Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: NYFA’s 2020 Fellowship Program

The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA)/New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) 2020 Fellowship program received 3,536 applications for 84 grants awarded.

• = awards     ° = applications

••••••••••|••••••••••|••••••••••|••••••••••|••••••••••|
••••••••••|••••••••••|••••••••••|••••°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 100
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 200
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 300
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 400
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 500
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 600
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 700
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 800
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 900
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,000
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,100
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,200
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,300
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,400
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,500
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,600
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,700
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,800
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 1,900
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,000
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,100
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,200
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,300
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,400
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,500
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,600
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,700
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,800
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 2,900
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 3,000
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 3,100
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 3,200
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 3,300
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 3,400
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°| 3,500
°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°°°°°°|°°°°°° 3,536

Selected artists comprise about 1:42, or 2.4% of applicants.

Comparative Odds
———-|———-|———-|———-|–  2020 = 1:42
———-|———-|———-|—–  2018 = 1:35
———-|———-|——-  2017 = 1:27
———-|———-|———-|———-|—–  2014 = 1:45

Comparative Percent Awarded

•••••••••••|•••••••••••|••••  2.4% in 2020
•••••••••••|•••••••••••|••••••••  2.8% in 2018
•••••••••••|•••••••••••|•••••••••••|••••••  3.6% in 2017
•••••••••••|•••••••••••|••  2.1% in 2014

See all Art Competition Odds.

Standard
organization

Tools & Resources for Organization and Resilience

I’m doing an Instagram Live studio tour/artist’s talk/Q&A with the San Francisco Center for the Book today at 3pm Pacific/6pm Eastern. Some question’s I’ve received in advance are:

  • How do you keep motivated?
  • Please share admin/organization/project management skills.

I’m posting some notes with links here.

Resilience

Journaling helps me be resilient.

There can be a perception that journaling is for self-obsessed, angst-ridden teens. I do not only write in my journal when I feel shitty. In fact, I limit how much I write when I’m distressed, because venting or “processing” can actually be rumination, which decreases mood and prolongs pain (Guy Winch, Emotional First Aid).

Journaling provides space for self-reflection—space for me to listen to myself. When I listen to myself, I can celebrate my wins, so I can need less external validation. I can be grateful by recognizing the good in my life and in other people. I name my feelings (which itself can bring relief) and sort out my needs, priorities, goals, and action steps. When I properly reframe an event, and when I find meaning, it makes me feel energized and purposeful.

Gratitude Journal

There are many ways to keep a gratitude journal. A great introduction to a simple practice can be found at “The Science of Happiness, Episode 1: Three Good Things.” This podcast is produced by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, so it is a legit, science-backed, positive psychology podcast.

I have been using a “what went well and why” method described by Martin E.P. Seligman. It’s easy: just write about what went well in your day, and why you think it happened. Sometimes I’ll keep asking “why,” drilling down deeper, or expanding wider. This has helped me recognize my own agency in situations, or the kindness of others, or the conditions or privileges broader than my immediate reality. I’ve also used this practice on great days, and it’s helped me identify particularities and savor them, multiplying my joy. A caveat: I’m careful not to mindlessly re-list my day’s to-do items.

Goal-setting, Habit Tracking, & Purpose

It’s easier to stay motivated when your actions and goals feel aligned with your values and life’s purpose.

Goals

Informed by Creative Capital’s Professional Development workshops, I set three professional goals, each with three action steps, for myself as an artist every year. I schedule weekly and quarterly check-ins.

I sometimes set intentions at the beginning of each month. These can be related to personal, mental, or physical health. I only do this as the spirit moves me.

I also set physical goals. Exercise is my most reliable mood-booster. I exercise as much for my mental health as physical health. I’ve learned so much about myself and gained  much community from martial arts and running. Sheltering in the pandemic has made me grateful for knowledge I have gained and can implement on my own.

Habit Trackers

I have an app to log my physical therapy and cardio. This is helpful for reinforcing good habits and holding myself accountable. It helps me see the connections with how my body feels. You can use a plain notebook or a habit-tracking notebook, too—whatever works.

If you’re dealing with an injury or health side effects, tracking the frequency and intensity of different dimensions of your experiences can help you can recognize the process you’re making over time. It can give you reasons to celebrate, instead of only seeing loss. Not to mention that it can give you more data to discuss with your doctor.

