Creative Conversations: Artists Discuss “The Freedom Principle” at ICA Philadelphia

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Steve Coleman, Cauleen Smith, Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill and Greg Tate

March 2, 2017, 6:30-8:30pm
Presented in partnership with Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

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Chicago’s avant-garde jazz and experimental music scene of the 1960s has had a continuing influence on 21st-century art and culture. It was a period of exploration that continues to inspire and challenge ideas around creative practice.  Four Creative Capital and Doris Duke Performing Artist awardees, included in and inspired by the exhibition, The FreedomPrinciple: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, discuss the historic importance and contemporary implications of their collaborative work.

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Creative Capital Celebrates Black History Month

A Letter from Suzy Delvalle:
History is all around us, and as many of us have witnessed recently in the current political atmosphere, oppression continues to be an inextricable part of our shared American experience. February is a time where, as a country, we look at the histories of Black Americans who have shaped the U.S. into what it is today, typically without deserved recognition. It’s important to understand that being aware of oppression doesn’t start and end with Black History Month. Awareness is a muscle that must be toned. In January, I signed up for the gym as a New Year’s resolution. Now, February is my workout for active resistance against oppression!

As I’ve been settling into my role as President & Executive Director at Creative Capital, I have met so many brilliant artists and learned more about the range of projects that we have supported over the years–going all the way back to 2000. With Black History Month in mind, I asked the staff to put together a timeline of some of the earliest funded black artists, a Storify illuminating the conversation topics shared with #BlackHistoryMonth, and highlighted upcoming events that recognize the overlooked contributions of Black Americans. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know several of these artists personally, but others are new and thus very exciting for me, as I’m sure they will be for you too!

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Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen Document the Real Power of Art

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Spettacolo by Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen

What can art do in a time of turmoil? Documentary filmmakers Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen have made a career of showing how individuals and communities use art to work through personal, political and public issues. Their 2010 documentary Marwencol, which won numerous awards, documents how Mark Hogancamp uses photography and story-making to deal with a traumatic brain injury. A new film called Spettacolo–their Creative Capital project, premiering at SXSW in Austin, TX, on March 11–explores how villagers in a small Italian farming town preserve their heritage and confront community issues by turning their lives into an annual play. We spoke to Chris and Jeff about shooting Spettacolo ahead of the premiere at SXSW.

Alex Teplitzky: Did you happen upon the theme of using art to deal with real life problems accidentally or was it intentional?

Jeff Malmberg: We ran into this story completely by accident. We were on a vacation in the middle of making Marwencol when we bumped into this strange little town with a theater. So it just sort of hit us in the face. That said, I think we’re both attracted to stories about people who use art to deal with their issues. It’s not like they are making art as a means of self-expresion–they’re making art to try to solve an actual problem.

For me, those stories always manage to get at the real “power of art” that people like to talk about in ways that other art stories just can’t. That “power of art” idea is usually so abstract–the power to do what exactly? In both these cases, the creation of art is granting these people the power to actually transform their lives and understand themselves.

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Avoid “Artspeak”: Kirby Tepper On Talking Straight

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Kirby Tepper leading a workshop for Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program.

Kirby Tepper is a man of many talents: actor and educator are just a few of the hats he wears beyond the confines of his day job as a licensed psychotherapist. The same interpersonal expertise that makes him valuable to the clients in his practice also serves to empower his artist peers. Though he particularly enjoys working with artists, Kirby has helped people from many backgrounds, including doctors, writers and lawyers, find a more confident, direct communications style. On February 27, Kirby will be giving a webinar on Effective Negotiation For Artists, where participants will learn how to ask for what they deserve with confidence. We asked him about his theatrical inspirations and the do’s and don’ts of artist communication. 

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The Black Lunch Table Helps Give Exposure to Black Artists Through Wikipedia

Heather Hart assists a volunteer during the Black Lunch Table's Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at Project Row Houses in Dallas, TX, in 2016

Heather Hart assists a volunteer during the Black Lunch Table’s Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at Project Row Houses in Dallas, TX, in 2016

If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about an artist, chances are a Google search led you to their biography on Wikipedia. What happens if the artist you wanted to learn about isn’t on Wikipedia? Who is and isn’t on Wikipedia has more to do with gender and race than one might think. With this in mind, Heather Hart and Jina Valentine—working collectively as the Black Lunch Table—have launched an initiative through their practice to help black artists get on Wikipedia and fill in more of the details of their pages. It’s a seminal step in helping art history become more inclusive. On Feb 27, Creative Capital is hosting a Black Lunch Table Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon. You can RSVP here! We asked Heather some questions about the practice before the event.

Alex Teplitzky: Tell me about the Wikipedia edit-a-thons you’ve been hosting. What a great idea to help get artists online recognition!

Heather Hart: Yes! When Jina and I were in school, there was very little coverage of visual artists of the African Diaspora, especially notable contemporary people. Whether we like it or not, Wikipedia is used by 374 million unique visitors every month, more than your average encyclopedia has ever had. So this was a perfect fit for our over all Black Lunch Table project. We have the power to create a discursive site to fill gaps in the (art) historical record.

