The question arose recently about “What makes an art group good?” I started to give this some thought and came up with a few (potential) possibilities.
For starters, I would say a good group is one with similar interests. I’ve been the lone photographer in a group of sculptors and it’s no fun, believe me. Yes, we can sometimes still get along but really, at the end of the day, their concerns are not my concerns (not to mention we have entirely different uses for chicken wire and, really, how many different uses for chicken wire can there actually be, right?) So, similar interests…check.
Next up, it would probably be a group of people who suffer from what I like to call “equal seriousness.” By that, I mean, folks who are either all serious, showing work, doing lots of stuff or, conversely, folks who are not serious at all. Maybe just dabblers or hobbyists. There’s no harm in being on either end of that spectrum, no, but it makes it hard if you are in a group and you’re trying to do shows, get your work out there, do lots of work, etc. while somebody else is just dabbling (likewise, if you are a dabbler, you probably don’t want to be bothered with show mess, presentation, and the like.) So, equal “seriousness” is a good thing to have too.
Also, I’d have to say some talent. By that, I mean, maybe some folks who have some technique down and some they would like to share, or just enough technique to go around. No sense in forming a group, really, if you have nothing to offer, likewise, nothing to share.
Then there are other things I would look at too. Some questions here, really, more than answers. For example, I would ask myself questions like, does this group do a lot of group shows? If yes, is that something I want to participate in? Some groups have one or two people who are always off doing one and two person shows. That’s great but, as a new member, it really wouldn’t help me all that much. If I were looking to join a group to participate in their shows, I would want to know how open the shows are to the work of new members. Likewise, what is the participation rate for their group shows? I’ve been in groups where the group show really was a “Rebecca” show. Sure, everybody had a piece or two, but “Rebecca” had her own wall, press clippings, and the like. This would not help me out much as an artist new to the group.
Does this group support one another? That is, when I go to a show from one of the members, do a see a bunch of the other members there too, hanging out for support?
Do the members support each other online? That is, are their websites linked? Do they help share an online presence? Maybe have a Facebook page? Do all members get to contribute, or is it only a select few?
There are a few other questions I would ask too, such as, is the work divided up evenly? With some groups, it seems like the work always falls upon one or two people, and that the same people wind up with the “same” type of jobs (Debby always gets the show venues, Matt always does the Facebook postings, etc.) If there are only a few “Debby’s” and “Matt’s” but lots of group members just dumping their work and running off, maybe this isn’t quite the best group to be joining. Besides, what happens once Debby and Matt run off to success? Who is going to back fill the work they have been doing? It’s better to share in the responsibility and round robin some of the details, while still keeping in mind the strengths of each of the group members. Yes, I know this is difficult, but it really is possible with a bit of thought.
I guess I would have to say that, to me, a good art group would have some of the following:
* Members all contribute or have opportunity to contribute.
* Equal “professionalism.” Sure some members might be more beginners but a good group would be one where the focus and end game is shared.
* Work divided up with all members contributing (at least something) to the group as a whole.
* Events well-attended with people going to support each other at shows, online, etc.
* Websites, Facebook, Blogs, social media linked and presenting a “unified” front. This does not mean each member has to use a template but, when you have a show announcement, for example, watch for all of the members posting it to Facebook, blogs, twitter, etc. in some format.
* Minimize the “dump and run” factor. By that, I mean, not so many people who want to just drop their work off and have little (or nothing!) else to do with the group. A high degree of interactivity and sharing going on, even with responsibilities.
I think this is just a start, I’m sure there are more and it’s certainly something to think about before you maybe run off and join that artist group that’s been calling your name.
Until next time…