Purpose

No one can give you a sense of life purpose. In Grit by Angela Duckworth, you can learn exercises to identify what your life purpose might be, and how your small and medium goals relate to your purpose. When you are able to see your short-term actions in concordance with your values and your purpose, it feels integrated, which is very powerful.

Reframing

I loved this episode of On Being with Krista Tippett, interview with Pauline Boss, “Navigating Loss Without Closure.” Here are some of my key take-aways:

    • Closure is a myth. Americans are too focused on problem-solving negative emotions.
    • Expectations or time limits on sadness, grief, or loss can be harmful. Humans can and do live with sadness, oscillating over time. That’s OK!

 

  • Find meaning. When nonsensical events happen, and you can’t make sense of that event, you can find “good enough” meaning in another area of your life.

While I’ve been very fortunate to have not been directly affected by coronavirus, the pandemic has entailed coping with fear, loss, grief, uncertainty, and stress in a drawn-out, fatiguing way (I liked my friend KQB’s phrase: “low-key horrified”). It found it helpful to recognize that Americans and the media love predictable narrative arcs (beginning, middle, end) and that’s cognitively dissonant from the realities of the pandemic (no end in sight). It’s good practices to let go of perfectionism and the urge to fix everything now, to get more comfortable with holding opposing ideas, and to find meaning where you can.

Grounding

This episode is also really great: On Being with Krista Tippett, interview with Resmaa Menakem, “‘Notice the Rage; Notice the Silence.’” I especially loved this:

“..all adults need to learn how to soothe and anchor themselves rather than expect or demand that others soothe them. And all adults need to heal and grow up.”

Resmaa Menakem

A great way to self-soothe is through grounding practices—being in your body, focusing on your breath, or your feet’s connection to the ground, or visually on the room around you. The idea is to practice this, even on your good days, until it becomes second nature, so that it’s easy to implement on your bad days. Often, emotional distress is tied up with physiological stress reactions, and grounding helps regulate those physiological reactions, which can shorten the duration and decrease the pain of emotional distress.

I think this idea of practice is helpful across all these resilience strategies. I think these practices are how you incrementally increase your subjective wellbeing over years, so that your happiness set-point gets a little higher, and your ability to bounce back becomes stronger.


Admin/Digital Organization

This is going to be super nerdy and ‘brass tacks.’ Well, artists wear a lot of hats outside of making art—administrators, bookkeepers, registrars, archivists, art handlers, fund raisers, marketers and PR people, etc. Administration is legit labor. It could be a time-suck or you can try to be more effective where you can. Since the pandemic started, I’ve spent a lot more time on the computer, and I realized that there are some basic things we do everyday—such as email and managing files—which everyone sort of figures out on their own. These are some best practices I’ve found.

Email 

I like to use Mac Mail, and I try to reserve my inbox for items that require follow-up. I try to keep folders to a minimum with a hybrid system:

  • project-specific folders (for important art projects, exhibitions, and freelance gigs, etc.)
  • time-delimited folders (the time stamp indicates when it’s safe to delete emails. It’s like the principle of cleaning out your closet—if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it):
    • Deep storage (this is for stuff like taxes)
    • 1-year keep
    • 3-month keep
    • hold/1-month keep (for temporary things like shipping notifications)

Receipts for deductible expenses get saved as PDFs to a folder in my sidebar. Then I delete the email.

File management

I like to keep two Finder windows in Mac’s column view, stacked one on top of each other. This allows me to find a file and file it in its destination folder more quickly. This is super helpful when resizing images for my website, for example.

Three navigational shortcuts:

  • For switching between studio, professional practices, and day-job work: I keep multiple tabs in each Finder window open. This helps me switch quickly and pick up where I left off. It’s a little like the beauty of having a studio (or a dedicated studio table) where you can leave your messy work-in-progress, as opposed to clearing the table for dinner and then setting up your art project again.
  • For quickly accessing active projects: I also put folders for active projects in the sidebar. For example, when I’m working on an application for an art competition, I’ll put the folder there, even if it’s just for a few days.
  • For quickly accessing current projects: Alternatively, I make aliases of current project folders, and put them in a folder called “_Current Projects.” (I use an underscore at the start of names for folders I want to keep at the top of a list.)

