Sunday, October 13, 2013

Updated: I tell 'ya, *We just can't find Artists in Connecticut!*"


Since this essay was written, the Arts organization in question, is in fiscal difficulty. I take not an iota of Schadenfreude in their situation but if the organization has difficulty finding artists in CT, unsurprisingly the NEA had equal difficulty finding Art and return on art investment in the organization.  OBVIOUSLY, there's a bigger problem than funding at work here.


This is a second in a series of blogs about why good and great art in Connecticut are ignored.

The conversation I had with the Arts organization Visual Arts co-ordinator a few weeks ago yielded a nugget worth  examining.  After a series of exchanges that all ended with co-ordinator asserting that "We [her organization]  just can't find artists [in Connecticut]" she mentioned that "maybe the people putting together a Connecticut Arts list will make it easier" [again I'm paraphrasing].

So I went home and looked them up - CT Art List.  They had a pretty decent Facebook page that essentially aggregated Connecticut Art shows - not the worst thing that could happen.  But what piqued my interest was their Artist Gallery page.  Here they display the names of Connecticut artists and a .jpg of their work.

This gallery gives the impression that they're aggregating a comprehensive list of Connecticut artists of the kind my delusional arts organization friend "just could not find".  So I submitted my name and a representative piece of work and waited.

About a week later I received a generic letter that stated, "We have received your application and we are carefully reviewing it. If you are chosen, you will have a page/section created on our Curated Image Bank. If you are not, we encourage you to keep on creating and continue to follow CT ArtList on Facebook, Twitter and on our website. Please submit any events you may have or you know of and we'll do our best to get them up on our site."

The minute I received this I was tempted to write, "Why call yourself Connecticut Art List if you have no interest in artists in Connecticut?"  But I didn't, thinking that I'd let this play out.

So days later, I start poking around their website.  What's this?

"The curated image bank currently features 28 artists from every corner of the state, and in all different stages of their careers. An overwhelming majority of the featured artists are graduates of Connecticut art schools- most with advanced degrees."

Soooo... "Curated" basically means academically credentialed artists [only].  Sweet.  Art history teaches us that that's where most great art comes from or, as the Borat character might say, - NOT!

Rather than rant and rave about this site, their pretentiousness, and the tone-deaf claim that it's some kind of art list representing state artists, let's chalk it up as yet-another-me and mine-first-self-serving art site looking to cash in on the suckers who get signed up.

This isn't new or news.  Brooklyn Art Project gave me the same rash.  There are others.  They advertise themselves as being a resource to you when in fact you are an unpaid, unrecognized asset [potential web consumer] to them.

The sad, pernicious fact is that CT Arts organizations that receive government funding are gamed to serve very specific, inside constituencies.  Their ties to academia and their closed-minded ideas about art and appetite for monopolizing art funding and venues exclude independent artists from the game.

As artists we are emotionally manipulated into feeling sorry for the poor self-serving bureaucrats who "just can't find..." us.  In business, these people would have to explain their conflicts of interest but in the art world we treat them like the victim.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Artists Worthy of Attention

I recently had two conversations about the state of art in Connecticut that I'm fairly certain are probably very much the same elsewhere.

In one conversation, someone intimated that they knew a docent who was familiar with the review and acceptance criteria to be considered for a one person show at a local museum.  According to this reliable source, applications would be dismissed unless an artist had been mentioned as an "Artist Under Forty" to watch or someone whose CV had already included a show of distinction at a museum or gallery of renown.

The second conversation was with a representative from a big city Arts Organization who was visiting one of the many open drawing sessions available to artists in the area.The meme had been floated that the individual might be instrumental in curating a show of drawings from such drawing sessions.

So the individual spent a few minutes speaking with this one and that and got to me.

My first question was, "why doesn't your organization promote more local artists?"  I will paraphrase what followed.

Leaning to me, the person confided, "We try, we really do but *we just can't find* artists in Connecticut [presumably worthy enough for consideration]. We have a yearly show that you can apply to have a show to that used to be called, Artists under 40 but we changed that.  This year we feature an artist who used to live in Connecticut."

I pointed out a handful of worthy artists in the room saying something to the effect, "Here they are!"

The person then said, as if the people in the room were invisible, "I hear there's another drawing session... [elsewhere]."

"Yes, and there are good artists there too."  And I mentioned this one and that.  "So why can't you promote local artists [and I wasn't speaking of hobbyists]?

Again.  "I told you we have *such a hard time* finding artists in Connecticut."

"But isn't that part of your job [given that the organization uses local contributions to run itself]?"

"We have so little money to work with..."

"Then why not hold pop-up shows in all the empty storefronts in Hartford [...Bridgeport, Willimantic, Norwich...]?"

Oh, I don't have time for that - I had to drive to New York to pick up work...[for the next show].

Shortly after going through this circular logic a little more, the art detective moved to the next person.

There is a special kind of insult that is experienced when someone "looking for artists" looks you eye-to-eye and confides that they "can't find them."

I've been making art since I was a young child and off and on for about fifty-five years.  I'm familiar with the games and fairly indifferent to them.  But every once in awhile... it stings.