In October, Creative Capital’s President & Founding Director Ruby Lerner was invited to speak at the ArtsFwd National Innovation Summit for Arts & Culture as a “provocateur.” In her talk, “Policy, Prisons and Pranks: Artists Collide with the World,” Ruby discussed artists working at the intersections of science, technology, community organizing, entrepreneurship and the media. She highlighted trends and lessons learned from these hybrid artists, noting how the field can and should adapt to support this critical work.
On July 27, Hyperallergic’s Thomas Micchelli shared a wonderfully thoughtful and descriptive account of the artist presentations at Creative Capital’s 2013 Artist Retreat. An excerpt follows, and you can read the full article on hyperallergic.com.
“One of Creative Capital’s methods of building a community is its annual retreat, where new grantees introduce their projects in seven-minute presentations, and prior awardees are given five minutes to offer progress reports. The general idea is to redefine artistic practice from an isolated and often solitary endeavor to a thriving, entrepreneurial engagement with real-world issues and the public at large.
The dozens upon dozens of projects funded by the organization are often, though not entirely, long on social action, research and interdisciplinary practice.
That is not to say they skimp on the emotions or imagination—the most intriguing often arise from an inspired, transformational leap—but many cross so far into activism that their status as art might legitimately be called into question. That is, if that kind of thing matters to you. Continue reading
If I had to summarize the 2013 TCG conference, I would describe it as the collective expression of a desire to move from “yes or no” thinking to “yes and no” thought/action. From formal lectures to side conversations waiting in line at the food trucks, participants demonstrated a profound desire to move beyond binary thinking and competitive isolationism in a more collaborative effort to improve the overall health of the American Theater.
Formatted after an academic model, participants self-selected one of four “majors” (Financial Adaptation, Diversity and Inclusion, Artistic Innovation and Audience Engagement). Because of MAP’s funding priorities, I chose the Artistic Innovation arc with a minor in Diversity and Inclusion. Continue reading
On Friday, our Executive Director Ruby Lerner presents “Creative Capital: Art on the Edge” with grantees Liz Cohen, Hasan Elahi, Tahir Hemphill and Sam Van Aken at IdeaFestival in Louisville, KY (September 21, 10:30am, Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts). This is our third year presenting on Creative Capital at this convening of global thinkers and innovators, and we’re so excited to be returning with a truly remarkable group of artists. Liz Cohen (2005 Visual Arts) is a photographer and performance artist who is best known for her project Bodywork, in which she transformed an East German Trabant automobile into a Chevy El Camino. Hasan Elahi (2006 Emerging Fields) is an interdisciplinary artist who began the self-surveillance project Tracking Transience in response to being mistakenly listed on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. He presented on Tracking Transience last year at TED Global. Tahir Hemphill (2012 Visual Arts) is a multimedia artist who created The Hip-Hop Word Count, a visualization series of data abstracted from a searchable database of lyrics from over 40,000 Hip Hop songs. Sam Van Aken (2009 Emerging Fields) is an installation and new media artist whose work has most recently taken the form of grafted trees that will bear over 40 different varieties of fruit on a single tree. What a group!
I spoke with Ruby and Alice Gray Stites—Director of artwithoutwalls, Chief Curator and Director of Art Programming at Louisville’s 21c Museum and long-time friend of Creative Capital—about IdeaFestival and Creative Capital’s strong ties with Louisville. Continue reading
In July, Creative Capital convened nearly 250 grantees, consultants, board, staff and guests at Williams College for our Artist Retreat—three days of presentations, focus sessions, one-on-one consultations, and more. (Photo by Roman Iwasiwka)
Before the official start of the Artist Retreat, we had two days of intensive “Pre-Retreat” professional development sessions for the 2012 grantees. Above, Ruby Lerner (CC’s President & Executive Director) introduces PR consultant Carla Sacks, who spoke to the 2012 grantees about working with a publicist.
2012 grantees in discussion during the Pre-Retreat. Continue reading
The Elephant Room: Dennis Diamond, Louie Magic and Daryl Hannah. Photo by Scott Suchman.
Paddy Johnson’s final installment on the 2012 Artist Retreat, originally published on Art Fag City
You wouldn’t think that spending a weekend watching 71 seven-minute presentations by Creative Capital grantees would be any fun at all. That’s a lot of art to look at in a short period of time, and a few bad presentations can make for a really long night.
There was almost nothing I didn’t enjoy, though, so I had a great time. The presentation format also gives critics like me an opportunity to see a large number of artworks I might not see on the gallery scene, so by the end of the conference I felt like I had learned a lot.
Trends, insofar as anyone can identify them in the art world, mostly mirrored the state of contemporary art making. Artists are increasingly interdisciplinary, and that’s reflected not only at the Creative Capital retreat but also in art schools, institutional programming, and other granting organizations across the country. Only four of the 23 visual art grantees identified themselves as practitioners within a traditional medium: Lisa Sigal and Joan Walthemath as painters, and LaToya Ruby Frazier and Connie Samaras as photographers.
By and large, the grantees’ proposals were ambitious and expensive. I’m not entirely sure that a rise in costly projects reflects a broader trend amongst New York-based artists—junk assemblage and Cheeto art still has a larger life than it should—but we’re almost certainly seeing more collaboration across the board. Continue reading
Originally published by Filmmaker Magazine
“Creative Capital is a cult,” said Phillip Andrew Lewis at the end of his presentation at the art funder’s semi-annual retreat this past weekend at Williams College in Williamstown, MA. “But it’s a good cult.”