Naming conventions for files and folders

I use multiple strategies to make sense of all my files:

  • Project code. I try to assign every project a name or code, and then start the file name of every digital art file with that. This makes it much easier when searching for files.
  • Iteration number-letter system. When I work on digital art files, I iterate a lot. Saving lots of versions forces me to save often, keep earlier options, and have recent back-ups in case a file gets corrupted (especially true when working on large PSDs!). To make sense of all of these, I use a number followed by a letter, (“1a,” “1b,” “2a,” etc.) The number usually refers to the design round, the letter usually refers to a variation, like the same design in different colors.
    • I never name anything “final.” When you use that system, if you have to change that file, and then have to name it “final-final,” or “final-2,” and then what’s the point?
    • I just keep every previous version in a “_Drafts” folder, and the one most recent file outside of that drafts folder. That, plus the iteration code, means it’s always clear what’s the most recent file.
  • Pixel dimensions. For any file saved for the web, I append the pixel dimensions, width x height (example: ACB8j-AnnieYee-p3-01a-889×1080) to the end of the file name. This is much more descriptive and useful than “-web” or “-small.” In web design, dimensions are always width first, then height (though it’s reversed in art handling).
  • YYYYMMDD. Starting names with the date in an 8-digit code keeps files or folders chronological and easier to search. I use this for folders for exhibitions, for example, for receipt PDFs, Google Drive folders, etc.
  • 01, 02, 03. Another way to keep folders tidy is to start the name of sub-folders with numbers, so they stay in the order of a process. For example, if you have different files from different stages in a process, you might have folders named “01 Text content,” “02 Image references,” “03 Digital mock-ups,” “04 Scans,” “05 Composite PSDs,” “06 JPGs.”

Image management

For my photo documentation, I keep the source/raw files in a projects folder. Then after I make my selections, I copy and rename them, and place them in nesting folders that looks basically like this:

Documentation > Projects > YYYY Project name > Artwork Name--[pixel-dimensions].[file extension]

The code can indicate different shots of the same artwork. I've found this is a nice way to manage lots of installation views (as opposed to "detail of X" and "detail of Y"). After these are renamed consistently, then I'll do the resizing.

Image sizing

I generally keep three to four resolutions of files:

  • high-res (source res at 300 dpi)
  • medium-res files for screen display for competitions (these files are usually 1-2 MB JPGs, I'd say 1920x1080 is a good new standard nowadays)
  • two sizes of web-res (which is specific to my own website, but obviously at 72 DPI).

I use Photoshop actions to batch process resizing. I've set up different destination folders for different sized images. I use the Finder renaming tool to update the file names as needed.

Artist's Inventory Software & Estate Planning

It's important to manage your inventory: to track inventory numbers, framed and unframed dimensions, prices, where the actual artwork is (whether on loan or in storage), etc.

There are lots of options for inventory software. I don't know what's good out there as I don't have time to test and review them. Many of the options now are cloud-based. I don't love the software I currently use, so I'm not going to name it here. The reason I use it is because it's a desktop version, and I like the permanence of that for reasons I'll explain below.

Artist's inventory software is for your own studio management, but more importantly, it's also part of your estate planning. Each of us will die. Making plans and putting systems into place are act of care for our loved ones, to make it easier for them to deal with our stuff after we're gone.

If you need to start or improve your digital or physical artist's inventory, I recommend the Joan Mitchell Foundation's Creating Artist's Living Legacy "Career Documentation for the Visual Artist: An Archive Planning Workbook and Resource Guide." It's free.

While we're on the subject, I also recommend:

  • Everyone should write a will. I found Nolo Press' Online Will to be an easy and cheap way to draft one. Note: Print it out and take it to a notary public to make it legally binding.
  • It's a good idea to discuss your end-of-life wishes with your loved ones, and to fill out an advanced health care directive. Kaiser Permanente offers info and forms in multiple languages—you don't have to be a patient to access them. You'll also need to print this out and take it to a notary public to make it legally binding.
  • CALL also has an Estate Planning Workbook. This is a next step for me.

Bookkeeping

I use Quickbooks Desktop. It's a little bit of labor to manage it, but it's less painful than doing a year's worth of bookkeeping in the spring before taxes are due. More than just tracking your receipts, though, bookkeeping software helps track when art institutions and universities have (or haven't) paid your invoices.

How did I learn this admin stuff?

