3/15/07

Change or Die


I picked this book up at the library. It is by Alan Deutschman, and I gotta say, this book is eye opening and a great source of inspiration. Lately I find myself fixated almost as much on how art is shown and marketed as I am making it. Those of you reading my posts know I have been spending a fair amount of time relaying my experiences as they pertain to getting my work out there in the world. When I read last night about Wenda Harris Millard I realized I needed to change how I am going about trying to change things. What is fascinating about her is, as the book says, '... in 2001 Yahoo's top executives recruited her in late 2001 to reorganize and run their North American sales force, she knew they needed an attitude adjustment.' She was in her 50's and had a career as a publisher and was the first woman ever to run one of the major women's magazines. This might seem out of left field, like what am I getting at right? Well, this book is discussing many aspects of how business and people either change or literally or figuratively die. Examples ranging from the success of the Delancey Street Program (first started in San Francisco it successfully transforms chronically drug-addicted felons into sober, productive, law-abiding citizens.) IBM and GM, the founder of Gor-Tex to Dr. Dean Ornish helping people change in order to change their health; how if you don't keep up and instead keep repeating the same things over and over that used to work for you, you probably aren't going to stay in the game, or possibly LIFE.
Millard came at a time when Television Advertisers were dying. The internet was the way to go, no one was paying attention to ads on television anymore...they were able to block ads, mute ads, record and fast forward past ads. The dichotomy was that ads were becoming more expensive. 'As one media expert, Nicholas Donatiello, said: These advertisers are like drug addicts: As ads are less effective, they have to buy more and more to get the same fix.' Networks were able to charge them more because at the time (late 1999 and early 2000) advertisers were STUCK and refusing to move to the internet. They refused to change but weren't able to get the same exposure. Millard came along and changed that. A huge challenge for her was that advertisers liked the creativity of television. There were awards to be had for the best commercial, believe it or not and this played a huge role in that medium. Millard hired someone and they worked on creating 'the Yahoo Big Idea Chair'. It became a prestige item for ad agency offices. Can you believe how simple that was? How brilliant?
So, what woke me up to new possibility of thought was when I read this quote by her: 'You have to embrace, not oppose, the industry to lead to change. People aren't going to listen to you unless you're part of their world and you appreciate it." I realized I am separating myself. I am pushing away everyone and probably looking naive or arrogant in my disdain for what I come up against in the art community. Millard set out to help them understand and embrace the new medium and realize its potential.
I have no idea what that would look like for me to change anything or anyone. So far all I know is what I see that doesn't appear to be working in the way I believe is really possible. I still have a few more examples I want to share in another post... it is not my intention to point out all that is wrong and just whine for naught. I am probably writing about this more for my own clarity than anything since this blog is still new enough and I'm 'no one'. I understand this isn't going to interest many people, but I find myself thinking about these things more and more and it feels right to pay attention to it.
I see many parallels to the above and the art world. I have seen and experienced a backwardness in the over saturated market of applying to juried shows, many still insisting on slides as do galleries and grant associations. Forget about the fact that they don't even use a slide projector to view the slides, forget about the fact its expensive for an artist to have professional photos taken and made into slides (and a slide of a photograph if you are a photographer is ludicrous). Lets at least catch up to the world of JPEGS.
We have an arts council here that if you go to their website you see a fairly up to date nice site. I should say I am listed with their directory but there has been no involvement between us. It feels like some silent agreement we have. Go to their physical office and its shocking. They should lock their doors in my opinion. The last time I went there they had a 'show' if you will and it was so poorly presented (not to mention art on the walls with cracked glass in the frames and other ouch factors of the work) that it really lowered them on the totem pole of posterity. Why are they even having work there? Its an office space! You are literally walking around tables and counters to see the art. How is that doing a service to the art?
There are numerous associations here (its Vermont, word has it that one out of seven people are considered to be an artist of some kind) I have tried to contact a few online for 'Artists Calls' and never hear back. I drive by and check them out, sometimes going inside and have this heaviness of why bother. I see the same names, the same people, doing the same thing over and over and it feels more like a club/clique than anything else. Pay, join, go to their seminars and pay more, join more....it feels like trying to find the secret to eternal life.
I was offered my own show at a hair salon of all places, I have to admit the place was cool, half of the salon was devoted to showing art and the walls were beautiful and it was extremely tastefully done. I was excited about it. They even do the mailing list and supply the food and drinks. Sounded like a good thing. But it never went down because I was told to call next month so many times that I gave up. They claimed they don't like to set up artists too far in advance and would ask you to call back next month to get scheduled. By the 4th attempt and being told they were now booked six months I decided I was chasing an elusive animal. These are not uncommon experiences here. I don't know if it is because there are so many artists....all panting and eager for a minimum of exposure so no one has to take things seriously since they know there is no shortage of art. Are artists disposable?
The biggest problem that I feel exists in Vermont is the high poverty level and low population. I asked an art consultant: " who buys art in Vermont? " and their response was '2nd home owners'. Okay, how do I find them? I felt like I was asking for Homeland Security Information. Like its a big secret how to sell art in Vermont. I remember asking another artist online who has obviously 'made it' if he had any art marketing advice, know what he said? 'don't look at art for a year'.
All I know is something feels wrong. Off. Something I can't quite put my finger on. I don't have facts and figures to back up my belief that these art associations aren't making a difference. I only have experiences and some stories from others.

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