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Mike Crane’s teledrama “UHF42” Premieres in Berlinale Forum Expanded

Mike Crane, still from UHF42

Mike Crane, still from UHF42

Mike Crane (2015 Visual Arts) premieres the first two episodes of the six-part teledrama, UHF42, in the Berlinale Forum Expanded exhibition (curated by Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Anselm Franke and Nanna Heidenreich, on view through February 20th). UHF42 is set entirely in the studios of Wattan TV, the longest running 24-hour news station in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Each episode portrays one day of a continuous work week, blending scripted performances with documentary scenes of office life. Continue reading

Kenya (Robinson) Challenges the Imagination to Remold Privilege

CHEEKY LaSHAE by Kenya (Robinson)

CHEEKY LaSHAE by Kenya (Robinson)

If Kenya (Robinson) has a superpower, it would be to say more in the span of a minute than most people say in an hour. Recently, her podcast collaborative art work with artist Doreen Garner, was described in the New Yorker as ranging from “intensive critique to self-help strategies to playful slander to free-association wordplay, and back again.” Kenya’s Creative Capital project, CHEEKY LaSHAE: Karaoke Universal, likewise, promises no shortage of material. Inspired by the way karaoke allows the audience to become the performer and vice versa, CHEEKY LaSHAE—Kenya’s avatar that can be embodied by a revolving cast of characters—presents Karaoke Universal as a course where the students can become the professor. In an upcoming iteration, called Privilege as Plastic Material, the six-part course will be offered at Pioneer Works starting Feb 21 to March 28.

Hillary Bonhomme and I sat down with Kenya to understand more about the project.

Alex Teplitzky: Ok, so the Privilege as Plastic Material course at Pioneer Works is coming up. What is it?

Kenya (Robinson): I knew when Barack Obama first got elected as president of the United States that part of my tears that came had to do with joy. That was like, 15%. And then 85% was shame because I didn’t think it was going to happen at all. I was like, “wait a minute. That’s dangerous because that has to do with my imagination.” That is something I can nurture. In spite of anything else that might be happening in our world, I can imagine things. And especially as an artist, you have to nurture that muscle.

Once I got into art school and started interacting with other artists, I became familiar with this term, “the plastic arts.” The plastic arts has the attributes of plastic in that it can exist in different forms, it has flexibilty, but it can be treated to be rigid, it can be reconstituted, it can do a lot of different things. So, I was like, I need something as—at least what’s been taught to us—as fundamentally oppressive as privilege, I need to think of that with a lot more flexibility and imagination: it’s got to be able to change forms. Like I say all the time, it can’t be the exclusive property of whiteness, everybody should be able to access and utilize it. If you are alive and have an opportunity to exist as a human being, that’s a huge privilege. You can create memories, you can think about the past, you can imagine the future, you can even find ways to engage in the present. But it’s all about this kind of stretching and pulling and snapping back. The only other place I felt that was when I was making objects and sculpture.

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A Page from Our Handbook: Designing and Building Your Artist Site

In Detroit, Rola Nashef and Donavan Glover receiving their Creative Capital Artist's Tools Handbook

In Detroit, Rola Nashef and Donavan Glover receiving their Creative Capital Artist’s Tools Handbook. Photo Credit: Sarah Nesbitt, ArtServe Michigan. 

The following post comes from the Professional Development Program’s (PDP) Artist’s Tools and Internet For Artists handbooks, which are used in our workshops. If this piece leaves you wanting more, you’re in luck! On Monday February 13, PDP leader and artist Sue Schaffner will host a webinar on Web, Blog & Email Essentials. For more information on Creative Capital’s workshops and webinars, see our online calendar.

The first impression of your site is the most important. It should spark the viewer’s interest, either through an evocative image, media or through clearly presented information about you and your work. For some artists this can be simply a name, email link and a photo; for others it’s a menu of links to bios, catalog, media and an archive.

Start by looking at sites you love and see what strategies you can adopt. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

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Organizing Tax Returns? Top Tips for Artists!

Tax time isn’t fun for most people, but it’s especially hard on artists who have a diverse range of income from freelance jobs, gigs, commissions and part time jobs. That’s why every tax season, our Professional Development Program offers a workshop to help artists with their returns. On February 22nd, Creative Capital will host a workshop with Sandra Karas, an attorney specializing in taxes and financial planning (sign up here).

To get an idea of what she would be discussing, Sandra was kind enough to take some time out of her seasonably packed schedule to answer some questions!

Alex Teplitzky: Preparing taxes is especially difficult for artists. Can you give us 3 quick tips artists need to know before preparing their returns?

Sandra Karas: Organize! Organize! Organize! Those are the best 3 tips for any artistic professional, especially those who are self-employed or are independent contractors. If you don’t organize your records, who will? And if you don’t, you’ll lose valuable deductions on your individual and business tax returns.

Keep careful records of your expenditures and the receipts that prove that you spent the money. Conduct yourself as a consummate business professional, so that your website, promotional efforts, business bank account and other indications of your standing in the community are unimpeachable.

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The Power to Create: Upcoming Residency and Grant Opportunities

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Views from Clermont, NY. Image courtesy of residency108.org

It’s never been more important for artists to use their voices and speak truth to power. We’ve gathered here residency, grant and award opportunities created to provide artists the time, space and money required to make the art the world needs.

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