Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Transformations" at the Arsenal Center for the Arts: Community and Collaboration

This evening, there is an opening reception for the exhibition "Transformations" at the Arsenal Center for the Arts (Watertown, MA) from 5:30 - 7:30 pm. This exhibition represents more than the concept of transformational play with identity and persona, the theme connecting the seven artists. It represents the interconnection of community, and the value of collaboration, in this case between artists and art enablers.

I met Sharon Glennon in my Sourcing the Imagination: Drawing without Representation course at the SMFA. Like me, she has college bound or younger children, and has kept art alive in her life throughout motherhood. She was in the long and well considered process of transitioning from an arts education related field to something more directly arts leadership oriented. Not very long after the course was over, she was delighted to report that she had accepted the role of Executive Director at the Arsenal Center for the Arts. It has long hours, and is a big commitment, but she has embraced the challenges. Some of her goals, expanding collaboration and innovating their offerings, were met by inviting us to create the show "Transformations".

I have always told my art students that it does no good to store your artwork away under the bed or in a closet. Get your work out to be viewed, enjoyed, and experienced, in the physical worked or online. Be part of the art community and part of the art discourse.

The artists in "Transformations" (Natacha Sochat, Jay Bordage, Margaret Hart, Gary Duehr, Kelly Anona Kerrigan, Gail Martin and myself) all make sure to be visible in as many of these as possible: art education, group shows, online in personal websites and social networking, and often solo exhibitions. Because they remain visible, and actively network, I knew about their work and was able to invite them to be part of the show. Embracing opportunity and being willing to work together to create shows in non-commercial spaces, are all things contemporary artists do regularly. Some of the works exhibited in "Transformations" were created specifically for this show, in a response both to the group dynamic, and to the wonderful open space of the Arsenal Center for the Arts. The act of hanging the show, and creating the total impact, was a collaborative effort, and I think the viewers visiting the gallery will experience a true sense of play, surprise, humor, and thought provoking moments.

Read more about the show and the Center in this article (some fun images of the installation process) in the Watertown Tab.

We invite you to come an experience the show for yourself - maybe catch a music or theater event there, some dinner nearby, and have an art-night-out!

Gallery open Tuesday through Sunday 12-6, until 8pm on performance nights.
The show runs September 9 through October 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Move! at NK Gallery

Welcome back from a summer hiatus.

I managed to have about half of the studio work days I planned, but that just happens sometimes. Summer in New England is very short and most people here try to maximize their experience of summer. At NK Gallery we held a beautiful exhibit of Al Jaeger's ceramic "Placescapes" for June and July, then closed in August, taking time for some summer experiences.

We just opened (September 1) a visually energetic exhibition called "Move!" at NK Gallery. The artists featured are Jeffrey Heyne and Rufus Butler Seder. Their images pay homage and play with, in different ways, to Eadweard Muybridge's photographic movement studies. Jeffrey Heyne was inspired by flip books of Muybridge's images, and his manipulations bring the frozen images back to movement, then freezes them again in a visually seductive resin surface. Rufus Butler Seder has developed a lenticular form of glass tile he calls Lifetiles, and at his studio creates all the many stages to build both small and very large murals of moving images - one of the ones at NK Gallery evokes the Muybridge Galloping Horse.

The was a great piece about the show in the Boston Globe today by Cate McQuaid, and another acknowledgment by Thomas Gagnon in the South End News, take a moment to check them out.

I hope you have a chance to visit the exhibition - and it would be a great festive Fall weekend to visit at the end of the month - when the Boston South End Open Studios event happens!

(Images from left going clockwise: Rufus Butler Seder "Figure Descending a Staircase", Lifetiles, 4'w x 6'h, 2009; Jeffrey Heyne "Muybridge Boxers No. 10+1", 2009 & "Muybridge Boxers No. 9+7", 2010, both digital print and polyester resin on Dibond panels)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Approaching Museums and Galleries: Artist-Run Galleries

Continued from Approaching Museums and Galleries: Introduction,
Approaching Museums and Galleries: Commercial Galleries Part 1, and
Approaching Museums and Galleries Part 2

Joining the Group

If you want to retain a high degree of control over your exhibitions, and you enjoy working with a community of artists, an artist-run cooperative art gallery may be something you might consider. There are many different variations in artist-run galleries, so you want to visit several to decide if they are a good fit.