Lewis’s was both a good line and an appropriate capper to his presentation, which shocked right from the outset. The installation artist began his talk by saying he had been held captive as a child for two years within a radical drug treatment program sponsored by the U.S. government. “I consider my work a form of deprogramming,” he told the stunned audience.
For the record, Creative Capital is not a cult. Founded in 1999, it is a non-profit granting and artist development organization that gives project-specific awards to artists working in film and video, visual arts, literature, performance and emerging fields. Created at the start of the dotcom boom — and following the National Endowment for the Arts’ withdrawal from individual artist funding — Creative Capital, in the words of its indefatigable executive director, Ruby Lerner, “borrows relevant aspects of the venture capital model,” awarding not just money but also professional development services. This year Creative Capital gave 46 artists (out of a record 3,246 submissions) awards up to $50,000 each — funds augmented by another $40,000 worth of additional funds and services as the projects are created and released into the world. Said Lerner at the retreat, “Creative Capital supports the project, the person, the community and the public.” The retreat was also, this year, a fundraising marathon. Observing that some people incorrectly think that Creative Capital operates with a large endowment, Lerner challenged retreat attendees to raise $50,000 by the weekend’s end. That mark was surpassed in 24 hours.
Lewis did have his finger on something, though, because if there’s ever a moment when Creative Capital takes on aspects of not just a tech start-up but, well, a cult (albeit a good one) it’s at its retreat. Bringing grantees and consultants to a remote location (the relatively depopulated campus of Williams College in the summer), the weekend is a packed, deeply immersive experience where both artists and guest consultants are inducted into the Creative Capital mindset, which Lerner described to me, half-jokingly in a 2009 interview, as akin to “a relationship with a high-maintenance spouse.” (“It’s not for everyone, she quipped.”) Continue reading
Paddy Johnson’s second installment on the 2012 Artist Retreat, originally published on Art Fag City.
In an introduction post to Creative Capital’s eighth retreat, President and Executive Director Ruby Lerner describes the event as the “crown jewels of a system we have developed to support our artists’ projects.” Their goal “is to encourage long-term relationship-building among grantees, and between grantees and arts professionals.” As a past grantee myself (I won an Arts Writers grant in 2008), I can say without any hesitation that it’s working.
These conferences offer grantees an amazing opportunity to connect with other artists and a wide range of curators, distributors, and artistic directors through mixers, meetings with consultants, and artist presentations. They also ask grantees to return to the conference every couple of years, which keeps them in touch with a constantly expanding network of creative art folk.
The people I’ve met through Creative Capital over the last four years have undoubtedly helped me build the blog, though it’s probably worth noting that anyone who’s doing the “hard networking” thing probably won’t get very far. There seems to be the understanding here that meaningful relationships occur when you’re excited about what someone’s mind is doing, not when you’re being networked. This was evidenced this morning in an anecdote told to me by an artist at the retreat: “I spent a lot of time figuring out which [consultants] could best help my career my first year, and when I met with them nothing came of it. When I came back three years later I read the consultant biographies and chose the people who were doing the craziest shit, and all sorts of things happened.” Continue reading
Williamstown, home of the Creative Capital Artist Retreat
Not two hours into the Creative Capital Retreat presentations this morning, Beyonce and Jay-Z were name-checked as evidence of the cultural influence Creative Capital artists have on culture. It turns out that their child, Blue Ivy, was named after an essay by grantee Rebecca Solnit. While Creative Capital President Ruby Lerner was quick to concede that the organization had not entertained the idea that they might lure the couple out to the retreat, she did offer other Creative Capital project titles as resource for any future babies. E-Team’s “If the Dancing Gets Too Stiff, The Rain Must Get Dug Out As Ice-Cubes” is my pick for their next child’s name.
Lerner mentioned this in a brief talk encouraging donors to support the organization, though it’s the artist presentations that most substantially demonstrate the value of the organization. Notably, of the twenty presentations I’ve seen thus far, I have not seen one talk I thought was less than professional.
I have however responded especially well to a few of the presentations. The posts that follow will single out some of the talks I enjoyed most and explain why I enjoyed the work. I will also talk about the conference itself; what I think works and doesn’t. Let’s get started!
[Editor's note: I am Arts Writer's grant recipient and have been invited by the Creative Capital Foundation to blog from their retreat this year. I have received a small stipend for my work.]
On February 23, Creative Capital’s Director of Programs & Initiatives, Sean Elwood, moderated a program session with three Creative Capital grantees at the College Art Association’s 2012 Conference in Los Angeles. Embedded: A Social Practice in the Neighborhood included presentations and discussion with Cesar Cornejo (2009 Emerging Fields), Mario Ybarra, Jr. (2008 Film/Video) and Ted Purves (2005 Visual Arts). The artists each talked about their practices using their Creative Capital-supported projects (and others) to illustrate their experiences in working closely with communities to bring about change through creative engagement, embedding themselves in particular neighborhoods to realize social goals, build networks and affect cultural practices.
Listen to podcasts from this session:
Part 1: Cesar Cornejo [ti_audio media="838"]
Part 2: Mario Ybarra, Jr. [ti_audio media="847"]
Part 3: Ted Purves [ti_audio media="846"]
Part 4: Panel Discussion and Q&A [ti_audio media="853"]