OVAC Annual Artist Survey – Report: Suggestions for OVAC Exhibitions

This post is the third in the series of posts (see the series here) examining the feedback and concerns expressed in the OVAC artist survey. We received over 250 responses from artists around the state.
This group of responses emphasizes OVAC’s exhibitions. OVAC offers the following exhibitions regularly: Art 365(triennially), Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma (biennially), Momentum OKC & Tulsa (annually), and 24 Works on Paper(biennially with Individual Artists of Oklahoma).   
Many of the surveyed artists have hopes for our exhibitions that fall in several themes.  We welcome your additional comments and are glad to keep the conversation going.

The Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma exhibition was on display December 16, 2012-February 16, 2013 at the Hardesty Arts Center in Tulsa.
 Suggestion #2: Create exhibitions that focus on a specific media or artistic style.
Oklahoma is rich in artistic talent, with artists working in every way imaginable. OVAC’s exhibitions highlight this diversity while creating opportunities for artists that did not exist before. As mentioned in earlier posts, we strive to present unduplicated programs, and our exhibitions are no different.
There are several media- or style-specific arts associations in the state that present exhibitions (such as Fiber Artists of Oklahoma or the Green Country Watercolor Society), along with other organizations that offer juried or invitational exhibitions. Click here for a list of some of the regularly occurring juried shows in Oklahoma. So, we would not want to offer exhibitions that overlap with their good work.
Over the past 20+ years of organizing various exhibitions, we’ve found that categorizing artwork according to its media or style isn’t always the most clear-cut, as more and more artists are creating work that defies categorization. Instead, our exhibitions seek to recognize artistic merit amongst all media and styles.
Also, OVAC does not have a gallery. We work with museums, galleries and art centers to feature our exhibitions.  Because of this structure, OVAC must be especially careful adding exhibition programs, knowing we will need a venue partner enthusiastic to host each exhibition.
Suggestion #3: Give feedback to artists who submitted but were not selected.
OVAC offers many open-call artist opportunities, meaning any artist meeting the eligibility requirements can apply or submit. Happily, this often means we are inundated with applications. While we understand how feedback on a particular application could be useful for an artist, it isn’t always practical or logistically possible for our staff or guest curators to provide feedback on each individual application due to the quantity or complexity of submissions.
Instead, we strive for a more proactive approach, offering guidance on how to make all of your applications and art submissions the best they can be. You can find resources for this information on our blog and in our workshop topics. Additionally, given adequate timing, our staff can also help provide guidance on how to make your submissions successful. We are always here to help and answer your questions, but we recommend you contact us with queries at least a couple of weeks in advance of a deadline to allow for thoughtful and thorough response.
If you are seeking direct feedback on your work, we suggest you seek out artist groups that hold critique sessions, invite a curator or other artist to do a one-on-one studio visit with you, or find other ways for feedback since this open call format doesn’t have room for that kind of interaction. 
Suggestion #4: Use a panel of judges rather than a single curator to avoid subjective opinions and make selections more fair.
For all OVAC’s programs that involve artist selections we recruit outside expertise to review the submissions. For things like exhibitions and Fellowship awards we ask a curator, usually from outside the state of Oklahoma. For our artist grants, we have a panel of local artists, curators, educators, and arts supporters.
The invited curators or selection panelists are chosen for their experience and expertise. While their opinions could be seen as subjective, they are also informed and knowledgeable in their fields. We hire them because of their opinions. The fact is that art is a subjective field and artwork that resonates strongly with one person may not have the same effect on the next. This is part of the reason we ask a different curator every time to bring a different perspective to each exhibition, rather than having an ongoing curator on staff. Particularly with exhibitions, we think that a single curator can create cohesiveness and focused vision for the show, while a panel of judges could potentially dilute that vision.

3D Graffiti – Michael Sexton

Sculpture by Michael Sexton

 Born in California, Michael Sexton has studied painting, sculpture and carpentry across the country and has apprenticed with famed sculptor John Chamberlain in Sarasota, FL. Sexton turns his strokes in paint into tangible forms with his sculptures. “To the layman, I describe my work as 3-D graffiti,” Sexton says. With such fluid lines and dynamic shapes, it is no wonder this is the phrase used to describe his work. 

