Sonic conceptual artist Abby Dobson. (Courtesy of abbydobsonsings.com)
“It felt like I had been sort of treading water AND going around in circles”
Abby Dobson came to the 2015 Artist Summer Institute with an impressive resume; she had already taken her brilliant songs and sound—a kinetic alchemy of R&B, soul, jazz and classic pop to legendary venues like The Kennedy Center, The Apollo Theatre and The Tonight Show. Still, like many artists at a certain stage in their careers, she worried about stalling.
“I wanted to jumpstart myself creatively and build an infrastructure around what I do. I wanted to give myself a better shot to continue doing music, continue creating and not doing what so many of us do – stop.”
She sat down at the Introduction to Strategic Planning workshop expecting to spend a few hours thinking about her future, but was still surprised by exactly how far ahead the program prompted her to think.
“One of the tasks was to write our own obituaries, and it was a really interesting thing to do. I was challenged, in a new way, to think about what I would want said about myself and what I want to have done before I leave this earth.”
“How do we build movements where there are many leaders?” wonders Carlos Garcia in a recent interview. That’s just one question at the heart of Beware of the Dandelions by the Detroit-based collective Complex Movements. The Creative Capital-supported project is a traveling, video installation pod which is activated through community and audience engagement, hip hop and science fiction narrative that mutates depending on where it’s performed. The collaboration started out of a conversation that stemmed from dissatisfaction that live hip hop was limited to the usual on-stage performance. The group—made up of Invincible/ill Weaver, Waajeed, Wes Taylor and Carlos Garcia—decided to explore social injustice they experience in Detroit and critical theory they were reading about through a multi-disciplinary project. Beware of the Dandelions has traveled to Seattle and Dallas, among other cities, but it premieres Oct 6-31 at Talking Dolls, as part of a “homecoming” to their native Detroit. An album by the same name is also available for sale. To get a better idea of what the project as a whole is, we caught up with the group.
Alex Teplitzky: Beware of the Dandelions places audience members in the middle of a science fictional dystopia. You’re from Detroit, a city I have read a lot about but have only visited quickly. To outsiders, the connection between reality and science fiction doesn’t seem far off. Is that a misguided judgment on my part?
One of our project’s inspirations, (Detroit philosopher and activist) Grace Lee Boggs used to say “Detroit is what the country has to look forward to” partly because many of racist/colonial capitalism’s practices were piloted here, and subsequently, many of the community led strategies to address the crises created by those practices were also ingeniously created and innovated here.
Documentation of On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Genocide and Slavery, a performance by Dread Scott, 2014. Produced by More Art. Photography by Mark Von Holden Photography (c) Dread Scott
An effective marketing strategy keeps one truth at its heart – it’s all about relationships.
The goal of marketing your work is not to suddenly act like a used car salesman, but instead to facilitate the conversation between your work and your audience.
On October 13th, artist Dread Scot will be leading our Creating a Marketing Strategy webinar. Pulling from his long and storied career, (He once had former President George H. W Bush call his work ‘disgraceful’), Dread Scott will be sharing actionable tools and tactics for artists to create a marketing strategy that allows them to leverage their work into a greater conversation. Register Here Continue reading →
Ravon Ruffin & Amanda Figueroa are consultants. Together, they’ve created the Brown Girls Museum Blog (or BGMB) which cultivates inclusionary practices for museums through social media, speaking engagements, collaborative partnerships, community advocacy, and content services. What started as a conversation, transformed into a platform that aims to solve the one of the most pressing challenges with the art world.
Hillary: Although you are both young, it seems as though it didn’t take long to transform a problem into an opportunity. Can you describe the development of BGMB and your current roles in its operations?
Ravon: The blog came about through individual interests, and then we discovered that we work well together. We both are determined and unrelenting in our desires for social equity in the humanities field, and bringing our individual skills together has been one of our biggest strengths. From the beginning, we’ve always had a clear vision of what we wanted the blog to look like, and we sort of fell into our roles from there. I’ve always been more of the content management and strategy type, whereas Amanda is apt in the technical and design aspect. Our academic endeavors are quite literally where we intersect.
Amanda: I think both of us have always been “problem solvers” — when we noticed what was going wrong with inclusion in museums, we immediately wanted to help fix it. At first, the best way to do that was just by speaking out, raising our voices and making ourselves be heard online, but as the blog continues, we’ve been given more and more opportunities to work on this issue in different ways. It has been exciting to be able to take our mission, and our work “offline” in live events like talks and workshops, but a digital presence will always be important to us. Right now, we tend to split our roles pretty evenly; Ravon handles a lot of our social media while I do a lot of the back-end design stuff, and we both collaborate on new projects as they come in.
Artist leader Brian Tate leads a workshop on Strategic Marketing at this year’s Creative Capital Summer Intensive
Marketing is a term that often makes artists uneasy. It’s understandable, we are so often inundated with corporate messaging that feels cold, impersonal and profit driven.
However at its most basic, marketing is simply effective storytelling to a specific audience to drive a specific outcome. On Tuesday September 27 artist leader and marketing strategist Brian Tate will be leading our Seven Elements of Strategic Marketing webinar. This session will break down how artists can effectively and authentically deploy marketing theory in ways that help both them and the audience understand their work better. Register Here
A well curated artist blog can supplement your website, increase your audience’s understanding of your artistic practice and raise your online profile. But sometimes, just the idea of starting a blog can seem intimidating. How often has the question, “But what do I blog about” crossed your mind?