  • From working at no- or low-paid office positions in non-profit art organizations.
  • From working as a freelance graphic designer/sole proprietor.
  • From co-workers, partners, colleagues, mentors.
  • From trying different things and evolving over time.
Standard
Meta-Practice

Collective Agreements from the MAP Fund

I recently learned about these collective agreements for panelist discussions from Jenn Woodward of c3:initiative, from the MAP Fund‘s RE-Tool: Racial Equity in the Panel Process (2018, PDF). I think these are great agreements to review to cultivate equity and mutualism.

Openness to others’ points of view 

Awareness of power dynamics 

Positive spirit, generosity, laughter, constructive critique 

Full attention to discussion, limiting distractions*

Letting others speak, finish thoughts, deep listening 

Staying grounded in the guidelines and criteria  

 

[*On Zoom, to me, this means limiting the what’s entered in the chat window to relevant items like agendas, links, spellings of names, etc.]

Standard
Art & Development

Some Thoughts on Public Art

Notes from a panel on public art

Last week, I participated in a webinar called “Public Art: The Way Forward.” It was hosted by the Armory Show and moderated by the Armory Show Executive Director Nicole Berry. The guests were Jean Cooney from Times Square Arts, Michelle Woo from For Freedoms, and two artists in Messages for the CityNekisha Durrett and myself. 

Here are some of my recent thoughts about sentences on public art—some things I said during the panel, and things I wanted to say but didn’t fit in.

On the purpose of public art, and public art during COVID and the current racial justice movement

It’s interesting to reflect on public art in this moment, as monuments to white supremacists and colonialists are being toppled. Some people think those monuments represent history; I think they represent re-writing history with certain people as victors.

Public art is cross-sector. It is where visual form, storytelling, and civic dialogue intersect. Public art is a way we, as a society, discuss what we value and who we are. It asks us to think about participation, engagement, and representation.

I like to think about artwork as more than the object and the artist’s intent. People leaving a mark or toppling a statue is also part of the life of an artwork. So are people discussing what statues mean, what should replace it, and whose stories should be represented.

Truly public art is democratic. The purpose of democratic public art is to serve the public with representations, stories, and voices that reflect them.

In contrast with historic bronze statues, there’s the murals on boarded up storefronts in downtown Oakland, CA, which have sprung up in the people’s uprising for justice for Black lives. There, public art is the voice of the people, where you see emotions like anger and grief, calls for action, and—what artists can do best—transformative visions of society.

For artists, public art is an opportunity to bypass art-world gate keepers and connect with more democratic and diverse audiences.

 

About freedom of expression in public art

[In response to: “Do you feel more of a responsibility to have a message in public art? Is there less freedom of expression?”]

I don’t feel more responsibility to have a certain message, ideally. I do feel more responsibility to be ethical and diligent working in partnership with a community.

There is less freedom of expression in public art, but that’s OK, because that’s what studio practice is for. It’s not always about you. I value creative freedom and artistic autonomy as an artist. But that might be in the same way that someone else may value liberty above all and think it’s a good idea not to wear a mask in the middle of a pandemic. There’s more to life than doing whatever you want whenever you want.

Public art can be complicated and require compromises. But shouldn’t just be a sacrifice—there is a tradeoff. There are gifts that you can’t gain alone, which come from being in relationship with others, and those relationships are nurtured by listening, mutuality, understanding, and sharing.

There is a phrase that comes up a lot in different things I think about, as well as in current events, and in Messages for the City. I come across it in studying psychology and how people find purpose or meaning. I hear in when people talk about belonging. It’s why people participate in movements for social justice, and why they sign up to be public servants, and run towards danger, like the FDNY paramedics, rather than running away. It’s the idea of “becoming part of something bigger than yourself.” Public art is a way that artists make art that is bigger than their individual studio practice (and often, but not always, utilizing larger capacities and platforms).

 

About how the art community can promote public art and public artists

Every art opportunity is an opportunity for more equity, diversity, and inclusion.

I have to thank For Freedoms and Times Square Arts, because the artists and designers included in Messages for the City include legends whose work I’ve admired for years and sometimes over a decade. So I’m very grateful to be included. I also say this as someone who’s mostly experienced The Armory Show from the perspective of an art handler, installing art at the fair.

I think there are a lot of amazing public art organizations in NYC. I think sometimes they are comfortable following the lead of major galleries and museums. It would be nice to see them take more risks with artists—especially women, Black, indigenous and POC, queer, trans, and disabled artists—whose work is not validated by the market.

