
I knew about the art CSA model (there are about 40 active art CSAs in the US, an idea that was first launched by Minnesota’s Springboard for the Arts) and felt photography was a perfect medium for it. I also felt strongly about doing it through Crusade for Art to show a model that benefits artists as well as collectors and is easily replicable. It works like this: We offered 50 shares to the public for $350 per share and commissioned six photographers to create an original piece in an edition of 50. Shareholders receive one photograph from each photographer over the course of six months.
I selected six photographers who are dedicated to their art practice and whose work is consistently strong. They were given free reign on the creation of their piece, although I did encourage them to make something that was very much in line with the rest of their work but also accessible to a wide audience. Each photographer receives $2000 to create their piece, and Crusade for Art handles all of the packaging and shipping. They also get 50 new collectors! Shareholders get six original, signed photographs at an affordable price, plus the fun of a surprise (2 photographs) in the mail every other month.
Do you have a few words of advice for people who want to get started collecting art?
Buy what you love, and you cannot make a bad purchase. Your tastes will evolve and change with time and more exposure to art, but that is part of the experience. Start now. You won’t regret it.
And for artists who want to get their work out there?
Think about your target audience and how to reach them. Who will most appreciate and want to buy your work? What does that person look like, care about, do in the world? What connections points do you already have to that person, and what obstacles do you have to get around to reach that person? Figuring that out gets you most of the way there.
Inspired? Get collecting right here on Artfetch. See the curated collection of photography and works on paper guest curated by Jennifer Schwartz.
© Artfetch 2014