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Crusade Engagement Grant
Start with Art made an appearance in Wisconsin!
Start with Art: Creating Brand New Collectors in Pittsburgh
June 7, 2016 by Aleita Hermanowski
Launched by artist and Robert Morris professor Matthew Conboy in January of 2015, Start with Art gives every baby born at The Pittsburgh Midwife Center, St. Clair Hospital, and UPMC Mercy a photograph by a local artist. John Lawson, a poet and professor of English at Robert Morris, has also written descriptions of each photograph.
In 2006, Matthew moved to Pittsburgh from Athens, Ohio, where he was working on a doctorate in interdisciplinary arts at Ohio University. He was familiar with Pittsburgh and had been coming here since 2001 to visit the Mattress Factory and see the exhibits at the Carnegie and Warhol Museums. When he began teaching courses in art at Robert Morris University, he was shocked to find that he had students who had never been to a museum or art gallery. It was then he realized that he wanted to find a way to reach people and change their perception of art and culture well before they got to college.
Matthew had heard that St. Clair Hospital was giving Terrible Towels to all of their newborn babies as a part of gift baskets that went home with mom and baby. He imagined how many Terrible Towels were distributed to newborns throughout Pittsburgh, and thought about how giving children the gift of art and enabling them to begin life as art collectors could be life-altering. He developed the idea for Start with Art in early 2014.
“I had this idea that if I was going to give away art, it would be to babies who could grow into it. I could also support emerging artists and give them an audience that was exponentially larger than any they had ever encountered before,” says Matthew.
In 2014 Atlanta-based nonprofit Crusade for Art awarded him their $10,000 inaugural Audience Engagement Grant. Start with Art has also received help from a Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts grant and assistance from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
This July, Jessica Server, writer, poet and instructor at CAPA High School will be the featured artist and Start with Art will give their 5000th piece of art to a newborn baby. Mayor Bill Peduto will also present Matthew with a proclamation at a Pittsburgh City Council meeting this summer.
“The thing that excites me the most about this project is that I am sharing my love of art with an entire generation of kids in Pittsburgh. From the moment they’re born, they will be collectors of art and photography and that is something that no one can take away from them.”
If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation to Start with Art, you can do so through New Sun Rising.
Published June 29, 2015. See original article here.
.LDOC, a biweekly one-sheet publication of photography and creative writing, will appear at select Red Line stops this October, offering the public a gateway to the arts. The publication received a $10,000 grant from Crusade for Art, funding the first year of the free print. Volunteers will hand out new issues on the first and third Monday of each month at Loyola Avenue, Belmont Avenue, Lake Street, 69th Street and 95th Street stops on the CTA Red Line. Newcity sat down with .LDOC founders, the wife and husband duo Danielle and Joseph Wilcox, to get the backstory on the new project.
The Wilcoxes explain that they envisioned the paper as a way to allow the general public an escape from the daily grind, offering a new chorus to the rhythm of the workweek. “Each issue features one piece of creative writing and one photographer, with corresponding thematic elements in a fourteen-by-twenty-two inch, one sheet of newsprint folded twice,” Joseph says. The print is Chicago-centric, though available for order to other locations in the United States.
The first issue features photographer Meg T. Noe and writer Alex Jaros, touching on themes of death and grief. The following issue will feature photographer Victor Yanez-Lazcano and writer Sahar Mustafah, referencing identity politics through the lens of Mexican-American and Palestinian viewpoints. While the first three issues have been curated by the pair, the intent is to open the publication to submissions. This offers relatively rare access for writers and photographers to a wide audience via print. The publication stands out from other arts publications and freebies, as it provides an ad-free window to an arts experience. There are no reviews, just featured creative work. The project reaches out to an audience who might not already be plugged into the arts community.
This is the first time the couple has collaborated on a project directly, but their decade-long friendship and relationship has served as a precursor to the project, organically offering opportunities to grow and learn from each other’s interests and work. The print is all about finding photographers and writers that pair well, work that can be experienced separately but together open a conversation about the work. Written pieces are selected based on accessibility, favoring stories that open quickly.
