Starting a Local Arts Collective

By Steff Metal in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Joining an arts collective can help you advance your arts career in many ways. A collective will offer networking and collaboration opportunities, events and exhibitions, advocacy, and even shared studio space and discounts off materials.

But what if there isn’t an arts collective in your city? Or, what if the ones that DO exist don’t accept new members, or don’t cater to your medium or style?

Well, then it’s time to start your own! Here’s how to go about it:

First, know what it is!

An arts collective is a group of artists, curators and supporters who work together to support and promote the work of every member of the collective. Usually this is through shared workspace and materials, marketing and promotional efforts, advocacy, and collaborative works. Everyone who is part of the collective jointly shares costs, benefits and risks.

Second, establish a broad network.

In order to create a solid artist’s collective, you need to first establish a network or arts contacts in your city. This can include other artists who you want to join your collective, but also other professionals who your collective can draw on for help – curators, gallery owners, businesspeople, suppliers, etc. Joining local networking groups and attending artist events is a great way to expand your network.

Once you’ve got this network established, start talking to these artists and professionals about the possibility of starting a collective. Learn who is interested, what they want from the collective, and what they’d be willing to contribute.

Third, brainstorm the details of your collective.

Think about how your arts collective will operate. There are many different options, so you need to define the nature of your arts collective before you begin recruiting members.

Look to other collectives for inspiration—how are they set up? How do they obtain funding? Do they share studio space? What promotional ideas do they have? How do new members join? How do they deal with a member who is not pulling their weight?

Think about an overarching theme (or mission statement) for your collective. It might be about inspiring the local community, or about creating art that has a positive impact on the environment, or anything else!

Having a theme or mission statement will help you with recruitment—you’ll only be looking for artists whose work supports your theme.

Fourth, advertise your arts collective.

Advertise your artists collective on local art websites, at art centers, and in art publications. Remember all those contacts you were storing? Email them all and let them know about the creation of the collective.

Invite artists and other interested parties to an initial meeting to discuss ideas and the direction of the collective. Allow everyone a chance to talk and share ideas. If possible, invite along an artist from another arts collective to talk about how their collective works and the benefits of forming a collective.

At this meeting you can also decide on roles for various people and assign jobs, such as researching studio spaces or trying to obtain a materials discount.

Fifth, get to work!

Now that you’ve got a dedicated team, it’s time to begin getting some of your initiatives off the ground. Remember to delegate tasks to the members of the collective and hold regular meetings to ensure that goals are being achieved.

You may or may not continue to be the driving force behind the collective. Ideally, it will grow to have a life of its own. The important thing is that you all work together to promote and support each others work. . . do that, and you’ll all reap the benefits!


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