artist as culture producer
Book Review

Recommended Essay Reading: The Artist as Culture Producer … and Thoughts on Creative Collaboration

artist as culture producer

The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life is an essay collection edited by Sharon Louden in an effort to combat the stereotype that artists are working in studios alone, toiling away in solitary – even self-absorbed – pursuits. The essays are each by an artist who “reaches outside of the studio to extend creative energies and pursuits into his or her community.” She goes on to say she chose these artists for many reasons including their generosity and that “they inject creative culture into the cracks of society, where they alter the direction of small towns and large cities”.

Each of the essays is as different as the artist who wrote it. And by definition each Artist as Culture Producer is doing collaborative work by offering this social benefit to the community in her or her own unique way.

I thought I’d share three entries from the book that are specifically from collaborative duos, because I personally find collaboration in creative work to be particularly compelling. These are small excerpts from the complete essays, focused specifically on the collaborative experience.

1. Billy and Steven Dufala (brothers)

Image credit: Lisa Boughter; art created from steel frame, HVAC duct work, and an air conditioning unit

This brother duo creates sculptures as well as works on paper. Furthermore, they are willing to try almost anything from performance art to site-specific installation. They believe art isn’t just the object that you make but rather the entire experience of the object, including the experience of others viewing the piece. Hear a talk with them over on Creative Mornings.

In their essay, the Dufala brothers share:

“We are building more than artwork together. We are building a creative life – the motivations, reasons, ethics, and goals are largely shared. How we balance work and life, curiosity and stress, time and money – we are learning all these things together. Sharing strength and, perhaps more importantly, weakness, we make each other stronger, fill each other’s blind spots, and get each other’s backs.”

2. Faina Lerman and Graem Whyte (spouses) – Popps Packing

collaborative creatives

This married duo opened Popps Packing in 2009 as a neighborhood-based artist-run non-profit organization that celebrates the local region, perceived flaws and all.

In their essay, they share:

“As the scope of our project expands, we are considering reworking some program schedules, with more space in between shows and residencies, in order to give ourselves and occasional breather. …¬†We both get overwhelmed at times, and we ease that a bit by giving each other personal work days or designated ‘administrative days’, so that there is a little structure within the chaos.”

3. Tim Doud and Zoe Charlton (colleagues)

This Baltimore-based duo founded the Sindikit non-profit, which is “a project space created to support experimental work, to promote practice-based research, and to foster art-centered¬†conversations.”

In their essay, they share:

“There’s a rhythm and tone to our working relationship. Tim often initiates conversation, as it’s in his personality – he has an enthusiasm and a willingness to immediately engage. Zoe is typically more reserved in her approach, very social, diplomatic. Our different personalities complement each other in our work environment. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have conflict. … Luckily for us, we both process ideas verbally, and we are rather long-winded. We take a day off from campus, sit down and talk things through. We are colleagues who became friends.”

The Artist as Culture Producer is book two in a trilogy about the creative life.


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