Audiences get an opportunity to interact with writers and artists directly, as the main distribution channel comes through a face-to-face volunteer distribution base. Volunteers enjoy the opportunity to get to know other creative members of the .LDOC community and open up about the arts to the general public, making the reader a part of the experience. Not set in stone, the couple envisions an issue send-off party where volunteers get to meet-and-greet with the writer and photographer and enjoy a cup of coffee as they receive issues set to distribute.
The Crusade Engagement Grant awards $10,000 annually to the entry with the best idea for building an audience for fine art photography. The grant covers the operations cost for the first year of distribution. Subscription costs and supplemental means of obtaining the issues will sustain the project for longer. For those not riding the Red Line, a $30 subscription gets you all twenty-four issues and are available for pre-order. Danielle and Joseph intend to create a biannual collection of work available for purchase to further support sustained funding for the project.
What needs to be done before the launch? The Wilcoxes say, “We need to officially lay out the first three issues and get them printed. We did the mock-up already for the grant and have the basic ideas. We need to scout stations and map out specific distribution spots. We need to recruit volunteers and print the t-shirts. Basically, everything!” (Whitney Richardson)
By David Mayernik Jr.
Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015, 9:01 p.m.
Joshua and Danielle Karlovich welcomed their third child, Michael Eli, at St. Clair Hospital on Jan. 21.
They went home to Canonsburg with him and a photograph, “Mist Over the Ohio,” as part of the hospital's new Start with Art program. Joshua Karlovich said the photo — depicting a haze over the Ohio River — brought some peace to a stressful but joy-filled time.
“I know whenever you're having a baby, it can be a very dramatic time sometimes, but I thought it was really peaceful. We're going to see if we can frame it and put it up in his room.”
Michael is one of 67 babies born so far this year to receive original works of art in the program initiated by Matthew Conboy, who teaches media arts at Robert Morris University.
Last fall, he bested about 160 entries to secure a $10,000 grant from Crusade for Art to build audiences for photography. This year, every baby born at St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon, The Midwife Center for Birth & Women's Health in the Strip District and UPMC Mercy in Uptown will receive a photograph.
Conboy, 37, from Washington, D.C., said the idea to give away art came from two sources.
He was inspired by St. Clair's tradition of sending babies home with a Terrible Towel and by stories about Jennifer Schwartz, creator/director of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Crusade for Art, which aims to introduce people to art.
“I want to make sure these babies born this year kind of get a 20-year head start on collecting art,” he said.
He met with St. Clair Hospital officials in early January to pitch his project.
“It literally took five minutes and two emails to come to an agreement on the project,” he said. “It was probably one of the most amazing things I've ever seen because there was no talking bureaucracy, no questions asked.”
Linda McIntyre, director of St. Clair's Family Birth Center, said Conboy brought photos with him and the hospital started giving them out the same day.
“We obviously thought it was a great idea. It fits in with our philosophy of treating our newborns and families with respect and dignity and doing that with a little bit of fun from the very beginning of their lives.”
Conboy expects 3,500 newborns to go home from the hospitals with photographs this year. About 1,300 are born each year at St. Clair Hospital.
Each month is assigned to a local artist who will create an original work that will be gifted to newborns and their families.
January's photograph is by Aaron Blum, who originally is from West Virginia. His photo, “Mist Over the Ohio,” reflects his exploration of what it means to be Appalachian.
Conboy hand-delivered prints to families at St. Clair Hospital last month.
“They were just so happy to have something for the baby's wall when they go home,” he said.
McIntyre said she hopes the program is an extension of the hospital's many wellness program and hopes it can kickstart an appreciation of the “finer things in life” from the beginning.
David Mayernik Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Published Jan 23, 2015 at 9:52 am
Matthew Conboy believes children aren’t getting enough exposure to fine art, so he has reached out to three regional hospitals to provide parents and their newborns the work of professional photographers and artists through 2015.
