Friday, August 19, 2011

Superheroes: Sharing Resources and Information to Gain Strength

Guest Author: Sue Clancy

In the eon before OVAC existed, I, as a young college art school student, was accepted for representation by a gallery.  I was the youngest, greenest, most wet-behind-the-ears artist they had.  I was awed by the other artists, whom I met at subsequent art openings.  Time passed.  A few of my paintings sold which meant I could afford baloney for my baloney and cheese sandwiches and butter for my macaroni.  I kept the gallery in new paintings. Life was good.

Then one day I had a previously scheduled meeting at the gallery with the gallery director.  I showed up on time and found locked doors, no lights on; there were no paintings or sculptures anywhere to be seen through the windows.  A type-written sign on the door said “Closed due to sudden events. Please call with any questions”.   A phone number followed.  I copied down the number and immediately went to a friend’s home, a more experienced artist, who also had artwork in the same gallery.  We called the number and got a “that number has been disconnected” message.  My wiser artist friend put on her super-hero outfit, complete with cape and boots, and leapt into action.

A group of artists, all former participants in the absconded gallery, instantly formed when my friend put out the signal.  I had eight paintings missing.  Other artist’s had more missing and certainly more expensive works.  Collectively we discussed what to do and decided upon a course of action. Actually, they discussed and decided, I asked questions and watched in awe.  Long story short, the artists who had photos and other data on their now-missing artworks as well as copies of their gallery contracts were in a much better position to recover their artwork than ignorant, newbie me who hadn’t documented a thing.  It was a painful lesson to learn, but learn it, I did, and quickly.

Sue Clancy, Dude Descending a Staircase,  hand dyed hand marbled paper,ink,acrylic

Historically artists had apprenticeships, imperfect as they were, by which a more experienced artist mentored a less experienced artist.  We no longer have such a linear system.  It’s been replaced by group mentoring – or “found” mentoring as I call it - whether by a non-profit group which offers workshops or a formal art school at a university, or a group of books, or a series of on-line webinars or some combination of all of the above.  We even have groups mentoring other groups.  Now there are more ways to find and utilize the people-sharing-with-people strength, whether a formal group or not, than at any other time in history. 

Wisconsin is in the news as I write this.  Personally I don’t care what we call people-helping-people-and-banding-together-for-a-purpose; a non-profit group, a group of friends, a hobby group, a school, Twitter followers, a blog, a church or even a union.  Whatever it’s called the point is that when we share resources and information we gain strength by it.  No one person can know it all.  Nor can one group.  Sharing is a mutual responsibility.  We each contribute what we can.  We can all be superheroes.

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