Most artist-run galleries cover their expenses with monthly dues, and rely less on sales for getting through slow periods in the economy. Some group galleries have a limit on membership size, others do not. Some artist-run galleries are very selective about offering membership to applicants, others flexible. Accordingly, a gallery with an unlimited membership might not offer anything but group shows. Others provide a solo exhibition on a regular scheduled basis.

I am the most familiar with the artist-run gallery Bromfield Gallery (founded in 1975) in Boston - because I am a member. Members have a solo exhibition approximately one every other year. They can hang a work in the Members Gallery area for 9 months of the year, and participate in two larger group exhibitions twice a year. There are print files for addition work on paper to be shown at the gallery. Members meet once a month to conduct gallery business, including reviewing the work of artists applying for membership or visiting artist exhibitions. Members also participate in staffing the gallery approximately once a month, helping out at opening receptions, and other business details. Members pay monthly dues. Members are generally located within a reasonable driving distance, but long distance members have options also.

Other cooperatives in SOWA Boston include Kingston Gallery and Galatea Gallery. Kingston Gallery opened in 1982, and is structured similarly to the Bromfield Gallery. Galatea Gallery opened recently, and has a multi-tiered membership structure. In Rhode Island, you can find Hera Gallery, active for 34 years.

If you are interested in long distance membership, several options exist - a little diligent hunting with a web search engine will uncover them. These are a few that have supported artists that I know personally. One well structured gallery, Lana Santorelli Gallery in Chelsea NYC, is not a true membership gallery, but is artist-run and curates shows from open submissions. A.I.R. Gallery in NYC is a gallery supporting women artists with a wide range of membership options, as is Woman Made Gallery in Chicago.

These options are all different from traditional commercial galleries. You can best judge which might be the best fit by visiting as many of both types as possible, asking plenty of questions, and then deciding which style suits your schedule and personality. And if neither option appeals to you, you can consider other alternatives to galleries - curating, grants and other thinking-outside-the-box options. More on that in another post.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nan Freeman Master Drawings: Process

Nan Freeman is intensely passionate about drawing.

For March and April of 2010 in "Nan Freeman Master Drawings: Process", everyone gets a fresh glimpse at the hidden side of powerful drawing. The working master drawings in graphite, finished charcoal drawings, and finished acrylic paintings of several projects are on view at NK Gallery. In particular, the drawings for the development of the incredible Bridge of Hope mural at the Brigham and Women's Hospital are featured. Each life scale bird bears a medicinal plant, and is meticulously designed. One drawing of a pelican carrying a pumpkin vine utilized three sheets of large scale drawing paper; a recent admirer at the gallery found it compelling as an ultimate "blueprint of how to build a bird". The delicate tones of graphite are deceptive, the mark making is strong, confident and springs to life. (Image shown is "Screech Owl with Clover", 2009, copyright Nan Freeman, presented with permission of the artist)

Also on view are the Gibson House Candelabras finished charcoal drawings, and the working master drawings for her recent commission of the Kalco Chandeliers for the Dallas World Trade Center.

Nan Freeman is the Director of the Post Baccalaureate Certificate Program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and as senior faculty, teaches Drawing at the School also. She welcomes mural projects for both the home and commercial setting.

Reception! Meet artist Nan Freeman on April 2 from 5-8pm at NKG, 460A Harrison Ave, Boston. The exhibition is on view until April 17, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Easy Websites for Artists

A few years ago, when switching from Comcast cable to Verizon FIOS, I naturally lost the ability to change and update the simple art homepage I had created on Comcast. More than two years went by, I could not change the website, but it would not simply go away either… Ugh. I found that having that old site lurk out there somehow made me procrastinate on creating a new site. Not sensible, but … Well, I constantly tell fellow artists in the WCA, my students, and artists in my community, that they have to have a solid, clean, controllable website with current work to insure a web presence as an active artist. So I needed to “practice what I preach”. I know some HTML, but did not want to actually program a site from scratch - I had procrastinated for nearly three years, and truly was not ever going to have the time to learn Dreamweaver or Joomla, in my schedule.

I found Other Peoples Pixels by looking at wide range of artist websites. This simple clean design tool appealed to me from the very first, and I really got hooked after I started to play with the free trial.

To see how it works, go to my webpage and click on the "Design" logo in the upper right corner - all the info and the free trial sign up is there.

You can quickly do the free trial - and that is what I did to start.

It is a website designer template environment created by artists, run by artists - but the end-user does all the designing very easily! No one to wait for to plan the work, no one to pay every time you change - and I can change mine in literally seconds if I want to. Obviously it is not going to solve everyone's web needs, but they are perfect for me, and many artists. When I was ready to move from the free trial to a live site, they do the transfer of the trial to real domain name within two days - in my case it was under two hours.

