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Crusade Tour Featured on FStoppers

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Crusade Tour Featured on FStoppers

Lady Blue

The awesome Joseph Gamble interviewed me for this article on FStoppers. Love the Joseph, love the FStoppers. A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartz’s Photo Road Tripby Joseph Gamble, published on FStoppers on September 3, 2013

Ten thousand miles, ten cities on a coast to coast ramble in a 1977 vintage VW bus all for the sake of promoting photographic art. From April to June of this year, gallerist Jennifer Schwartz was behind the wheel of her microbus on a two-fold mission: to promote photographers and create collectors. Working with five photographers in each city on the tour, she orchestrated pop-up events and curbside photo exhibits designed to educate and engage communities regarding photographic art and the value of starting a collection.

An avid photographer and collector, she launched the Jennifer Schwartz gallery in March 2009 in Atlanta with the hope of reaching collectors and providing an immersive art buying experience. One of the cornerstones of her early success was placing photographers in front of an audience of interested collectors. As she explained, her role was not just to sell work but also to foster a community of collectors.

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Lady Blue replica model in Brooklyn, New York when the van was under repair.

A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip
A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip

The Map of the trip.

“In my Atlanta gallery, I discovered the most successful programs to get new people interested in art involve meeting the artist and making a personal connection,” said Schwartz. “They lure people who have had only a limited relationship with art to have a unique, fun experience where they engage with photography and the artists in a thoughtful way. They look, and in a lot of cases, they start to believe in art.”

While the gallery experience created a local nexus for artists and enthusiasts to gather and view work, the space felt limiting as she was only reaching people in Atlanta. Thus, she came up with the idea of a mobile arts promotion traveling across the country in a wide loop from Atlanta to Los Angeles and up the West Coast to Seattle before heading east to Chicago and New York and then down the East Coast.

The trip wasn’t an unplanned, off-the-cuff road show. Schwartz staged pre-trip events in 2012, one at the High Museum of Art and the other in December at PhotoNOLA in New Orleans. These initial stops were instrumental in preparing for the three-month journey that began in April, which she named the Crusade for Collecting.

The idea was grassroots and simple — take the gallery experience on the road, interface with local photographers in each of the tour stops and then bring the photographers and their work directly to people on the street. In essence, breaking down the gallery walls and the exclusivity that exists in the art world. Photographers seeking exposure would give away ten of their photographic prints (between 6 x 9” and 8.5 x 11”) signed copies of an image freely in exchange for the exposure and opportunity of sharing their work and being a part of the tour.

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Pop-Up Event in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Los Angeles, California Pop-Up event.

“I felt that if I could give people a fun, disarming art 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,” said Schwartz. “And what could be more fun than walking by a turquoise 1977 VW bus with photographers standing in front giving away original, signed photographs to someone who wanted to chat about them?”

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San Francisco Pop-Up Event

To fund the purchase and outfitting of her bus, nicknamed Lady Blue, Schwartz, like many project-driven photographers profiled on Fstoppers, launched a Kickstarter campaign. It wasn’t an easy prospect so her efforts were buoyed by additional sources including sponsorships, a local fundraiser, private donations, and the Collectors Building Collectors program that she developed with an Atlanta collector.

“When I launched my Kickstarter campaign, it still seemed fun and new and I had only known a couple of people who had run a Kickstarter campaign but I did have a difficult time explaining to my non-art friends that ‘yes, they were giving me money to buy a bus, and no, there were not any starving children or sick animals that would benefit from it,’” said Schwartz. “Now that the concept is more mainstream and people trust it, I think it is easier to fund a project, because the pool of potential supporters is deeper.  On the flip side, there is a significant amount of Kickstarter fatigue.  If you are going to do it, I think you have to be very strategic about it.  I wrote a blog post offering tips to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign, based on my experiences.”

