Artists covenants

While reading the original article dealing with virtual guilds, it reminded me of the “Artist’s Covenant” that we follow here in our extremely busy working studio. We have almost 20 artists working out of this space, most as resident artists. We also just admitted our 4000th student in 9 years. This is an extremely active artist collective.

The over-riding philosophy in this space is the “Artist’s Covenant”. This is an intrinsic agreement by all artists utilizing our space. No one is admitted without buying into it. In our case the covenant is as follows. “A Rising Tide Floats All Boats”.

To become a member here you must first agree to be happy for everyone’s success, not just your own. This fosters a positive air in the work environment. Jointly, each artist agrees to not only look out for his or her own opportunities, but also to promote the other artists in the covenant.

If there is an article being written about you, can you mention another of the studio artists? If you have a museum show, can a piece or two be a collaboration with another studio artist? If a show comes along, can you let others know in the collective if their work is appropriate? If a collector comes and buys one of your pieces, can you then show them around the studio and introduce them to others work?

None of these things costs the original artist anything. He/she still has the press, still has the museum show, still has the sale, etc. They simply have increased someone else’s opportunities.

The reason for doing this is simple. As each of the artist become progressively more successful, the opportunities ascribed to the entire collective also increases in number and stature. Eventually, all begin to move up the art world ladder. The difference is that no one has to do it as well. They are surrounded by support.

Many covenants have been used historically, such as the groups surrounded Georgia O’Keefe and Marcel Duchamp. Alfred Stieglitz circle would gather those artists who felt “abandoned” by the mainstream art world. One of those was his future wife Georgia O’Keefe. He would then meet as a group and decide how to promote them selves while still remaining true to their art. He eventually opened a gallery where they formed an allegiance with European artists such as Kandinsky. We take these artists successes for granted these days, forgetting that they were once “outsider” artists.

In the 1920’s there was also the Surrealist movement (both in New York and in Paris)…with such illustrious members as Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali . They were very savvy in that part of their collective was made up of several critics and writers. What began as a collection of artists without a following became a movement, which influences art to this day.

To stay completely positive towards all others successes when we ourselves are not moving forward is tougher than it may seem. Without these unwritten contracts, artists can fall too easily into a solitary guarding of personal turf.

The benefits to this approach are immediately evident in the feel of the working studio…..where all things are possible and the sky’s the limit. The long term is the accelerated success of most of its members. Few could have predicted the future successes of the Stieglitz Circle or the Surrealists. Where artists feel strongly enough about their work, it will only be a matter of time till they find an audience for their work.

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