How Do You Find Artistic Community?

How Do You Find Artistic Community?

Published on Monday, July 20, 2015. This article appears in the August/September 2015 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Graham Keegan workshop

At his Los Angeles textile workshop, Graham Keegan hosts plant giveaways and natural-dye workshops. Photo: Graham Keegan

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have a handful of students every semester and a group of colleagues that I work with. I feel fortunate to have that community – it’s already established. But I like thinking about community in terms of it fueling your artistic practice, whether or not it is an artistic community. For in-stance, you may be a person who is interested in the night sky, constellations, and planetary orbit, so you may be looking to join an astronomy club rather than hanging out with other artists. You have to think about what is really going to support your practice, and in a way that helps you grow. ~Jeffrey Clancy, metalsmith, Madison, WI

Finding community can be difficult when your day-to-day is working independently in the studio. Last summer I was lucky to experience two weeks of immersive creative community outside of my independent studio routine, during a work--shop at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. Being surrounded by fellow artists and makers for two weeks was an influential and inspiring experience; I was sad to leave but enthusiastic to continue fostering artistic community in new ways. Since my time at Haystack, I’ve been able to connect with other weavers and artists via social media, by posting images of my work and using hashtags. Through the exchange of images and comments, I’ve found a supportive, creative group of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. ~Alicia Scardetta, weaver, Brooklyn

As a textile artist working with plant-based dyes, I regularly try to make connections by growing plants and giving away seedlings or cuttings of them. It’s easy to meet people when you’re offering to give them things, and it’s encouraging to see curiosity from such a broad range of individuals: I’ve met botanists, other farmers, soap makers, people in the fashion industry, and individuals who are just passing by. That’s a big thing for my sense of community. And I feel that focusing on education – how others can use the plants – is also a significant part of my process. ~Graham Keegan, textile artist/designer, Los Angeles

After moving to Chicago, I started doing an ongoing interview series in which I approach local artists and ask them to show me their jewelry collection. I also hear about their artistic practice and often find that it inspires my own. For example, I interviewed Damon Locks, a talented artist who does a lot of community outreach, including teaching art at a maximum-security prison. That really struck a desire in me to get involved with other communities and to diversify the perspectives that I hear from. ~Leah Ball, metalsmith/ceramic artist, Chicago

I moved to Nashville around the time that I started my business, which turned out to be a great opportunity to build community from the ground up. It’s a good place to be as a young creative, for sharing and for inclusiveness. And social media is huge: for getting a sense of who artists are, and also what inspires them or what their work ethic is like. I work alone, but if I have down time or am struggling, it’s also wonderful to have a little scene of people who I can send a photo to and be like, “What do you think of this?” ~Emily Brock, woodworker/designer, Nashville