“[My favorite pieces] are my transitional pieces, every thing learned and applied to the form,” he says. Sexton refers to nature as the ultimate example of form, and it shows, as he enjoys working on his art outdoors. Enjoy the nice spring weather as you visit Sexton’s open-air studio and learn about his work.

Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Michael Sexton

Meet & see the working studio of Sexton along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Back Lit – Grace Grothaus

Grace Grothaus, A Minor Divergence, Backlit painting

Grace Grothaus received her BFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Kansas City Art Institute, where she studied with Jim Leedy. While there, she rebelled against traditional media boundaries and formed her work in the intersection of painting and digital media. A past Art 365 winner, and a Concept OK Focus Artist, Grothaus explores new territory with her back-lit paintings.

As technology shifts our media consumption from paper to electronic, so too does Grothaus’ art. “For better or for worse, we experience a lot of life through back-lit screens – our phones, laptops, and TVs,” says Grothaus, “Painting has always taken on the role of describing and commenting on contemporary life. Why then would painting not also take on this new visual language and become back-lit?”

This new visual language of back-lit screens is explored in her paintings, which employ organic shapes and varying opacities to create shadows and evoke the world we are surrounded by. “I create back-lit works that still follow traditional approaches toward painting, but they also take on a whole new set of techniques as well,” she says.

Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Grace Grothaus in her studio

Meet & see the working studio of Grothaus along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

OVAC Annual Artist Survey – Report 2: Room for Improvement

This post is the second in the series of posts (see the introduction here) examining the feedback and concerns expressed in the OVAC artist survey. We received over 250 responses from artists around the state.
The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition strives to meet the ever-changing needs of artists in our state. To do this, we actively cultivate an environment of learning, adapting, and growth.
We know there is always room for improvement and this annual artist survey is one of the many ways we gather feedback to help guide our growth and decision-making.
In this post, we’d like to highlight some of the most common suggestions from our survey and some comments about them. If you have additional feedback, please leave them as comments to this or future blog posts.

At the Artist Survival Kit workshops, artists share resources, learn business of art skills, and expand their networks. 
Suggestion #1: Repeat/duplicate [insert program name here] in my community.
As a statewide organization, we do our best to serve artists in all areas of the state. To do so, we often partner with other local arts organizations to help us deliver programs in their community. We are pleased when there is such interest in one of our programs that it creates a demand for it to be duplicated in another geographic area!
While we do consider this demand when making decisions about program growth, unfortunately repeating programs in multiple communities requires additional resources of time and funding that are not always available. Also, we consider the face-to-face interaction of artists from multiple parts of the state a vital part of the program. For instance, the Artist Survival Kit workshops cover professional information that might be readily available online, but we know that artists gain much more by meeting other artists and sharing with each other. OVAC is purposely statewide, considering that artists need more than just one town or community to find their audiences.  So, if we offer a workshop in Tulsa and artists drive from Stillwater, Enid and Oklahoma City, we hope that creates a larger network for them all. 
Also, we are always looking for ways to make our programs more accessible beyond geographic barriers. Here are some ways we are doing that now:

 Occasionally we do partner with other organizations to present joint programs, but we never want to duplicate something another organization is already doing. As an example, while OVAC presents the Tulsa Art Studio Tour each year, that need is already being met in Norman by the Norman Arts Council through the Norman Open Studios and in Stillwater by the Stillwater Art Guild.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series, outlining additional suggestions from our survey.

Connection to Environment – Richard Wills

Studio Tour Artist Richard Wills in his studio
Starting as a student in graphic design, Richard Wills stumbled upon printmaking, and found an instant connection to design and its roots in printing. “Printmaking draws me in because I love the process of making the plates and printing the image,” Wills said. His love of the process allows for him to “unplug” from the ever-present demanding technology in our day-to-day lives. In his studio he prints by hand, and with this centuries old craft, he connects to previous generations in his art making. He also experiments with different techniques in printing, such as making a print with toothpicks. 

