by guest blogger Samantha Levin
Events for artists to show and share and network with their community have lots of benefits. New York artist and agent Samantha Levin describes how an artist salon happens, and how it can grow.
A few years ago, my colleague and friend, artist Allison Sommers along with her husband, musician and scholar, Gerrit Roessler, started to organize artist salons that took place every few months in their apartment. They were hoping to create an environment for artist friends to stretch their creative muscles.
They began hosting these gatherings with one essential rule: attendees have to show a piece of artwork or perform something. They could bring anything they wanted. Old work. New work. Strange work. Work they’re afraid to show to anyone. In fact, they were encouraged to bring things that were frustrating them, or had been left aside for too long. They were encouraged to test things with the salon audience, or bring things that were unfinished.
This rule is the heart of the event, as it is (somewhat ironically) meant to engender creative flexibility. Those artists who get stuck in a creative block, or who are too confined by the needs of their client’s brand, benefit largely by the freedom that these gatherings provide to their creative minds.
They also serve as a place for a network of peers to gather and talk freely. Attendees learn about new events coming up, and meet new friends who might be able to assist with projects they are creating for goals they are hoping to achieve. These things certainly happen with a simple phone call or at a meeting in a cafe, but the salons with their multiple sources of stimulation seem to provide a different sort of boost.
At these salons, music has been improvised and visual art collaborations have started. The events have seen mini-puppet shows, presentations of computer art in development, a myriad of sketches, paintings and sculptures, clothing, prints and jewelry. More than I can list. And there are always art trades!
Alison and Gerrit’s apartment is quite small, thus the parties are generally pretty small. There is a benefit to the size of these gatherings – the intimacy of them fosters a certain kind of conversation – but last year Allison thought that we might benefit from a larger gathering. The Happening was born.
The first Happening, which took place last August at Skylight Gallery in Chelsea, Manhattan’s famed art district, had a new rule: nothing on view could be for sale. That was always a given in Allison’s apartment, but here we were with a larger group of exhibiting and performing artists, and an even larger group of attendees along simply to ogle and enjoy the art.
We wanted to keep commerce out of conversation as much as possible so the artists could retain the freedom to bring something unusual or off their brand. The first event was a resounding success with a packed space, and we are currently in the midst of organizing our second one.
These sorts of events are good for artists in any stage of their careers. I’ve talked about them on Artsy Shark before here and here. They can be started easily by anyone and can take many forms. Lots of bars would love to fill their quiet nights with drink-n-draw events. An artists’ pot-luck brunch at a central private apartment works too. You can’t hang artwork in the park, but you can still show your peers what you’re each working on while having a picnic at the same time. There are tons of variations of Allison’s salon that you can organize on your own using what’s available in your own community.
The second annual Happening will be taking place at Gristle Tattoo and Gallery, located at 26 Bushwick Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, on September 13, 2014 at 8pm. Exhibiting artists are by invite only, but feel free to attend if you are in town.
Photo credit: Yuri Leonov
Guest blogger Samantha Levin will be a special guest on the expert panel at ART+BUSINESS NYC this September in New York City. This two-day workshop is an intensive business learning experience for artists and craftspeople. Find out more about attending here.