I designed my current website in under two hours. Although I still need to upload many of my more current art jpegs, the framework is there, and there are literally an infinite number of ways to design it!

I wanted to mimic the look of the blog I designed to "brand" a style, so I used similar colors.
They pay the fee for the domain name that you choose, and if I ever leave Other Peoples Pixels, they happily transfer the domain to me if I desire it. If you do a lot video and sound, you currently (March 2010) pay $260/year for 8000 artworks, but for less capacity needed it is $160/year for 2000 artworks. They host your site, provide support for the editing environment, and pay for the domain and setup fees, etc.

This option works for me in both money and time expenditure, and I admire the many ways to instantly change the look of the website, almost everything is flexible, and frankly - fun to create.

Once you have a website you also have to consider - what next. One book that helps you consider how to handle the website further is Effective Websites for Artists and Art Groups by Bob Nicholson. Just as leaving your artwork hidden in a closet will not be beneficial, you also want to insure your website does not get buried in the vast collection of other artist websites - there are simple possibilities to help drive meaningful traffic to your website.

(And I am happy to report the old homepage I created on Comcast was finally completely disabled by someone, somewhere… and I can happily focus on my new site.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Approaching Museums and Galleries: Commercial Gallery 2

So, you finally got your chance to present your work, and the gallery offers you a show….

The gallery wants to sell work. They usually represent several artists at any given time, so it is in your best interest to help convince them to really sell more of your work. Everything you can do proactively will help this reach the best outcome. To aid in this, be sure to provide the gallery with reliable ways to reach you by phone, email, etc. Some galleries take their own images for promotional purposes, but if you have them, provide the gallery professional high quality and correctly sized and cropped photographs/jpegs. It always is a positive thing to link your gallery to your website and cross promote the exhibition.

It doesn’t hurt to ask the gallery what they might need from you to build their marketing materials advertising. It is inexpensive now to have a photo book made of your most recent series. You should have your biography, resume and artist statements ready to deliver. When dropping off your paintings, schedule the delivery as a meeting with the owner/manager/director if at all possible. The more you can relay your information about the work, the more the gallery will be able to express those things to its clients.

When the long awaited day arrives, and you have your show, attend your own opening/reception, on time, dressed appropriately for the event. Invite people to the opening from your own mailing list, the gallery will be glad to work with you to strengthen the relationship with prior customers. In that vein, you can ask the gallery for feedback from their clients about your work. The gallery will work with you to establish a price list, but in advance - keep your prices consistent in all your locations of sales (studio, fairs, other galleries, online etc). This is a point of professionalism. And if a client sees a work at the gallery show but a short period after the show approaches you directly – remember that you are trying to establish a relationship with the gallery, and that it is not conducive to a good long-term relationship if you undercut your own gallery. Similarly, it is not productive to be present in too many galleries in the same area, with the exact same body of work. If the work is very different, a couple of galleries can actually make sense.
Not everyone might find the right fit in for-profit commercial galleries. One excellent alternative might be an artist-run, or cooperative gallery. More about that - in another post.

Approaching Museums and Galleries: Commercial Gallery 1

For-Profit Commercial Galleries

It is likely that you will want to establish yourself in your home-town or region before trying to approach New York, L.A., Paris….unless of course one of those is your hometown.....
So, you can best learn about your regional galleries by visiting them – start by attending receptions for example. Get to know the people involved in the galleries you like. You should be visiting many galleries, because you must find the galleries that will be a good fit for your work. Only approaching a high-end well-known gallery that specializes in abstract oil paintings will not help you if you make realistic watercolors, or highly conceptual videos, etc. Once you have a feel for which galleries are promoting work in sync with yours, the next step arrives.

There are many ways to approach galleries: one good way to start is to check the website for information on how/if the gallery likes to receive unsolicited submissions. If there is no information – try calling to ask, and if all else fails visit again and ask. If they have a policy of accepting submissions one good way to start was suggested by Gina Fraone in ArtScope Magazine March/April 2010: bring a high quality print of a representative work (with your contact information on the back) and deliver it face up – no envelope - to the desk of the director if possible. You can follow this up with a mailed or hand-delivered promotional packet (Sample packet might include: carefully crafted cover letter, a CD of properly sized images with a document of specific information about the work, and less than a dozen really good prints of the work).