Richard Wills, Are We There Yet?, Relief Print

 His art explores space and place, using images and ideas that reflect his experience of travels, and his connection to his environment. “Whether spending time in nature or walking through an urban landscape I have always found solace connecting with my environment,” he says, “Each way point I find along my path leads to new revelations in myself and in my creations.”

Meet & see the working studio of Wills along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

Puppets – Mary Jane Porter

Puppet by Mary Jane Porter

A true Oklahoma native, Porter holds a BFA from Oklahoma State, an MA from the University of Tulsa, and has an extensive involvement in the Oklahoma art community, both as an artist and an art educator. She has taught at the university level in Kansas, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, and continues to teach through several organizations, as well as her studio where she gives puppet making and printmaking workshops. 

Tulsa Studio Tour Artist Mary Jane Porter in her studio with her work

She creates works that integrate several materials and media, including puppets made with found objects or paintings on loose vinyl, but she didn’t start out this way. When I was in undergraduate school the term “Mixed Media” had not reached the Midwestern art circles. Later on I was exposed to this art form and was encouraged by Tulsa artist and art director, Steve Ligget,  to explore it’s possibilities,” says Porter.

Her works, with their bold colors and complex characters, reflect her interests and curiosities, as well as her passions and her humor. The painting Meow-nah Lisa uses collage from the famous daVinci work combined with varying materials and loose impressionist brushwork to create a humorous image of a cat.  “My work reveals my interest in faces, faith, figures, and felines. I also enjoy expressing my humor as well as my serious side in what what I create. ,” she said.

Meet & see the working studio of Porter along with 9 other artists on April 20-21, noon until 5 pm on the Tulsa Art Studio TourFor more info, or to purchase tickets, visit www.TulsaArtStudioTour.org

OVAC Annual Artist Survey – Report 1: State of Artists

Each year, the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition surveys artists who have participated in our programs in some way over the previous three years. This annual survey gives us a snapshot of where Oklahoma artists are in their careers and practice, and tells us how OVAC has helped them reach their goals. The survey is in its second year and you can read results from the 2012 survey here.
OVAC board and staff developed clear outcomes we are seeking with our programs and services that drive these survey questions.  OVAC seeks for artists to have vital, fulfilling careers and artistic practices in Oklahoma, which drives us to offer resources, encourage connections to other artists, and emphasize recognition of artists. Also, OVAC seeks enriched and vibrant Oklahoma communities and culture because of and through the arts. For this outcome, OVAC offers more opportunities and increased access to Oklahoma art and artists.
This post is the first of many, summarizing the results and responding to specific needs or concerns expressed in the survey. We received over 250 responses.

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Environment for Artists in Oklahoma
*96% of respondents say they believe the general environment for art in Oklahoma has improved because of OVAC.
*Because of OVAC, 85%say they are better able to practice their art in Oklahoma and 63% are less likely to move out of Oklahoma to fulfill their artistic goals.

“OVAC empowers artists to pursue excellence… Honestly, I cannot overstate the impact that OVAC has had on my own art career, and the impact it has had on visual art statewide! OVAC is radical because it believes in artists (by giving them $$, training, and other resources) as the way to push Oklahoma art forward. OVAC programs stand out by keeping artists in mind at all times.”

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Networks for Artists
*Because of their participation in OVAC programs, 66% of respondents say they know more people to call on about making their art and 71% say they know more people to talk with about the business of art.
“The ASK workshops allow artists to meet peers while building or sharpening required skills without evoking a feeling of inadequacy.”

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Business Tools
About 60% of survey respondents have attended an Artist Survival Kit workshop. The numbers below give us some insight into artists’ readiness for opportunities, as well as areas where artists could use additional resources or help as potential workshop topics.
*84% have an artist statement
*81% have an artist resume
*82% have a studio or work space
*79% have a portfolio
*64% have a website
*40% have an action plan
“[The Artist Survival Kit is] absolutely a life line for me. I do not have a mentor or anyone to ask about references or resources to obtain information. Your workshops have always been priceless to me.”