On Friday, September 16 at 7pm EST artist Sue Schaffer will be offering in-depth guidance on how to optimize your web presence through her Website, Blog and Email Essentials webinar, an overview of best practices for your website, blog, and email marketing and communications.
One day Juan William Chávez was contemplating the failures of the Pruitt-Igoe complex to house a community, when he realized it could still welcome one community: bees. His Creative Capital project,Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary was born. Over the years, Juan has developed the project into a multilayered community outreach program offering public studio space, food demos and gardening classes for local children, and paid positions for young adults in the neighborhood. Currently, Juan is using a residency at Artpace in San Antonio to develop the project so it can become mobile. Before he premieres the project at an exhibition there, opening July 14, we spoke to him to find out more about it.
Alex Teplitzky: You were first inspired to begin this project after taking photos of what remains of the Pruitt-Igoe lot, a notable failure in urban planning history. I’m interested in how you’re beginning almost literally from the ashes of this failure and propelling toward a new project of community building. Are you inspired by the old failures that took place on the site that your own project is named after? Or perhaps by the intentions of the Pruitt-Igoe developers?
Juan William Chávez: There has been a lot of art and research base on the failures of Pruitt-Igoe. My project aims to continue the conversation about Pruitt-Igoe and how its history still affects the city of Saint Louis. It addresses urban planning strategies that enforce a racial and economic divide in the city.
It also aims to confront these strategies through community building by activating vacant lots with programming that embraces the urban ecosystem, education, the arts, job training and providing a space for dialogue among community members.
The urban forest of Pruitt-Igoe is what inspired me to go beyond a traditional community garden and view green vacant lots as part of the urban ecosystem of people, animals and plants that can foster space and opportunity for conversation, a sense of belonging, a space for self-realization and transformation. It aims to be a public studio space that offers creative strategies for developing and activating vacant lots that can slowly grow into new possibilities. Planting seeds and ideas, letting them grow with a goal not to fix but to evolve with people and time.
Working with several advocates for the decriminalization of sex work, the Center for Artistic Activism took over the controversial sculpture “Perceiving Freedom” in Cape Town. Photo by Steve Lambert.
Interested in launching a socially engaged art campaign? Curious how successful artists have pulled it off? Stephanie Bleyer is an expert in community engagement campaigns and founder of the firm Six Foot Chipmunk, where she helps artists across disciplines create strategic plans, raise funds, and reach and mobilize new audiences. On Thursday June 9th, 2016, she will lead the webinarProducing & Funding Your Community Engagement Campaign, an essential for artists’ projects involving social justice, education, public art, or community building. Adapted from Stephanie’s webinar, the following information pairs best practices with action-oriented case studies.
Steve Lambert and Stephen Duncombe in North Carolina.
Steve Lambert and Stephen Duncombe of The Center For Artistic Activism help artists make political art work. For them artistic activism is more than just a descriptor for certain types of art. It’s more than a tactic. They see it as an “entire approach: a perspective, a practice, a philosophy.” They will be leading a new workshop in Creative Capital’s New York offices on May 23rd, where artists will learn how to use their creative practice to organize communities, speak truth to power, and make more engaging and impactful artworks. We talked to the pair about their work, their critical inspirations, and the artistic activism they see in the world.
A letter from “The Birthday Project” in 2006. Photo: Dhanraj Emanuel
“Would you like to write a postcard to the President?” This was an initial prompt artist Sheryl Oring used to engage the public on the street in her Creative Capital-supported project, I Wish to Say. In 2006, Sheryl dressed as a 1960s secretary, set up a portable public office complete with a manual typewriter in public areas across the country, and typed birthday cards to then President Bush as dictated by passers-by. The originals were mailed to the White House. Since then, the project has grown exponentially and she has enlisted a number of volunteer typists to take dictation. On April 26, she will bring the piece to Bryant Park as part of the PEN World Voices Festival, and anyone can dictate a letter to the 2016 presidential candidates. We spoke to Sheryl as she prepared the piece for New York.
Alex Teplitzky: Can you describe the project, and specifically the history behind it. How did it come about?
Sheryl Oring: I had been thinking about the idea of doing what ultimately became I Wish to Say for a while. It grew partly out of my experience in newspapers—the idea of the person on the street interview. But there’s a more personal connection as well. My grandmother was a secretary in the Political Science Department at the University of Maryland. She was the kind of secretary who always went to work dressed to the nines. When I was a kid, she let me go into her closet and into her jewelry boxes, her many jewelry boxes, and dress up when I visited. I think that is also one of the sources of the idea for this work.
In 2003 I had been living in Berlin for six years and came back to the country and I felt completely out of touch with the American public and what people were thinking about politics. Many things came together for me when I thought about going out onto the street with a typewriter and asking people what they’d like to say to the President.
I should mention that I Wish to Say also came to be partly because I saw the movie Central Station. There’s a woman sitting in the central train station in Rio taking dictation for people who are illiterate. I was drawn to the idea of a typist taking dictation of letters from strangers in a public space. It also stems from my own biography. I grew up in a very liberal family in North Dakota, which is a pretty conservative place. We were used to interacting with people with different political view points because we were the minority in my hometown.