Very rarely will a gallery director be wildly happy to have an artist drop in unannounced, without an appointment, armed with a portfolio filled with actual work. An artist approaching a gallery often only sees the fact that they have great work that would be great in that gallery – but they forget that most galleries have a full schedule one to two years out, of artist shows planned with the long-term artists that they already represent. That leaves only a few openings (if any) in any year for an unplanned show. However, your work does no one any good if it hidden away in your studio, so you must get the work out there, become your own best advocate – and keep trying. If you do get an opportunity to formally present the work at the gallery, or at a studio visit – please remember that your demeanor and professionalism are important. Your are asking to enter into a professional relationship with the gallery, so many of the things valuable on a job interview make some sense here too.

Be patient with rejection, galleries are inundated with artists sending work for review. If you create a new body of work, don’t hesitate to try again in a gallery you feel might be a good fit, but declined to show the earlier body of work.

While you are working on finding a gallery to show your work, consider also getting the work out in alternative venues or competitions. (Later posts will address these options) Get feedback on your work from people whose opinion you respect, especially those active in the art world. Build a website of your work, it is hard to work in the art wold without one - and it doesn't have to be expensive or fancy. One extremely easy way to create a site is through Other Peoples Pixels, a highly user-friendly artist-run artist-created service. If you have some jpegs of your work, a resume, and just a couple of hours a time, you can create a personalized and professional site very quickly. Don't forget to also get onto social networks like Facebook and establish a presence on the web in that additional way. Consider starting a blog that will allow to post your work and philosophy.

Have your very best work prepared to hang in a professional manner – It is important to have the work look great when you do get to present it to the gallery – and it shows you take your own work seriously. So don’t use a cheap frame (unless that is a conceptual component of the work), and if you want to hang the work unframed, be purposeful about that conceptually too. Be patient, be consistent, don't give up, but don't repeat mistakes that are not helping you reach your goal - gallery representation.

Approaching Museums and Galleries: Introduction

I will be part of a panel for the Artists Professional Toolbox Program on March 25, 2010. The panel, with Griffin Museum Executive Director Paula Tognarelli, gallery owner Anthony Greaney, artist Patricia Burson, and myself, is titled “Approaching Museums and Galleries”. With that in mind, I wanted to create an outline of this information here. If you are not familiar with the Artist Professional Toolbox, it is an intensive eight-month long program designed for the self-employed artist. You can find out more information about applying for the 2010-2011 program at the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston and the VLA Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts.

There is a lot of information about approaching galleries out there, including a great column at Big Red Shiny. There are many, many books on how to promote your work as an artist. One book on this topic I have recently read is Starving to Successful: The Fine Artist's Guide to Getting into Galleries and Selling More Art by J. Jason Horejs (I became interested in this book after learning about Jason's Art Tracker software). It has some good ideas that will likely work for many, although it is important to remember to only use tips that fit well with your circumstance and personality.

It is also very important to remember that there is more than one ideal outcome in the goal of getting your work out in public – grants, public art projects, traditional for-profit commercial galleries, non-profit galleries, artist-run or cooperative galleries, university galleries, museums, web galleries, and other non-traditional exhibition spaces. For the first post, I will focus on for-profit commercial galleries, and continue the dialog in a series of future posts.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Trip To The Fair

Although Boston does not have the exact equivalent of New York’s Armory Show, we do have a fantastic fair duo coming up. The Boston Print Fair is paired up with the art and design show AD 20/21, and will be showing in Boston at the BCA Cyclorama on April 8-11, 2010. Consider attending the Gala Preview, its for a good cause - benefiting the Boston Architectural College. When you are there looking for the affordable way to be "livable and stylish", watch for artist Louise Weinberg’s work at Booth #29, then see her “Spheres Series – Emerging” at NKG in May 2010. (pictured is Spheres Series – Emerging #6 2009, oil on canvas, 18"x18", image courtesy of the artist)

And in keeping with the plan to have Boston become a more lively art scene, we clearly need something with a touch of humor - like the Art Handlers Olympics glorified in “Ready, Set Hang: The Heavy Lifting In On”! Boston certainly has its own share of underpaid art handlers, and art grad students paying off loans too…

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Art that is Life

Living in both the San Francisco and Los Angeles area of California provided me with invaluable access to a design aesthetic commonly referred to as the Arts and Crafts Movement. The title of this blog in fact pays homage to the subtitle of architect Will Price’s monthly magazine “The Artsman” (1903-1907). Price believed houses would be modern if they fit the life one lived, and that a home could have everything it needed without costly materials and exaggerated details. Reformer and designer William Morris is credited with the primary tenet of the Movement: “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

The revival of this Movement at the end of the Twentieth century has abated. However, in this period of economic destabilization, the spirit of its ideals, if not the actual visual appearance, remains relevant. In a recent Boston Globe article, South End designer Meichi Peng is highlighted for her uncanny knack for what is both “livable and stylish” in our current times. Notably, she works to create environments that are modern but not sterile. Key to this effect is the use of a few items in the design that are truly one of a kind art or craft.