“Mr. Conboy saw our Steelers and Pirates babies all decked out and thought it would offer a similar opportunity to expose some fine art to a very new audience as well,” said Linda McIntyre, women and children’s services director at the hospital.
“I teach at Robert Morris and Point Park, and I have students telling me they’ve never been to a museum. It’s a foreign concept to them,” said Conboy, a photographer and educator.
Conboy was awarded a $10,000 grant from Crusade for Art to underwrite an educational program, so he pitched to St. Clair Hospital – along with UPMC Mercy and The Midwife Center for Birth & Women’s Health – the “Start with Art” program.
The pieces are provided by six photographers and six artists, each specializing in a style or method.
“February’s piece is a photograph called Mist over the Ohio, a color photo of the river with some low-hanging mist over it,” McIntyre said.
“The pieces will change month to month,” Conboy said, “for instance, February’s will be of a beautiful bird. Then later on in the year you’ll see some abstract art and city landscapes.”
Conboy hopes the art pieces will inspire children, perhaps not as early as toddlers, but later as mementos their parents can remind them about.
“With the museum story, we’re in a region so rich with culture, history and art, it’s important to me to get these students a head start in that regard. By going home with a piece of art, they have a 25-year head start on me – that’s when I bought my first piece of art – and I’m an artist,” he said.
“We would like feedback as well. And on social media. So if parents could reach back on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #startwithartpgh, it helps us track what pieces were received well and how to further improve this program.”
For more information, visit www.startwithartpgh.org.
January 21, 2015
Every year, thousands of parents walk out of Pittsburgh hospitals with their newborn babies. Many are anxious. Most are sleep deprived. And they’re all armed with diapers, blankets, instructions, and plenty to worry about.
This year, some of these parents will leave with something else, something unexpected: their baby’s first original work of art.
Matthew Conboy, an artist and professor of media arts at Robert Morris University, is responsible for helping the babies born this year at St. Clair Hospital and The Pittsburgh Midwife Center become the world’s youngest art collectors.
His project is entitled Start With Art: PGH, and its funding was secured thanks to a $10,000 grant from the nonprofit organization, Crusade for Art. The grant is awarded annually to “unique, approachable programs that bring new audiences to photography” and this audience is about as new as it gets.
After winning the grant for his unique vision, Matthew selected 12 artists—one for each month—to contribute to the project. Every day in 2015, the “goodie bags” that are sent home with parents and their newborns will include an original photograph from that month’s artist. The photographs are printed small enough so that they’re easy to frame, hang on the refrigerator or place in a baby book.
The art is definitely kid-appropriate, says Matthew, but “it’s not just blue, or pink, or primary colors. We are working with renowned artists, so we thought it was important to give the babies something that represents their work.”
The photographs are indeed diverse—from landscapes and portraits to more conceptual and abstract works.
So, why exactly does a baby need art? “It’s about opening new eyes up to what art can do,” says Matthew. “The value of it is looking at our surroundings, our lives and our beliefs from a different perspective. I think we all need to do that, and why not start as soon as possible?”
Start With Art: PGH is free to both the hospitals and the families who receive the photographs. Looking toward the future, Matthew’s goal is to secure more funding from local foundations, so he can help all Pittsburgh babies get their art collection started right away.
For more information on the project, as well as a full list of the 2015 artists, visit www.startwithartpgh.org.
meet creative people
Jennifer Schwartz drove a movement to bring art to the people, to make everyone a collector of photographic fine art. With a new book out, a successful CSA for photography under way, and noble goals for her non- profit organization, Jennifer is a force for progress. by lorna gentry
Ever since Jennifer Schwartz got involved in the business of fine art photography, she has relentlessly challenged the status quo. First she employed creative tactics in engaging the com- munity inside and outside her gallery in Atlanta and connecting established collectors with emerging photographers. And as a gallerist, she tirelessly championed photography in innovative — some would say provocative — ways to motivate non-collectors to collect. Then she created Crusade for Art, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate, mentor and inspire photographers, and to bring new audiences to art. Next, she bought a 1977 VW bus and took to the road for three months in 2013 to launch pop-up art crusades in cities across the country. When she returned to Atlanta she closed her bricks-and-mortar gallery and opened a home office to run the nonprofit, which sponsors an annual $10,000 grant (See sidebar, “Photography as Birthright,” page 38) and operates a subscription-based, community supported art program (modeled on the established community supported agricultural programs).