Lady Blue, like many Volkswagen microbuses from the past, wasn’t the most reliable choice of vehicle considering she would be subjected to a bi-coastal odyssey. Once on the road, Jen quickly learned to speak ‘conversational mechanic’ and now counts several mechanics around the country as good friends. “Fewer breakdowns would’ve been nice…” she said.

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Mechanics and Sean Dana (photographer who traveled with the tour from San Francisco to Portland) diagnosing Lady Blue. Photo by Kurt Simonson.

There were some detractors who felt that the concept of giving away work was devaluing the photographic medium and the work of the artists. Participating photographers were given an opportunity to showcase their work and reach out to new people who might take an interest in their future work. “But the goal was to give people an opportunity to connect with a piece of art, own it, hang it, to recognize value in that experience, and to want to replicate it going forward,” said Schwartz. “The hope was that the engagement would be transformative.”

Overall, the three-month saga was “a blur of awesomeness.” Photographers often came aboard and drove sections of the trip and kept her company. Social media resources including facebooktwitterinstagramand youtube proved to be immeasurable as she documented the entire experience with blog posts and video updates. It was an organic way of keeping up with new contacts from cities past and to forecast and prepare for her arrival in a new city. A few highlights of the trip include: an unplanned stopover in Cleveland with assistance from the Cleveland Print Room, a private tour by Fred Bidwell of the Todd Hido show at Transformer Station and presenting to a sold-out crowd at FotoWeek DC, the final stop on the tour.

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DC pop up with photographers Frank H. Day, Hannele Lahti, E. Brady Robinson, Jennifer Schwartz, Alexandra Silverthorne, James Campbell.

DC bus A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip

Lady Blue in front of the White House. 

Although the Crusade tour is over, she is developing Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization with a mission to educate, inspire, and support artists to create unique, approachable programs that engage new audiences with art in meaningful ways. She has a variety of opportunities for photographers that are in the works and will be announced at the end of the year.

“This tour was not about a road trip, it was about starting a conversation about art,” said Schwartz. “It is nice to know the conversation not only started, but also continues.”

You can keep up with Jennifer Schwartz by sign up for the email newsletter and following her online at Crusade for Art or check in on her gallery work at Jennifer Schwartz Gallery.

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Crusade Tour Essay on PDN

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Crusade Tour Essay on PDN

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Crusade for Collecting: A Controversial Experiment Meant to Create New Photo Collectors

Published August 23, 2013 via PDNonline.com.

Earlier this year Jennifer Schwartz, a gallerist and the founder of the non-profit arts organization Crusade for Art, traveled to cities around the country in an effort to create demand for the work of emerging photographers by encouraging people she met on the street to consider collecting art. Working with five photographers in each of the cities she visited, Schwartz organized street-side exhibitions, asking the photographers to talk with passersby about their work, and to give away signed, non-editioned prints to those who wanted them. The project drew both criticism and skepticism, but it also, Schwartz says, created positive dialogue between artists and would-be collectors. PDN invited Schwartz to explain the motivation behind the trip and recap her experiences.

Nearly five years ago I began a journey to cultivate audiences for art, specifically the work of emerging photographers. By creating innovative programs that make art immediately and affordably accessible to new audiences, both online and through special events, my goals have been: to promote and develop the careers of talented, emerging, contemporary photographers and to educate and cultivate a new crop of collectors.

Working with emerging photographers, I recognized from the beginning that the challenge is to find an audience for these artists. Too often as gallery owners, we hang the art and then wait for an audience to come. With that in mind, I created Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating demand for art by creating opportunities to introduce new collectors to artists and their work.

In my Atlanta gallery, I have discovered that the most successful programs to get new people interested in art involve meeting the artist and making a personal connection. They give people who have had only a limited relationship with art a unique, fun experience where they engage with photography and the artists in a thoughtful way. These programs also give photographers an opportunity to interact directly with an audience and advocate for themselves and their work.

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.