This effect is something that almost anyone can achieve, if they rethink the use of generically available home d├ęcor. For someone wanting to make their living space uniquely theirs, the most limited budget would be better served with one striking element of original art over a plethora of inexpensive reproduction prints or sculpture. You don’t have to travel far afield like Peng to achieve a personal style – in the Boston Area we have an embarrassment of riches with countless open studios events that can provide a ground floor for entering into the art arena. Armed with a map, and good walking shoes, all you need to do your research and hunt is both time to spend and a willingness to explore. Shortly, the Fort Point Open Studios will be here (May 7-9), followed by the SoWa Art Walk on May 15 and 16. In the fall, you will see the greater majority of the studio events open, after hard working artists and designers have spent the summer preparing to show their work. If you live too far outside the Boston area for these open studios, many urban and suburban regions hold similar events at some point in the year. They are different than fairs or art festivals – open studios are designed for the viewer to see the working environment of the artist and directly contact the maker of the object.

You don’t have to wait for the big open studio events. On (mostly) first Fridays of the month, SoWa hosts First Fridays revolving around the area of the 450 and 460 Harrison Avenue buildings in Boston. Part of this includes open artist studios, and part of this is the galleries in the zone. Another smart option is to watch for the art school sales that happen at various times during the year. The SMFA holds a large scholarship fundraiser Inside/Out in November each year, and the students usually have an end of year outdoor fair in May. MassArt likewise holds auctions and sales. With a little ingenuity, willingness to put in time, and a modest budget, unique art to make a personal statement in your home or office is very attainable.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Boston and Art

Boston is my adopted art home, I was born and educated on the west coast. So my perceptions of the energy of the local art scene are colored by that experience, and equally by my participation in the vibrancy of the SMFA. I read the thought provoking Boston Globe discussion of the Boston art arena, "How to start an art revolution", and I began to think about a certain sense of fatalism I first perceived as a newcomer to Boston. The Red Sox had notably not won a World Series for a very long time, and that seemed to become an entrenched attitude about their chances - period. Similarly, I have had more than one conversation at a South End First Friday about the exodus of cutting-edge artists away from Boston as a many decades long phenomenon.

I have traveled to New York as do most Boston artists. I appreciate the variety and diversity I see there. But I don't particularly want to see the New York look cloned onto Boston, I want the Boston look to become both more energetic, experimental, and more unique as its own style of value in the world.

Article author/educator/painter Dushko Petrovich raises many valid thoughts about the problems and possibilities of taking the region to the next level. If the big money is in NYC or LA, then we do indeed need to create a viable working environment to encourage artists to seek out Boston. Part of these possibilities, the commitment to a new and permanent home by Mobius in the South End is one recent upward trend. The economy may be in a lull, but that is the exact best time that new faces can emerge on the scene, such as Walker Contemporary, NKG (disclaimer - my co-owned gallery), or Galvinized - all new to the South End. In the Greater Boston Area, the Arsenal Center for the Arts has a new energetic director, Sharon Glennon, and a new mission to promote visual arts side-by-side with its already strong theatre arts program.

For government and universities to change and be part of the solution, things quite a bit more difficult have to happen. Institutions like those are averse to risk, and will move much more slowly toward change. When I first moved to Boston, it seemed odd to me that Harvard University lacked a Master of Fine Arts program as an option. Relatively recently, Boston has added one low residency graduate program through AIB, Non-art focused colleges such as Babson have created artist in residence options. Bentley University has established a new Media and Culture Major that brings a high level of rigor and preparation to newer media studies. As an educator, I have continued to find the talents of student in my art classes to be exemplary - and most of them want to try and make Boston possible as their post college home. If we could all encourage communities to promote more public art - particularly more temporal and experimental in quality, everyone would benefit for the conversations that are created (love it or hate it). I would welcome more floating/ephemeral galleries, and see no end of possibilities - but it will take hard work with a healthy does of patience.