Friday, May 18, 2007

What exactly is the humble arts foundation?


I started getting emails from the humble arts foundation (barely a capital letter to be found on their site) as a result, I think, of this blog.

Informing me of their shows and projects. They have a website up with some information "about us" and their founder Amani Olu. And some of the photography is quite interesting - Amy Stein for one has been up in their shows.

But I'm still not entirely certain who (or perhaps better what) they are.

"a not for profit organisation that seeks to advance the careers of emerging photographers by providing grants, professional support, and exhibition and publication opportunities...". The internet in one way or another seems to have encouraged a number of these sorts of ventures (they often seem to revolve around Flickr in some way). None quite exactly the same, but most apparently philanthropic in some way towards artists. Jason Fulford of J+L Books would be another example - a publishing house run as a not-for-profit (or at least it was last time I looked). Some more overtly capitalist (such as Jen Bekman?). It sounds good - certainly good for artists and photographers- and I certainly hope it is.

Now I'm not suggesting their anything nefarious about all this, just that my Late Baby Boomer/Sputnik Generation brain is having a bit of trouble wrapping itself around it all... But I'm left with a little feeling of mystery about it all. Who is getting what out of it? The artists I hope. I'm also wondering about the success of them - it must be something of an uphill struggle to get something of this nature going and keeping momentum.

But if all this good stuff is the case, then I'm all for them!



POSTSCRIPT - rather than post this in the comments, which nobody ever reads, I'll post this here. First, Julian Thomas made a helpful comment about Humble 9see comments). And also Jon Feinstein from Humble responded:

Thanks for blogging about us. I completely understand the mystery of it all. With so many "organizations", blogs etc popping up left and right I think it is completely fair to view some with skeptisism. Our main goal is to gain further exposure for photographers we work with, whether it be through publications like STORY, online press, online and physical group shows, or grant opportuities (coming in the fall--stay tuned!)... ,Jon Feinstein Curatorial Director


Julian's recommendation is good value for one thing...

And it wasn't my intention that the post come across a skeptical or even cynical - more captiously curious (maybe from having been burned by "art" start-ups in the past...) but certainly a genuine curiosity about how this is all being fuelled (hopefully sustainably) - I'm guessing lots of youthful energy among other things? All the more so in an age when artists are being asked to plonk more and more dough on the table (reviews, curatorial" competitions", publication) - $40, $50 $60 or more just to get someone to look at their work - which I actually notice an absence of at Humble so far. And it certainly looks good. The more of this kind of thing that "on the side of the artist" the better imo

POST-POSTSCRIPT... Just for Julian, here's one curator's take on Portfolio Reviews:
...they had entered into an informal partnership, planning regular portfolio reviews and inviting curators, editors, art buyers, agents, and gallery owners to be the reviewers. Neither had lofty expectations about discovering the new cutting edge of art photography in the process, and occasionally it all began to seem like a terrible waste of the photographers’ money and the reviewers’ time; on the upside, though, there was a fair amount of networking amongst the reviewers, and a few additional collaborations sprang up out of it. A. and J. spent their lunch breaks discussing current exhibitions, ideas for various projects, and their own careers...

5 comments:

Julian said...

Tim, these guys are definitely on the up and up, I had some stuff there http://tinyurl.com/yvycpm as did Todd Deutsch, Brian Ulrich etc etc

Jon Feinstein said...

Hi Tim,
Thanks for blogging about us. I completely understand the mystery of it all. With so many "organizations", blogs etc popping up left and right I think it is completely fair to view some with skeptisism. Our main goal is to gain further exposure for photographers we work with, whether it be through publications like STORY, online press, online and physical group shows, or grant opportuities (coming in the fall--stay tuned!). If you have any additional concerns or doubts, please feel free to drop me a line at jon@humbleartsfoundation.org.
All the best,
Jon Feinstein
Curatorial Director
Humble Arts Foundation

Julian said...

Re your comments about competitions... This is where i fall out with Hotshot. Every so often the gallery has an unthemed group show by new artists. Great. Unfotunately you can't create much of a brand doing this. So if you charge people an entry fee, call it a competition, you can create a buzz, a brand AND show some new work (again great) but the financial risk is softened by the losers, the 'cold shots' who don't make it. A great business model. Humble Arts are im a different category. I'm a huge fan.

tim atherton said...

Re your comments about competitions... This is where i fall out with Hotshot.

It's not just hotshot though - nearly all of the similar avenues - Aperture Review (buy a hefty subscription), Centre in Santa Fe or whatever it's called now, PhotoLucida and so on

Julian said...

true, as I said in my blog, very American. I did a quick trawl yesterday through Euro sites and only came across a couple with a fee. Photolucida I don't really perceive as a competition, and the review events give you feedback and a chance to network. They also aren't directly selling stuff so their money has to come from somewhere