The idea of co-opting this model — down to its acronym, CSA — originated in Minnesota about five years ago and operates in some 40 cities nationwide. The fees and number of subscriptions vary among those CSAs; Jennifer charges $400 per share and caps the number of subscriptions at 50. Money from the shares pays the artists, who create works in editions limited to the number of subscribers. Jennifer’s CSA is the first to be exclusively for photography, and unlike other CSAs, the artists live in different U.S. cities and shareholders are international.
At the outset, “We commissioned six photographers to create an original photographic piece in an edition of 50,” says Jennifer, who then shipped the works to the shareholders bimonthly over six months. “Shareholders could see who the artists were by visiting their websites, but they didn’t know what the art would be. I was hoping we’d sell out in two weeks, but we sold out in two days!”
Jennifer chose a mix of emerging and mid-career photographers who have either gallery representation or their own collectors. She looked for artists who make “diverse and accessible art that people will want to hang on their walls,” she says. “I didn’t give them any guidelines, other than the fact they couldn’t show the work until it had shipped. For the shareholders, particularly new collectors, the CSA offers a great price point to acquire art. Some shareholders are established collectors and others live in condos and are excited to get art on their walls at a price they can afford.”
Life beyond the pale
Jennifer, a native of Virginia, and her husband, Michael, have three children. She has a degree in psychology and a master’s in counseling and for a while worked as an elementary school counselor. But after photographing her children and other people’s kids, she quit counseling to open a studio, which was spacious enough to house a gallery. “I had no idea how to run a gallery,” she says rolling her eyes. “I’d never tried to get my own work in a gallery, and I’d never worked in one. But coming at the fine art world from a neutral perspective, I could think outside the box and not do things the way they’d always been done.”
Unorthodox best describes Jennifer’s methods, like the 2013 cross-country art tour in her vintage bus. The idea was to create demand for the work of the emerging photographers by engaging passers-by, giving them free photographs, and asking them to consider collecting art. Photographers in each city on the tour joined her at the pop-up exhibitions to talk about their work with viewers. Jennifer also gave talks about the need to be creative in the selling of art. Photographers she met were hungry for such advice, which was the inspiration for her book, Crusade for Your Art (Crusade Press, 2014). A guide to navigating the world of fine art photography, the book includes contributions from editors, gallerists, curators and photographers.
Crusading for any cause can tap one’s energy, and Jennifer readily admits the tour was grueling. “It was guerilla style and kind of crazy to pull people off the street and say, ‘Here is art. Meet the artist. See what resonates with you.’” Sometimes it just didn’t work; when it did, though, it changed people. She remembers a young woman having an a-ha! moment about art when she connected to a piece at a pop-up show in Washington, D.C. “Once that happens, how could you ever go to Ikea and buy art because it matches your throw pillows?”
(Sidebar) Photography as Birthright
Last September photographer Matthew Conboy of Pittsburgh was the first to be awarded the $10,000 Crusade for Art Engagement Grant for his idea on building an audience for fine art photography. One of 10 semi- finalists in North America, Matthew proposed placing a photograph in every cradle, thus making newborns instant art collectors.
Matthew plans to work with West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, where the more than 3,000 babies born annually represent a socioeconomic cross section of the city’s population. Into each of the hospital’s complementary new mother goody bags (formula and diapers and such), Matthew will tuck an original signed photograph by a local emerging photographer.
One of the grant judges, Karen Irvine, curator and associate director of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography, said Matthew’s idea “will engage an extremely diverse audience, one that is for the most part probably not already circulating in the fine art realm.” The panel of judges also included Whitney Johnson, director of photography at The New Yorker, and Rupert Jenkins, executive director of Colorado Photographic Arts Center.
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