Looking back at our DANK Experiment this summer I had some thoughts on how to start your own artists collective...
1.) Be Organic. Meet weekly for coffee. Share interstes. Do a project together. Let everyone participate, the whole town. See who shows up. Do another project. See who shows up again. Exchange long email threads not on Facebook (this will feel very intimate). Then, after a year or so, form your collective with the people who are still meeting for coffee.
2.) Include both genders. I'm not going to lie, stuff will come up when men and women work together. But, your collective won't defined by gender (women only) or lack of diversity (men only). Also, testosterone is soooo handy...Is that sexist?
3.) Put it in writing. A group of artists will have lots of ideas, probably too many. Writing a manifesto, a mission statement, and/or a press release, makes you focus your goals, be able to explain them to others, and, most importantly, enables others to write about you. Jack Kerouac may have coined the phrase "Beat Generation" in 1948, but John Clellen Holmes introduced it to the world in this New York Times Magazine article in 1952.
4.) Pick a good name. Avoid the too dry (Critical Art Ensemble), the spelled weird (gelitin), or the impossible to remember (0100101110101101.ORG). We love DANK because it popped out of Joe Meade's mouth as a description of a space in town and we couldn't stop using it as a noun, adjective, pun, and acronym for Do Art Now Kids. It was organic (see #1) And it resonates with Nevada City's cannabis culture. But, having your name mean something else creates issues too. If you Google DANK you'll see more images of DANK weed than DANK art.
5.) Passion beats consensus. If someone feels super strongly about covering all the windows with maps, and has the maps, and is willing to pull an all-nighter, alone, to do it, he wins. If someone feels super strongly about how gross the bathroom is, and is willing to clean it, make it cool, and open to the public, she wins. Step out of passion's way and allow for individual awesomeness.
by Moira McLaughlin, 2014
6.) Know the difference between "community context" and gossip. "Community context" means sharing information, e.g. what printer, merchant, or artist is a swindler, racist, or maniac: crucial things to know. But avoid conversational gossip, especially about each other. No one wants to feel like s/he is the topic of conversation the minute s/he leaves the room.
Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Dog, ca 1913
7.) Be scared, but do it anyway. Only feasible if you stick to #6.
8.) Take lots of photos. Hopefully one of you is a photographer and all of you play around with photo apps, social media, and hashtags. Your photos don't have to be professional, but they should be interesting. You're artists goddammit. Make yourselves look good. Also label your jpegs. For example the photo below is DANK-Joe-Meade-Celine-Adrianna-Negrete-by-Moira-McLaughlin-2014.jpg. Seach engines will love you and your biographers will thank you.
9.) Track your finances, but keep financial pressure out of it. We are fortunate to have a rigorous CFO. Roseanne Burke loves to make spreadsheets and reconcile the books to the penny. You might not be so lucky, but at least talk about money and get a clear understanding of the costs and who's willing to "buy in." Balance between conscientiousness and fluidity. New expenses will arise and you don't want budget meetings to devolve into "who ordered just an appetizer and who only drank water." Also, avoid overhead or you can easily find yourself raising rent money and not making art.
10.) Ten is an excellent number of members. It's so easy to divide by.
DANK is an artists collective in Nevada City, California. It was founded in 2013 by ten artists interested in post-Great Recession social issues, the rural ideal, and an anti-urban aesthetic grounded in the legacy of the California Gold Rush.
The name DANK comes from the wet wood smell that permeates Nevada City, a town situated on the banks of Deer Creek. It’s also a nod to one of the area’s premier exports, cannabis. And it’s an acronym; Do Art Now Kids.
Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest and DANK.