Welcome to our third installment of our ongoing series illuminating Why We Love What We Do here at Spacetaker. (If you need to catch up, you can catch part 1 here and part 2 here.) As you may already know, Spacetaker's mission is to provide artists and non-profits access to economic development, continuing education, and networking opportunities to support their professional growth. This week's blog will focus on our efforts involving the first of our three main priority areas: economic development.
If there's anything that's risen to the surface as a need within the nonprofit community within the last few years, it's the concept of economic development. With the instability of our economic climate, a wide variety of businesses have suffered, especially within the cultural realm. Theatres have shut their doors, galleries have closed, publishers have folded... it's a tough time to be working in the arts! After all, some people believe art is a luxury. While we don't agree, we can't argue that the public is faced with a variety of pressing issues, so what better time to focus on providing opportunities for the art community to generate revenue and equipping artists with tools to improve their entrepreneurial practice within this brave new world.
How do we do that?
Winter Holiday Art Market: The biggest means by which Spacetaker addresses the topic of economic development is our annual Winter Holiday Art Market, otherwise known as WHAM. The genesis of WHAM was the annual student sale at the Glassell School of Art, which took place each winter. At some point, the Glassell discontinued the sale, which meant its regular participants were eager for another venue through which they could market and sell their work. Some industrious students and faculty brought the sale to Winter Street Studios (Spacetaker's home) and the management and administration of WHAM eventually fell to Spacetaker. In a nutshell, the Winter Holiday Art Market has grown to be a juried exhibition and art market in one: free and open to the public, displaying the work and wares of over 60 local artists. Unlike other markets, festivals, and fairs (all of which we love and are important to our city), WHAM's spotlight is strictly on Houston artists, facilitating the sale of their work through developing new Houston-based audiences. WHAM:
• Provides an economic engine through which emerging and underrepresented artists and artisans may market and sell their work during the consumer season
• Brings attention to the First Ward neighborhood housing Spacetaker and Winter Street Studios (Between Winter Street, Spring Street, and Summer Street Studios, the area is home to well over 200 artist studios!)
• Attracts new audiences to the art community with the festival format, while providing a safe, festive opportunity for community-building
Over 10,000 patrons attended the previous five Spacetaker Winter Holiday Art Markets, and art sales have put $244,000 in the hands of working artists.
In the spirit of WHAM, we continue to experiment with pop-up exhibition spaces (like Block 7 Wine Company, ARTernative Festival in Sugar Land, or the recent Julydoscope at Discovery Green) in an effort to identify and cultivate even more opportunities for artists to exhibit and sell their work. We even brought a bite-sized version of WHAM to the Shops at Houston Center last year to capitalize on some of the area's excellent foot traffic!
Cultured Cocktails: On a totally different note, Spacetaker has been able to create a platform for ongoing micro-fundraisers through our weekly Cultured Cocktails Happy Hour in partnership with Boheme Cafe and Wine Bar (about whom we truly cannot say enough nice things!)*. Each week, a new arts organization is featured and has the ability to invite their staff, artists, friends, and fans to come drink on their behalf. (Boheme donates a generous portion of the bar proceeds to each organization; it's a Pay-it-Forward situation for Spacetaker, as we do not take any portion of the proceeds for organizing and managing these happy hours.) It's never a gargantuan amount of money, but it:
• Provides a low-maintenance, low-impact way for artists and administrators to socialize and cultivate their networks
• Frequently funds small projects (For example: Artist Emily Sloan's ShadeCloud installation at The Art League was directly funded by their proceeds from our Cultured Cocktails event)
• Provides a performance or exhibition opportunity for those so inclined
• Creates an opportunity to sell work (like our friends at Community Cloth did) or sell tickets & subscriptions
• WON HOUSTON PRESS BEST HAPPY HOUR IN 2010 (Awwww, yeah!)
Since its launch, Cultured Cocktails has featured over 116 different emerging and established arts collectives and nonprofits and directed over $30K in funds their way.
And our work is never done in this regard! We're constantly on the lookout for more economic opportunities for the artists in our network. We realize that one of the biggest boundaries to creative output is funding, and along with our own fundraising priorities, Spacetaker makes every effort to connect our artist community with the outlets capable of generating that income-- both earned and contributed.
If only money grew on trees! But we're confident, even as public funding for the arts is disappearing, that concerted advocacy efforts and the creation of a solid community network connecting audience/collector/patrons to businesses, nonprofits, and artists will fuel the economic viability of our arts scene. Be an active part of that network!
Signing off for this week...salut!
*No, really... we're serious. Morgan Holleman and the Boheme management deserve mad props for their generosity.