It was fun. It was a blast. It was also incredibly challenging. A lot of people have asked: How is giving away photography going to encourage collecting? That is a completely valid question, and there is no real way, at present, to determine how many of the people we met might become collectors of the photographers’ work. But the goal was to give people an opportunity to connect with a piece of art, own it, hang it, to recognize value in that experience, and to want to replicate it going forward. The hope was that the engagement would be transformative.

The other side of the same question addressed concern for the participating photographers: Won’t giving away work have a negative effect on the photographers? Not every program or idea is the right fit for all artists at all stages of their careers. None of the photographers were coerced into participating. On the contrary, I had photographers reach out from all over the country wanting to be a part of the project, and most were selected as a result of submitting to my open, free call for submissions. For an artist who is trying to get more exposure and get more eyes on their work, participating in a project where they can connect with potential new collectors in their hometowns may be worth a try.

Could I promise the participating photographers any specific, tangible benefits from participating? Of course not. The hope was that they would connect to ten new people in their community with whom they could follow up and continue to build the relationship, and who may in the future purchase work from them. But I suspect the photographers chose to participate not because they expected any concrete benefits, but because they also believe in art and artists and wanted to be a part of something that was trying to make a difference.

As it turns out, it is really difficult to give away something for free. In each city (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Cleveland, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C.—Atlanta and New Orleans happened in late 2012 as “test” cities), five local photographers (each of whom were curated for the project to participate in the pop-up in their city) and I pulled up to a high foot-traffic area and, armed with photographs, Crusade-wear, and a lot of enthusiasm, tried to get passersby to stop and talk to us. Each photographer had ten small (between 6 x 9” and 8.5 x 11”) signed copies of an image to give away over the course of the pop-up, which typically lasted two hours. Saying things like “we are five local artists here to encourage art collecting in our city” and “become an art collector today for free,” we got both the hand and high-fives.

We were not asking for money or requiring email addresses (although exchange of contact information was highly encouraged, and each photographer included information about themselves and their work in the envelope with their print), just the participant’s attention. All you need to do is look. The art will do the rest. Some cities were more challenging than others, and the day, weather, and type of location were all important factors. It was significantly easier to engage people on a beautiful Saturday in a trendy retail area in Los Angeles than in Chicago on a windy downtown street corner on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend.

But no matter the city, the quality of interactions between the artists and the people who did stop 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.

The best example of witnessing an “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.

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.

This is not to say I am anti-traditional gallery. Not at all, and I think that has been one of the common misconceptions about the project and about me personally. Helping emerging photographers get a foothold in the art world is just one piece of the puzzle, because that is exactly what it is—a foothold. Once that foothold feels secure, and the artist begins to gain traction—exhibitions, collectors, positive exposure—they need to take the next step.

The same is true for collectors. Helping someone start on a path of appreciating and collecting art is incredibly exciting and rewarding. But as they continue farther down this path—the more they look and buy and hone their tastes and collection—they will feel more comfortable and confident about engaging with traditional galleries and museums and cultural institutions. It will be a regular part of their world.

The other question I received several times caught me off-guard: Isn’t this whole project just a way to promote you and your gallery? All I can say is that I am just not wired that way. I believe in collaboration and community building and doing whatever I can for the greater good. Even writing this sounds ridiculous, but I do believe that doing good is important, and it drives me. Will there be some side-effect benefit to me personally? Maybe. But this tour was altruistic. We were giving art away, not selling anything. If I had spent the last year and a half working on something with the potential to make money and did not involve leaving my husband and three kids to drive around the country on a shoe-string budget, crashing on couches. . . well, that may have been smarter. But I would not change it. The opportunity to make a difference does not come around every day.

I knew this project would be a challenge—logistically, financially—but I could not have guessed it would have pushed me so much personally. I never imagined I would spend so much energy defending an idea that was solely meant to do good. Emails and online comments from people I did not know, questioning my motivation, process, and intentions, were upsetting and unsettling. I wish I could say handling these criticisms thickened my skin, but my skin only gets but so tough. What it did, however, was help me hone in on what exactly I was trying to say and do and why. It forced me to critically and objectively examine every element of the project and make changes that dramatically narrowed and improved the focus.

