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A Quick Guide to Cultivating an Art Collective

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The image of a solitary artist, brooding in front of his unpainted canvas is a classic. Real life is an inspiration for this image. There are artists who prefer to do their work alone. But today, a lot of creative types are joining social groups called “art collectives.”

The idea of like-minded artists banding together is by no means a recent innovation. In the 19th century, artists with similar outlooks and goals formed “movements” that supported each other. The Pre-Raphaelites, the Impressionists, and the Realists were all forms of art collectives.

Today, art collectives exist not only in the visual arts, but for nearly every artistic endeavor. There are collectives for filmmakers, sculptors, and digital artists. There are even collectives for DJs. Artists often join these groups for myriad benefits, like sharing costs, more exposure, and camaraderie.

But what if there no art collectives within reasonable distance? Or what if none of their philosophies are appealing to you as an artist?

These problems are easily solved by forming a new art collective.

Gather Kindred Spirits

The most crucial step of starting an art collective is finding enough artists who are interested in a long-term collaboration and share the same sentiments. Cooperation is key to a collective, not conformity. While the artists should have enough in common that there is no significant friction, a diversity of ideas, outlooks, and gender will create more varied output.

The internet has made it easier to connect with other people, and find like-minded artists in any area. Social media can immediately bridge gaps and bring artists in contact with one another.

Build an Identity

A collective should have a central conceit or message. This conceit is not a static feature, but evolves with the artists that form the group. Members should ask themselves what are they all passionate about. Are they all fond of a particular art style or material? Do they have any advocacies that they want to champion through their art?

It’s important that this central goal or identity unite the collective but still allow the members to explore a wide range of artistic concepts and inspirations. The collective should feature this conceit in their works and promotional materials, to promote it as their unique unifying feature.

Foster Collaboration and Camaraderie

people having a toast

As important as any goal is to keep a collective close and cooperating. It may be easier for collectives based in small towns and cities to meet regularly. But for those based in metropolises like Los Angeles or New York, this may be difficult. Groups can rent flexible work spaces if they don’t have their own areas. Sharing a studio can promote intimacy and encourage collaboration between members.

The artists in a collective should always share relevant information and opportunities to their fellows. If someone knows a great art supply store, it could benefit others in the group to shop there. They should also share techniques and tips. The goal of a collective, after all, is to help each of its members.

Keep Track of the Numbers

One of the main benefits of a collective is shared financial responsibility. The group can collectively shoulder the costs of a studio or entrance fees to art shows. They could even buy their supplies in bulk and have it shared by their members. Although financial pressure has no room in an art collective, it should still keep track of its finances and the monetary responsibilities of its members.

Money should always be a side note of an art collective. After all, these individuals gathered to create art, and thinking too much about money can put a crimp on some creative processes. A collective should keep in mind things like rent and contributions, but they should never be the main preoccupation of the group.

An art collective is reminiscent of a work of art: it requires multiple elements to be a cohesive and beautiful whole. A painting requires many brush strokes, songs need many notes, and a poem has multiple words. Like the art they wish to create, an art collective has to blend many elements together harmoniously. But when done correctly, art and art collectives can be truly beautiful.

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