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Crusade for Collecting Tour

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Click Magazine Feature on Crusade for Art

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the crusader

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. 

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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.

Amelia Morris,   Sorry I Let You Down  ,   Focal Point artist

Amelia Morris, Sorry I Let You DownFocal Point artist

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.

 

See the curated collection of photography and works on paper guest curated by Jennifer Schwartz.

 

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….

Dorothy O’Connor,   Tornado  ,   Focal Point artist

Dorothy O’Connor, TornadoFocal Point artist

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.

Shane Lavalette,   Ready to Roll  ,   CSA artist

Shane Lavalette, Ready to RollCSA artist

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.

Julien Mauve,   After Lights Out  ,   Focal Point artist

Julien Mauve, After Lights OutFocal Point artist

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

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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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