For example, my original plan was to partner with museums and arts spaces and stage the pop-up events in front of their facilities. But it became clear that if we did that, we would be directing our outreach at people who were already connected to art. If my goal was to give an arts experience to people who were not currently seeking one, then I needed to truly go to them.

I also added the Local Photographer Showcase component to the tour. I had planned to only bring photographs from an online project, The Ten, which features photographers from across the country. But the more I was asked to explain the motivation behind the project and the generation of the tour idea, the more I realized that if my experience had shown the most significant and transformative connection point to be the interaction between the audience and the artist, then it was important to create an opportunity for people to meet, engage with, and potentially continue a relationship with photographers who lived in their own communities.

I am proud to be known for being a champion and advocate for photographers, especially those who are at the beginnings of their careers. I am passionate about the ways individual artists can advocate for themselves and for creating ideas and programs to help them find the people who will best appreciate their work. I am an idea person and also a doer. I am not just complaining about a problem with the current art hierarchy, but I am actively trying to do things to create a more sustainable arts ecology—openly sharing successes and failures with equal parts laughter and tears and a whole lot of heart.

I believe in art, and I believe artists. I am happy to shout it from the rooftops. Or from a VW bus. Every interaction makes a difference, and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of so many. Let’s keep it rolling. . .

Jennifer Schwartz is the owner/director of Jennifer Schwartz Gallery and the creator of the non-profit organization, Crusade for Art. Crusade for Art educates, inspires, and supports artists to create unique, approachable programs that bring new audiences to art and allow them to engage with art in a meaningful way.

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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 her Crusade 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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Press Love

I came home to two shout-outs! First, Atlanta Magazine's August "Big Ideas" issue,

And then this MSN Postbox post:

Movin' On Up

There aren’t too many gallery owners in this city more prolific than Jennifer Schwartz. Her openings and events (we love the monthly chef series known as Art Feast) draw a crowd eclectically combining artists, CNN producers, writers, doctors and stay-at-home-moms in one spot. The diverse bunch she hosts will be thrilled to know, the gallery heads to its new home today (Aug. 1).

Moving from her Westside digs to a more intimate space in Virginia Highland, the new Jennifer Schwartz Gallery gets an address change alongside a transformation of its core mission of bringing art to the masses. The shift in locale makes way for the galley support fine art photography collectors and photographers beyond Atlanta.

Last year the gallery hit the wide open road to launch the Crusade for Collecting and it now moves forward with that same wanderlust in mind. Instead of the usual humdrum opening, the gallery will now focus its attention on one-night-only experiences peppered throughout country. Come fall, expect to see one exhibit in Atlanta (during October’s Atlanta Celebrates Photography) and one in New York City.

Buckle up -- we cannot wait to see what transpires from this new model of gathering art beyond the confines of this city.

Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, 675 Drewry St., Suite 6, 404-885-1080 for more information about everything going on at the gallery head to jenniferschwartzgallery.com by clicking on a past Art Feast event in the former space.

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Art & Power

So thrilled and honored to be featured in the Atlantan's Art & Power issue! Cool Intentions

Provocative old guard and ambitious new leaders. Masterpieces and can’t-miss marvels. This is Atlanta’s arts scene—and these are the 20 scene stealers changing the conversation.

Jennifer Schwartz is on a mission. This year, the 30-something gallery owner created The Ten (thetenphoto.com), a monthly online exhibit of 10 images with a low price point that entices new collectors to get their feet wet in investing in fine art photography. With the success of that project, she takes her show—Crusade for Collecting—on the road. “I am going on a 10-week, 10-city tour, where I do pop-up shows featuring works from incredible emerging photographers from across the country.” 1000 Marietta St. NW, 404.885.1080, jenniferschwartzgallery.‌com

by K. Abney, K. K. Bell, D. M. Byron, C. Cox, K. Skinner, A. Sverdlik, M. Welch |The Atlantan magazine | November 25, 2011

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