I think if institutions are serious about equity, the have to:

  • Pay artists.
  • Don’t ask artists to work for free or on spec.
  • Change the culture that undervalues artist’s labor, where artists compete against each other by submitting budgets where everybody else gets paid for materials and labor, but artists get paid for only a portion of their studio time and even less of their admin time.
  • Think about the resources, support, and mentorship it offers to artists—that translation and accessibility are not afterthoughts.
  • Have strong, genuine relationships with communities, and connect artists with those communities with enough time, outreach support, and accountability.

Since public art is inherently cross-sector, it encompasses social practice, community art, crafts, outsider art, etc. There’s so much attention, resources, scholarship, documentation, archiving, support, and platforms in the art world, there’s no reason a disproportionate amount should go to the top 5% of artists being collected by the top 1% of people in the art world.


Note: The webinar had many great questions asked in the Q&A function. Unfortunately we were only able to answer a few questions. I asked the moderator if it’s possible to capture the questions, and she sent a spreadsheet with emails, so I emailed my answers to some of the questions. It was nice to learn that this is an option.

Huge thanks to everyone who attended the panel, the Armory, For Freedoms, and TSQ Arts, and the fellow panelists. I felt honored to be part of such a lively and timely discussion.

Standard
Art & Development, Art Worlds, Citizenship, Values

Hopes for Chinatown: Ethics, Complicity, & Tactics Rationale

I was invited to an art opportunity that was funded by a tech company that I detest. I weighed the ethics of my participation. Here’s what I decided to do.

Sorry this is so wordy—I’m choosing transparency and thoroughness.

Background

In early May, I was invited by 100 Days Action to contribute art to Art for Essential Workers.

“100 Days Action is installing art on boarded up storefronts by local and national artists with images of optimism and solidarity with our essential workers.”

100 Days Action is “a Bay Area artist collective that produces creative resistance projects to build community at the intersection of art, activism, and social engagement.” It was formed immediately after the 2016 presidential election in response to Trump’s 100-Day Plan.” I know several of the members and respect who they are and what they do.

Art for Essential Workers is a cool model of a program that supports the community, small businesses, and artists. They invite artists to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with sketches to show business owners, who pick from the designs. Then 100 Days Action prints and wheat-pastes the artwork, to be seen by essential workers and neighbors. The project started with the Mission District in San Francisco and is now expanding to Chinatown.

Art, Culture, and Belonging

The chance to display art in SF Chinatown via Art for Essential Workers plugged in beautifully with Art, Culture and Belonging.

Art, Culture, and Belonging is a community-engaged project exploring the impact of art and culture on belonging SF Chinatown. I’m the lead artist and I work in partnership with the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco and the Chinatown Arts and Culture Coalition.

Since shelter-in-place restrictions, we’ve pivoted programming to online platforms and encouraged people to support local Chinatown businesses, which have been slammed by compounding losses resulting from shelter-in-place, xenophobia, and reduced tourism. For many reasons, I haven’t been able to travel and engage the community as much as I planned.

Because of this, Art for Essential Workers is an especially welcome, timely way for the project to have a physical platform in the neighborhood.

Hopes for Chinatown Project

In Art, Culture, and Belonging, we solicited stories about belonging in SF Chinatown, including a question about hopes for Chinatown. I’ve taken excerpts from these responses to create the artworks for Art for Essential Workers. (Thanks to YY Zhu and Weiying Yu at CCCSF for translation and proofreading.)

Photo of Dragon Seed Bridal and Photography storefront. A big sign above reads, "Dragon Seed" in brown text on white background. Below, the window is boarded up and covered in a wheatpasted poster. The text on the poster is in English and Chinese. It reads: Hopes for Chinatown. To see people living and working in peace and harmony, by Alina. Everyone in Chinatown will be safe and healthy. Anonymous. Less discrimination. More Understanding. YY. Chinatown's Generations of love and care will continue. Sunflower. The text is in red in light pink boxes on a background of red with a scale-like pattern of overlapping concentric circles.

Christine Wong Yap, “Hopes for Chinatown,” 2020, site-specific public art: participation, hand-lettering, digital print, 80 x 148 inches and 96 x 48 inches. Commissioned and installed by 100 Days Action for Art for Essential Workers. Photo by Jeremiah Barber.

