Sunday, May 11, 2008

It's official!

For all your favorite art commentary, I have moved the blog to its new home:
I will leave this blog alive on blogger for a while since there are still outside links pointing here, but for updated content, see above. The new feed subscription is:
See you real soon!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There is no scarcity.

Yesterday I posted about some bigger discussions to have when engaging in the discourse on funding for the arts. I spoke about communities and artist support & integration. Today, as promised I want to talk about the power of the arts community and the myth of scarcity.

The myth of scarcity in the arts is the long held belief that there's not enough X to go around. Where X represents one patrons, audience, venues, whatever. This myth creates a sometimes vicious competitive environment.

The myth is detrimental to both individual artists and the community.

The good news is that it really is BS. But that does mean coming to terms with some understanding and reality checks. The first concept to grasp is that the current system of the arts industry is broken, the pyramid is inverted. Artists, who should be at the top of the pyramid (all other services should be in support of artist) are currently at the bottom (playing the support role to all the services). This is not a complaint, just a statement of (important word choice coming up) current fact. In order to change this, artists will need to begin with reconsidering how to succeed in the art world (more on that later).

Another reality check is that there is only a minuscule number (I've heard rumours that it is 1% of 1% of all artists) make a large amount of money off their artwork. And by large amount of money, I mean rockstar lifestyle. We could probably figure out who they are right now, ummm, Damien Hirst, Olafur Elliasson, maybe Jeff Koons and tangentially Christo & Jean Claude (tan. because they make money off sketches of their work). Am I missing anyone?

Here's the secret, everyone else is making money off alternative sources of income which are funding their work (teaching, speaking, working in the arts, etc). Now, there are probably quite a lot of artists who make a reasonable amount of money off their work (as opposed to the rockstar levels of money), mostly these are artists who can create easy to market & sell work, which, often is not even the work they would consider the most important or interesting. Like the e-bay and painting-a-day people (there's a lot of merit in these methods of funding). If you are doing large scale public projects (say a chalk line around NYC) then your funding might come in a small part from grants and individuals, but in a larger part from speaking opportunities, image rights and some amount of commodification. My painter friend is pursuing painting portraits as a means to fund his work, a couple of my other friends who create non-object based work subsist on teaching and occasional fellowships. It's a good idea to understand that you will be the biggest funder of your own work, so you should find something you can do to make money that will make you happy.

So, about how this community concept can help. It's quite simple actually, so simple in fact that there is a cliche already made for it: a rising tide lifts all boats.

If as a community we decide that we are going to help one another, whether that is sharing knowledge, resources, experience whatever, then we all rise up together. Don't even think it isn't selfish, don't you think that if I help my friend the painter get a show in a gallery or out at Coney Island, well one day he will turn around and help me when I need it. Sharing is a way of creating greater strength in numbers. (What you give is what you get).

Yes we should all be talking about money too. It empowers us all to know what people are paying for services and products so that we can price our own products and services accordingly. (For example, in my experience speaker fees can range anywhere from $200 [for local panel] to $1000 [for individual presentation outside NYC], and stipends for showing work that is documentary in nature [documentation of a project already completed] is about $300). It also helps us all present a more united front, sure there are lots of artists doing things for free (even I admit to that for a select situation), but the more we all ask for the money we rightly deserve, the more likely people will pay for it. The power of a positive no is a great thing.

So think about it, and figure out what you have to share with your fellow artists, and go out there and give that away (while simultaneously asking to be paid for your creativity).

Photos all creative commons license, courtesy of flickr and: (top to bottom)
"Support Starving Artists" by dltq
"Inverted Pyramide" by megafon (ironic that it is at the louvre no?)
"community kitchen" by smallestbones

Speaking of funding...

I was invited recently to participate on a panel regarding fundraising in the arts. I was told by the organizer that I was being invited for my experience in fundraising for the HighWaterLine project. I told them, you know I only raised about 30% of the cost of the project and funded the rest of it independent filmmaker style (credit cards) and am still working on ways to recoup, so I'm not sure I am the best representative. They said, actually that's the other reason we have invited you, we want someone who is honest about their fundraising achievements and challenges.

I'm pretty excited about the panel, since, as you may have noticed, I am really interested in talking about new funding models.
I think there are a couple of important parts of the conversation around fundraising which need to be addressed, I will look at value/integration and support of artistic communities today...

