Make Art Make a Difference
Estimated Reading time: About 2.5 minutes
When I first moved to the Bay area, I only knew one person. I wanted to meet artists, so I spent the summer as a volunteer for the arts organization ArtSpan.
ArtSpan started as a grass roots, volunteer-run group of artists that wanted to organize themselves to engage directly with the public. This gave birth to the first SF Open Studios event in 1975, an exciting neighborhood crawl that included demos, live music, events, and an inside look into artist studios, completely accessible to the general public.
Thirty-seven years later SF Open Studios has expanded from 100 to include almost 1000 artists in San Francisco, spanning virtually every SF neighborhood over four full weekends, still and always direct to the public, accessible to all. SF Open Studios is the oldest and largest in the country.
ArtSpan’s mission is to connect the public to visual artists in San Francisco and to create a platform for these artists to thrive. While this mission might sound broad, it really encompasses how broad and diverse the visual arts community is in San Francisco.
ArtSpan asked Joshua Coffy for ideas to engage people to make art at a street fair. He jumped at the idea. Giving to his community fit right into his “Gift Prolific Project.”
“I created a really interesting mural project where 144 people each painted a small piece of one of my paintings. Then we reassembled the pieces as a large mural. I think the final painting was better than the original.
People who participated thought it was cool to be able to paint without paying to do so. Some said, "I can't draw" so they did a mono-color square. We thought people would come back at the end of the day to pick up their dry piece, but no one did. That gave us a complete painting that we displayed in a local bar. So not only did members of the public have a chance to be an artist, they also were exhibiting artists!”
Artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn also create community art from the favelas of Rio to the streets of North Philadelphia. They involve the people who live there to paint entire neighborhoods.
Even before they did any crowdsourcing to fund their bigger projects, these artists engaged with the local community to make things happen. Before they asked for anything, they gave food and connection by having barbecues.
So eat, drink and make art in the company of your community. You never know how your contributions will make a difference.
Let me know how I can help make a difference to your art career. The first 15 minutes is on me.
P.S. If you want to make a difference to other artists, please consider making a donation to CERF+. I’ll send you a free book if you do this.
(Make sure to let me know you donated and send me your surface mail address to Aletta@ArtistCareerTraining.com)