Celebrating Art In Community
Art does not exist in a vacuum. It is influenced by things happening around us and it has an influence on people and communities. Conversations are started through art because it raises awareness, sparks questions, addresses emotions and helps identify and define individuals and the communities where they live. We believe creative expression in the arts can be a powerful tool for instigating change and creating dialogue as well as bringing people together.
The VSCO Voices program is a grant to artists. It is one of the many ways Access Ventures deploys capital within the creative economy. In 2018, we partnered with VSCO to be their catalytic funder and program supporter to help launch VSCO Voices. Over the past two years, we have granted $200,000 to artists to make art to drive awareness to underrepresented stories in the United States through their art.
Art raises awareness of important issues facing communities and educates the public in compelling and creative ways.
Last year we hosted a creator summit in Oakland, California to premiere the work, interact with the artists, and celebrate what they had accomplished through the program. Interacting with each of the VSCO voices creators and experiencing their projects with the creative community in Oakland was an exciting way to showcase what they had learned and celebrate the individuals and communities their art represents. It provided a space for others to learn more about the creator’s projects and the communities they were working in to produce this work.
In 2019, we decided to move away from hosting a single event in Oakland. Instead, creators were asked to premiere their VSCO Voices projects in the communities in which they have been endlessly working and creating their art. Our goal for these local events was to premiere the work, but more importantly, to premiere it with the community depicted in the work and celebrate their stories alongside them. Here’s what we have learned so far from these local events:
Art Sparks Dialogue
Art raises awareness of important issues facing communities and educates the public in compelling and creative ways. Art possesses the power to change or challenge narratives that are projected onto people and communities. The projects that the VSCO Voices creators worked on gave voice to individuals and communities that the creators care deeply about. Premiering their art at these local events crescendoed the voice given to the community through the art. Both participants in the project and attendees were able to come together to interact with and celebrate the art and people involved in the project. It was a way to participate in art outside of traditional places to view art. The events occurred the spaces where the community naturally gathers which highlighted the beauty within the community in which these people are from which made it all the more valuable.
These local events were also a medium to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about individuals or a community by celebrating art that shows what is often not seen. The VSCO Voices grant allowed creators to work regularly with individuals in neighborhoods and schools to document life that many do not see or have the awareness of what is happening. This type of education and dialogue at the events brought greater empathy, support, and confidence amongst the individuals within the community.
The Power of Community
Surrounding yourself around a community to encourage you, provide feedback, and challenge you to be better is an essential part of creating new work. The VSCO Voices program was created to build a deep, meaningful community amongst the creators. In addition, a lot of the success of the creator’s projects depends on the involvement of people in the communities they are working in. The local events in Milwaukee, WI and Goldsboro, NC demonstrated cooperative ownership in the projects and the ability of these communities to showcase the voice this art has given them and the people around them. These gatherings became opportunities to bring the work to life and ultimately give the individuals that participated in the projects a platform to share their experiences and testaments to the work.
Before starting this year’s VSCO Voices program, creators were aware they would be premiering their work in the community. This provided a sense of accountability and responsibility for the creators to create beautiful art that is true and honors the community because eventually it would be premiered to them and for them. The goal of VSCO Voices is to give voice to marginalized communities through art. The gatherings in the local communities to premiere the work achieves that goal and but also allows them to feel what it means for their voice to be heard. The participation, support, and advocacy for these projects by the people represented in the projects were clearly realized and felt at these events, which further demonstrated how involved these creators were in the local community and how proud the community was to celebrate the projects.
Number of Lives Impacted
The last big learning at these local events were the number of people that were impacted by these projects. The reality is that a portrait of an individual carries a story that involves so many more people behind that image. The premiere of this work in the communities visualizes not only how many people participated and were involved but also shows the number of people that interacted and experienced the art itself. There were stories after stories shared by people in attendance highlighting the impact and importance of the art created and how the creators helped amplify the voices in their community.
These artists are raising awareness, sparking questions, addressing emotions, identifying and defining individuals and the communities they live in, and giving a voice to marginalized communities through art. Help us celebrate the people and the communities featured in these projects by reading more about our creators here. Learn more about the VSCO Voices projects and creators by reading the interviews with each of the creators: Dave Kasnic, Lauren Vied Allen, Cori Corinne, Khristopher “Squint” Sandifer, and Alexandra Cuerdo.