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Crusade for Art

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Local Pittsburgh Magazine Features Start With Art

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.

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Crusade for Art Funds Forthcoming Arts Publication Distributed on CTA Red Line

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 forthcoming first issue of .LDOC, featuring photographer Meg T. Noe and writer Alex Jaros. Photo by: Joseph Wilcox.

The forthcoming first issue of .LDOC, featuring photographer Meg T. Noe and writer Alex Jaros. Photo by: Joseph Wilcox.

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.

Danielle and Joseph Wilcox, .LDOC Founders/Photo: Joseph Wilcox

Danielle and Joseph Wilcox, .LDOC Founders/Photo: Joseph Wilcox

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)

- See more at: http://art.newcity.com/2015/06/29/news-crusade-for-art-funds-forthcoming-arts-publication-distributed-on-cta-red-line/#sthash.9QQiufrT.dpuf

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Atlanta Gallery Owner Takes New Focus to Promote Photography

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Atlanta Gallery Owner Takes New Focus to Promote Photography

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Atlanta Gallery Owner Takes New Focus to Promote Photography by Howard Pousner December 22, 2013

Jennifer Schwartz has shown herself to be an out-of-the-box thinker since opening her self-named gallery in 2009.

Then she literally got out of the box, closing her Westside space last year in favor of pop-up shows and, most ambitiously, undertaking a tour to 10 American cities in a VW bus-turned-gallery on wheels this spring. The idea of the Kickstarter-funded Crusade for Collecting Tour was to recruit a new generation of art collectors by taking the photography to them rather than waiting inside a bricks-and-mortar space hoping someone might visit.

Now Schwartz is on to a new photography crusade. She has announced that she is shutting down operations of the for-profit Jennifer Schwartz Gallery by the end of the year and launching a non-profit, Crusade for Art.

AJC
AJC

Its mission, according to a recent announcement: “to build artists’ capacity to create demand for their work.”

Schwartz said the Crusade for Art will take a two-pronged approach: mentoring photographers to achieve higher levels of creative and professional development; and “incubating” solutions to connect them with audiences.

Crusade for Art’s programs will include:

  • Crusade Engagement Grant, an annual $10,000 award that will be given to an individual artist or artist group with the most innovative plan for increasing his/their audience and collector support. Applications are to open in March.
  • A CSA (Crusade Supported Art program), modeled on agricultural CSAs and similar to WonderRoot’s successful art CSA program. Fifty “shareholders” will invest $350 each to commission six photographers to create an image in editions of 50. Shareholders will receive two original, signed photographs in the mail three times yearly.
  • Fee-base mentoring as well as six-month mentorship programs awarded to 10 photographers per year through a competitive application process.
  • Crusade chapters being established in cities including Chicago, Pittsburgh and Portland, Ore.

“I will still be doing my favorite things — working with photographers and developing programs to create demand for art — in this new venture,” Schwartz told the AJC, “but I will miss working one on one with new collectors.”

She expects individual donations to fuel the non-profit’s launch and plans to solicit corporate donations and grants. While she awaits official 501c(3) status declaration from the IRS, the crusade is able to accept donations through fiscal sponsor New York Foundation for the Arts. To find out more: www.crusadeforart.org.

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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.

Brooklyn bus 710x473 A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip

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.

DC photogs 710x473 A Crusade for Collecting: Jennifer Schwartzs Photo Road Trip

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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