The following article is based on an excerpt from Renée Phillips’ upcoming book Vision, Passion & Purpose: Artists as World Changers. The book features more than 100 artists who bring positive change to the world in many different ways. The artists presented below include a few from the chapter “Artists Helping Artists.”
In the arts, collaboration is a term most frequently applied to performing artists. Performing artists form ensembles, populate stages and rely on production teams in order to accomplish their creative goals. Visual artists, on the other hand, primarily work alone. Although visual artists admittedly need seclusion in order to focus on their craft, this solitude can come at a cost. Many artists speak about the drawbacks of constantly working in “isolation.” There is a nagging need to feel connected to others who share similar challenges and dreams. To prove this point, visit some groups on LinkedIn and other social media forums on any given day or night, and you will observe thousands of artists coming out of their studios to participate in various discussion threads. They are there because they need to feel a sense of belonging — to give and receive support and feedback with one another.
As a young artist in New York, I needed to do more than spend time in my studio and paint. I was also acutely aware of the shortage of galleries receptive to emerging artists. To fill this void within myself and the art world, I launched Artopia, an artists’ membership and exhibition organization. It was the beginning of a rewarding career devoted to serving, uniting and celebrating artists. Most recently, I started a Manhattan Arts International group on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/groupRegistration?gid=1930619). This group provides a forum for artists and art enthusiasts from around the world to exchange ideas, expertise, resources and networking opportunities. We currently have more than 1,050 members sharing a spirit of camaraderie.
So, I understand what motivates artists to create a sense of community. Wherever there is a problem or need, there is a seed for personal growth and the potential to be of value and service. A group of artists can unite to fight discrimination, raise consciousness, change legislation, support worthy causes, obtain group health insurance, offer art supply discounts, foster camaraderie, exhibit their art or bring recognition to new artistic movements, among many other possibilities.
The following artists fit the criteria of true artists’ advocates creating positive change. In many cases, these artists sacrifice endless hours of their own creative time in order to help other artists. Yet they do so with enthusiasm, creativity and a sense of fulfillment in using their skills to make a difference in the lives of their peers.
Helping Artists in Financial Need
Award-winning sculptor Babette Bloch (www.babettebloch.com) from Redding, Connecticut, has a national reputation as a pioneer in laser-cut stainless steel sculpture. She divides her time between site-specific, one-of-a-kind commissions, and limited-edition works exhibited at fine art galleries.
“I’m intrigued that I can continually meld the classic and the modern using stainless steel and modern industrial technologies,” says the artist.
Babette’s tireless service to fellow artists and the art community is admirable. After many years as an active member, she stepped up as volunteer President of The Artists’ Fellowship, Inc. (www.artistsfellowship.org) in 2004. Founded in 1859, this 501(c)3 foundation assists professional fine artists and their families during times of emergency. During her term as President, Babette says her greatest achievement is: “to continue the mission of The Artists’ Fellowship, with an outstanding all-volunteer board of community leaders, even through difficult economic times, while having our money invested conservatively and still helping around 70 artists per year. The Artists’ Fellowship is unique in that we can move very quickly to assist artists in dire circumstances.”
Babette is also an active member of The National Arts Club and has been awarded the NAC’s “President’s Medal” in recognition of the cultural and educational programming she has helped bring to this national historic organization.
Creating A New Feminist Collective
Los Angeles artist Terri Lloyd (www.terrilloyd.net) calls her approach to helping others “Whole-istic Zen … an emulsification of commercial and graphic arts expertise, fine art processes, philosophical/spiritual exploration and an unprecedented sense of humor.”
Terri has been acutely aware that that many creative women over the age of 40 are under-served in the arts and society at large. To combat this, Terri co-founded The Haggus Society (www.thehaggussociety.org) with artist Monica Marsh (www.monicamarsh.com) in 2010.
“We couldn’t find support for women like us — multifaceted older women who play hard and work hard; women who are activists, thinkers, risk takers … We knew if we didn’t make it happen, it wouldn’t come into existence.”
The Haggus Society is “A comprehensively supportive feminist art collective for women over the age of 40, who share a global vision of empowering Woman’s position in the arts and society.” They achieve this through the support of cultural acts and practices, such as literature, poetry, performance art, music, visual art and direct action.
Creating A Network of Visionary Artists
Otto Rapp, an exceptional artist from Alberta, Canada, developed a private network of Visionary Artists worldwide on the social networking site Ning.com in January 2009. A few months later, he began exhibiting the best work in an online public gallery on Weebly.com.
There are currently almost 250 members in the network, and more than 270 artists with their own pages at http://visionaryartgallery.weebly.com. In October 2010, Otto published a yearbook at http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1732179 to celebrate the accomplishments of the artists.
Otto states, “I work closely with the Beinart International Surreal Art Collective and the Society for Art of Imagination (of which I am an Honorary Artist Patron).”
The Visionary Art Gallery has a special shop section (http://visionaryartemporium.weebly.com), as well as a Hall of Fame, and links and RSS feeds to relevant news, blogs and archives of important exhibitions in its genre.
The quality of the artwork presented is outstanding.
“We carefully select our members via recommendations from members in good standing. I rely on a panel of trusted Network Administrators to make the final selections and help with network administration.”
Karolyn McMillan Farrell
Helping Artists of Arkansas
Karolyn McMillan Farrell (www.karolynfarrellart.com), an artist from Fayetteville, Arkansas, has her paintings in numerous private, corporate, medical, state and other collections across the U.S. She holds a Master’s Degree and an Educational Specialist Degree with emphasis on “Creativity and the Older Adult.”
Karolyn expresses the true heart of an artists’ advocate: “I enjoy helping artists keep the ‘creative spirit.’”
Her continuous efforts on behalf of artists include: organizing yearly shows for Plein Air Painters at Walton Arts Center, Baum Gallery; working on the gallery committee of the University of Arkansas Continuing Education Program, to showcase artists’ works; working with an “Artists’ Fellowship” group to share and develop shows for area nonprofit organizations and artists; teaching art classes in her studio on a volunteer basis, and serving on the board of Youth Bridge for at-risk youth, where, “We organize and judge artists’ work for an annual ‘Starry Night’ gala, with proceeds for Youth Bridge art programs and more.
Karolyn was also instrumental in writing and directing grants through the Levi Foundation, the National Office of Aging and the Arkansas Arts Council. She also received grants for intergenerational work with high school art students, adult artists in nursing homes and others.
I invite you to reach out to these artists, help them promote their causes, join artists’ run groups, become an active member, or even start a group of your own.
Author, curator and speaker Renée Phillips, The Artrepreneur Coach, offers art marketing advice and career coaching in person and by phone to artists of all career levels, throughout the world. With her upcoming book titled Vision, Passion & Purpose: Artists as World Changers, she will be presenting group activities in person and online to foster the spirit of camaraderie and mutual support among artists. You can read her advice articles and learn about her services on www.ManhattanArts.com. Follow her at facebook.com/ReneePhillipsArtCoach and Twitter @reneephillipsny.