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Talk explores growing the art community

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    New Haven-based muralist and visual artist Kwadwo Adae (left) asks Sharon Louden (right) and Hrag Vartanian about engaging non-artists in the art community.
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    Artist Sharon Louden (left) and Hyperallergic editor-in-chief Hrag Vartanian (right) lead a talk at LABspace in Hillsdale about expanding the art community.
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    Visitors gathered in the garden of LABspace in Hillsdale for a conversation about growing the art community with artist Sharon Louden and Hyperallergic editor-in-chief Hrag Vartanian.
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    Neel Webber (center) shares his thoughts during a talk at LABspace in Hillsdale about growing the art community.
July 9, 2018 12:15 am

HILLSDALE — LABspace, a venue for experimental art in Hillsdale, hosted an informal discussion in its garden Sunday about connecting and expanding the growing art community Sunday.

The talk was hosted by Hyperallergic online magazine editor-in-chief Hrag Vartanian and artist Sharon Louden. Visitors submitted questions to be read and answered by the duo.

Artists who receive a review of their work in The New York Times aren’t guaranteed sales, Vartanian said, adding he connected with Louden without reviewing any of her work.

“When someone writes about a work, occasionally it might change your life. Most of the time it’s not going to,” Vartanian said. “Reviews don’t really sell your work anymore and people have short memories.”

Art critic Carol Diehl, whose reviews have appeared in periodicals such as Art in America, is teaching an art writing workshop for artists this summer at the IS183 Art School of the Berkshires in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This is an example of artists networking and how they don’t necessarily have to go to New York City to sustain an art scene, Vartanian said.

“Frankly, New York is kind of bloated,” he said. “Los Angeles doesn’t have the sales people seem to think it has, even though it has a lot of spaces — there are a lot of weaknesses in these art scenes, so you have to create a little bit of your own.”

Artists showing gratitude continues a conversation and can lead to possible collaborations, Louden said.

“If we’re not thinking of the juror or the curator as a developing relationship, we’re not taking them seriously as an individual of collaboration,” Louden said.

When successful artists bring their work to galleries they see it as a partnership between themselves and the gallery owners, Louden said.

“I see them on an equal footing; they don’t have any more power than I do,” Louden said. “My work is my truth. I’m sure that’s for everybody here too, all of our work, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to expect somebody to serve us.”

New Haven-based muralist and visual artist Kwadwo Adae often collaborates with non-artists on projects and asked Vartanian and Louden how to continue to reach people who aren’t artists, critics or gallery owners.

“I’m engaging people that are not artists, engaging people that aren’t in the community, don’t understand how it works, would never set foot in a gallery because they don’t feel like it’s a special [place] that’s welcome to them,” Adae said.

Vartanian recommended building an email list and not being afraid to inundate people with messages because interested art fans will stay tuned, Vartanian said. Emails can show what impact an artist is having on a community.

“As a critic I may go ‘Wow, that’s a great story, I want to write something about it,’” he said. “People care, and particularly when you meet them, but I find one of the weaknesses is artists won’t tell you [about a show].”

Art teacher Neel Webber, of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, shared his concerns about how his students view art on social media sites such as Instagram but don’t fully take it in, he said.

“It’s a quick image, four seconds, and they move on,” Webber said. “On the other hand, it’s great because my students are seeing more work than ever.”

Art will continue to evolve and adapt to modern technology, Vartanian said, adding many artists love using video as a medium because it transports easily.

“People are going to make more arts for screens, if that’s the way we’re consuming it,” he said. “Artists are always adapting.”

Webber said he has heard of the gallery space, but Sunday was the first time he visited it, adding he was intrigued by the discussion.

“The more I learn about the topic, I think it’s going to be very interesting,” Webber said. “It was a good opportunity to check out the space.”

Samantha Palmeri, of Beacon, is a painter and came to the talk because she follows Louden’s work.

“I was excited that it was free and it’s very close to where I live,” Palmeri said. “It’s a beautiful day.”

Palmeri is familiar with LABspace because she had a showing of her artwork there.

“That’s how I was familiar with this gallery space,” she said.

Alex Gingrow, of Kerhonkson, came to Sunday’s talk to gather ideas because she is looking to create an artist’s community in her neighborhood.

“We’re hoping to pick up some tidbits and pointers,” Gingrow said. “It was a great reason to be here.”

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.