First, how we talk about value of the arts in a community. The argument on the monetary value of the arts, while valuable and of great merit is overused and doesn't fully address all of the facets of a strong arts economy. I just read a good article in the New York Times Magazine about arts in education, it profiles a report which debunks the power of the arts in strengthening skills in the "tested" subject areas. (I've had a problem with this argument for a while). Instead it notes that what was witnessed was: "persistence in tackling problems, observational acuity, expressive clarity, reflective capacity to question and judge, ability to envision alternative possibilities and openness to exploration." (Nowhere has this been made more visible to me than the week I spent at ACPA, where high school students undertook a week long art project with me where they solved problems, collaborated, focused and expressed).Similarly it is important to find ways to talk about the broader impact that the arts has on our community psyche and collective consciousness. What does it mean culturally and socially to be a creative community?

And what does all this have to do with arts funding? It's re-framing the argument and looking deeper at the value of the arts and encouraging broader support, which gets us back to the other facets of a healthy funding environment for the arts. While city, state, and federal support of the arts combined with private support giving money or resources to both organizations and individuals provides fertile ground, an active patronage also needs to exist to help create a sustainable environment (somebody has to buy the work/tickets/etc).

The final (and possibly most complicated) pieces are both government regulation in support of arts (low rent/tax breaks for venues and orgs, housing subsidy for artists, open permitting and city agency support) and integration of arts and artists into private sector economy.
The integration could occur in a variety of ways - one idea I like is to hire artists within the corporate community to inspire creative thinking. I guarantee that if you put me on your board of directors that I would be able to see things from a different point of view and come up with creative solutions. Within the private sector artists have the ability to inspire the creativity necessary to advance companies. I would also advocate for institutions to host, essentially, artist residencies. I could provide a number of inspiring community based projects to help with any variety of Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club or NRDC initiatives.

Tomorrow I will write about creating a supportive artistic community, as an artist, and how we can help each other overcome the scarcity myth.

Images courtesy of Creative Commons on Flickr (from top to bottom):
"Fund Public Art" by bourgeoisbee
"Funds Please" by otherthings
"Creative Hands - Mindy" by Dalydose
"fuck it i'll fund that." by yatta

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Philly in the fog

NJ burner, kinda far away

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thinking outside the box

crossposted from

I like to approach projects from an "outside the box" (boy, thats an overused term) point of view. When I mentioned the "Seeding the City" to a friend who works with green roofs, he questioned the value of planting such a small plot of greenery - how is that going to have any real affect on the Urban Heat Island Effect?

May answer, "Each individual module may have a negligible affect, but what would hundreds of modules spread across the city do to both our environment, our awareness and our social fabric?"

When you consider the potential of the project, creating potentially enough greenery on rooftops to recreate a Central Park in the sky? Now it gets interesting.

I have also been considering how to raise money for the project outside of the "normal" channels (i.e. grants). A couple of things have come up recently which I am investigating:

  • is a tipping point model for fundraising and social action. Get enough people to commit to something, and then it can happen. I posted the project on there with enough funds to launch the project, its a pretty high price, so we will see how close I get, but it does allow many people to be involved at a small level - it is a further exploration of microfinancing.

  • Another idea is to exchange money for experience or special commodities from the project, this is based on the model of The funding is given up front and then the funders are invited to participate in interesting ways throughout the project.

  • Finally, my own thought of allowing people to "sponsor" grm's throughout the city. Pay $50 and you would sponsor a grm in your choice of one of the neighborhoods. This wouldn't be on your own roof, but would include your sponsorship information on the signage and website.

So, does anyone have any thoughts on any of this? Are there ways you would want to participate financially? Would you give a small amount for nothing in return or prefer a larger amount and a unique experience or commodity (if so what would that experience or commodity be?) or would you prefer to know that your funds are directed at a specific piece of action?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Artists Pivotal in Art World

I was scheduled to participate in the show "EcoAeshtetics" at <>Tag in The Hague. As I mentioned, they invited me to do a project which would activate people in the streets and were interested in flying me out to create a citywalk next weekend. I wasn't interested in the ecological footprint of the flight, so had developed and entirely new and exciting project, Insert ___ Here, which would require them to do the printing of the materials and organize the citywalk and uploading of images. I had also allowed them to (if they wanted) recruit some local designers to work on the remediation images.

Today it was canceled due to their very busy schedules.

