The Artist as Activist: Planning for Impact


Sonic conceptual artist Abby Dobson. (Courtesy of

“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.”

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Complex Movements Honor Decentralized Networks and Resilience


Complex Movements on stage

“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?

Complex Movements: Many of the story elements of the science fiction parable Beware of the Dandelions are based on recent stranger-than-fiction events in our city and state, such as mass land grabs by billionaires speculating hundreds of acres of land under the guise of apple orchards (and tree farms), water being shutoff and poisoned, state of the art surveillance systems run by corporate moguls, and life extension seeking cryogenics facilities to name a few.

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.

Detroit is also a science fiction mecca including techno legends Underground Resistance and Drexciya, authors like adrienne maree brown and Saladin AhmedIngrid Lafleur’s Afrotopia project, and beyond.

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Be the Advocate Your Art Deserves: 4 Ways to Better Document Your Work

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

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
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Turning thoughts into Actions: The Presence of the Brown Girls Museum Blog


Photo Credit: Amanda Monroe Finn

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.

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The Seven Principles of Strategic Marketing


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

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Internet for Artists: Ideas for Effective Blog Posts


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. 

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5 Best Practices for Launching Your Socially Engaged Art Campaign

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.

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 webinar Producing & 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.

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Envisioning New Futures: Steve Lambert and Stephen Duncombe on Artistic Activism


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.

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