I am sad about that, but it also brings into stark reality something I have talked about before (I don't mean to disparage <>Tag at all, they were very supportive of the artists in the show - offereing airfares, stipends, etc, so please don't think I am speaking badly of their decision), the role of the artist as the hardest working in the art world. Without me producing the materials, flying out to lead the walk, managing the upload of images, searching out designers and managing their work and reposting of all of the images, well, the work just doesn't get done. This on top of already thinking through the idea, writing text, designing signs, creating a website, researching materials... As so often happens, the artist not only must create the work, but also do all the work to get it shown. Often without a living wage renumeration. This while all the other people who work in the gallery system are getting paid either a stable salary or an hourly wage which covers all their time.

Not to worry though, Insert ____ Here is launching next week with the help of PS58 in Brooklyn (check out the kids blog on climate change - Little Grassroots!) and will be at the Sustainable South Bronx Block Party on May 17th. If you are interested in getting a group together to do "Insert ____ Here" in your city, email me at eve at insert-here dot org!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Flights of Fancy

Another blog I read just turned me on to RAF-Reduce Art Flights, a project launched at the Venice Biennial. The project aimed to highlight and promote the reduction of travel in the art world. With all the art fairs there's been an increase in not just in travel, but an exponential increase in shipping of artwork.

This project hits close to home, especially given a couple of recent experiences. As I would hope, as my career grows, I have more opportunities to travel with/because of my work. On the other hand, I don't want to create a negative environmental impact with the work. And airline flights (if you didn't already know) have HUGE carbon emissions. So how to keep the career growing, spread the work and minimize the impact?

Recently I was invited to the Wexner Center to present my work as part of the Art & Environment program. It was a one afternoon engagement. I explained the quandary to the director, and asked if there was a way to broaden my (positive) impact while there, could she work with the school or other organizations to fill up a week? She was happy to oblige. I spent a week working with a local group of extraordinary high school students (more on that later), spent the afternoon at the Wexner, and met with local artists. Believe me the week was packed full.

(I was also reminded - again - of our desperate need for better rail. The only train was a 12 hour trip arriving at 3.30am in a city two hours away, the bus left at 4am. I was totally up for taking on the long trip and early arrival, but as anyone who has ridden any distance knows, the freight trains are given priority and passenger trains are notoriously late. If I missed the 4am bus I would have been awkwardly stranded).

So in the case of Wexner it opened up lots more opportunities for me to meet with and work with people.

The other instance was that I was invited to participate in the EcoAesthetics exhibition at < > TAG platform in The Hague. They were interested in bringing in an artists who would get out into the public space and create interventions or activate public participation. Well, thats me for sure! Unfortunately I *really* couldn't justify a flight to The Hague for a weekend project*. So instead I suggested that I create a project that could occur in the public realm, but which they could produce, organize and promote all themselves. I would provide the creative idea, the structure and the electronic files, everything else was (mostly) up to them. From that was born the "Insert ____ Here" project which will launch in The Hague this weekend, Brooklyn next weekend and then Miami and the Bronx soon after. I would love to see it happen in neighborhoods around the world, so certainly contact me, or watch the project site (totally in progress- just a theme place holder for the moment) for more information.Link

In light of this, I have been talking with Michael Mandiberg and Tiffany Holmes (of about creating a group of artists who are interested in participating in and promoting an electronic panel. We could be in our homes, in front of a web cam participating in a panel anywhere in the world. If Andy Revkin can do it, so can we.

*It's not that I don't want to go to these places - I definitely do, I love travel and I love meeting people around the world, but I am trying to be conscientious about my travel footprint - reducing the flights and if I do fly, packing the time full of opportunities.

Images (from top to bottom): Michael Mandiberg's Real Cost plugin for Mozilla Firefox, Eve S. Mosher's "Insert ____ Here" project

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It's that time again!

Time to start "pre-writing" about the whitney biennial. I anxiously await the discourse and criticism to come. ..

But wait, its been kinda quiet out there so far. Sure the opening is Thursday, and the press preview probably the night before, but I haven't heard a peep. Here's my guess why--

This year's biennial is going to be good. Yep you heard me - good. I think it is actually going to be a what it is supposed to be - a look at what is happening in the contemporary arts. And having a peruse through the artist list, it may actually achieve that. They have Fritz Haeg, Ellen Harvey, Spike Lee, NPR, Ruben Ochoa, Phoebe Washburn. There are also artists whose work looks like I won't like it, or it will challenge me - and those are both good things, since I would hope the contemporary art world would support diversity.

So, I think I will actually go this year. Will let you know what I think of course.