100 Days Action worked with the Chinatown Visitor Information Center to secure permission to install art at Dragon Seed Bridal and Photo. They installed my artwork on May 30. Dragon Seed is a longstanding business on Clay Street, facing Portsmouth Square. I’m pretty sure I’ve patronized this business—purchasing traditional clothes and trying on cherng sam for my wedding there.

I’m also excited about the location on Portsmouth Square, as that’s the neighborhood’s ‘living room.’ As a child, I played in the playground, getting splinters from the boat-shaped play structure located in the shade of the skyway. In spite of the physical distance, these memories—the sense of familiarity and continuity—make me feel connected to this location, and very proud to contribute to Chinatown in this way.

Funding

Art for Essential Workers “is funded by the Facebook Analog Research Laboratory and private donors.”

The association with Facebook presented a problem for me.

In 2014, I declined invitations to develop art projects at Facebook (see my blog post). It related to the lack of public accessibility and public good, balanced against public harm and lack of accountability in the Bay Area’s economic inequality and quality of living.

Also, a former Facebook AIR told me they had conflicting feelings about their participation. I also noticed that as soon as another Facebook AIR completed their residency, they deleted their Facebook account. Knowing myself—that acting against my conscience would lead to regret, which would haunt me for years—and values—money comes, and money goes—it was easy for me to decline and feel secure about my decision.

There are many well-known reasons to believe Facebook is evil. Two reasons that are unforgivable to me: Facebook tweaked its algorithms to mess with user’s moods. As a psychology nerd, this a major no-no. And, I don’t think Trump would be be president right now without Facebook’s negligence. [Not to mention Facebook’s complicity and collusion: Facebook board member Peter Thiel has donated at least $1.25M to Trump, and a few days ago, Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest Zuckerberg’s inaction on Trump’s violence-inciting posts.]

Complicity

I’ll point this out so no one else has to, internetz: I’m already complicit. I’m on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. I quit Facebook years ago, though I may have to re-join for my day job or art partnerships with institutions. As an artist whose “Hopes for Chinatown” project is now a part of Facebook art programming, my work may be used to “art wash” its corporate misdeeds on its platforms and internally. If I felt fine with this, I wouldn’t feel the need to write this post.

Considering agency within partnerships with institutions

In the past I’ve had a self-limiting view of artists’ agency in relationships with institutional partners: I thought the institution gets to set all the terms, and the artist was so relatively powerless and needy that they just have to accept what is offered. But artists have more agency than that.

In my zine on interdependence, I learned about some tactics that have informed my thinking over the years:

“Instead of competing for individual … opportunities, [radical opportunists] utilize project-related apparatuses to foster temporary yet tangible collectives, clusters, and networks based on principles of solidarity and equity.”

—Kuba Szreder, “How to Radicalize a Mouse? Notes on Radical Opportunism,” in Dockx, Nico, and Pascal Gielen, eds. Mobile Autonomy: Exercises in Artists’ Self-Organization. Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015.

 

“members and allies of this [alternative, artist-run] ‘field’ must leverage [our power] within … commercial, academic, … and civic spheres… to position ourselves outside, and in resistance to, these hegemonic power structures… using radical forms of participation to forefront self-organized, inclusive, and equitable structures.”

Sarrita Hunn, “Artists for Artists’ Sake.” Temporary Art Review, October 15, 2015.

I think some of these ideas are at play in 100 Days Action’s participation. When I asked them about their thoughts on the funding, they shared some of their deliberations. I can’t speak for them, but I think they are parlaying the resources to benefit artists, small businesses, and essential workers through this project.

Here’s another idea that resonates from the zine:

Seeking “opportunities to support folks … (rather than solely … individual projects)”

—Weston Teruya, as quoted in inter/de-pend-ence, 2015.

I’m not saying that the Hopes for Chinatown project falls neatly within, or is an example of, any of these concepts or calls to action. But these ideas have been helpful for thinking about how I partner with institutions, who benefits from my projects, why, and being able to have more agency and options than to either accepting or rejecting.

Response

I will donate 100% of my $500 artist fee to support Feed & Fuel, the Chinatown Community Development Corporation’s response to COVID.

Feed & Fuel mobilizes legacy restaurants like New Asia and volunteers to prepare and distribute up to 1,600 meals per day to seniors living in SROs and public housing, where residents live in 80-square-foot rooms with communal kitchens where social distancing is impossible. Feed & Fuel reduces transmission rates in dense housing among a particularly vulnerable population of elders, helps local businesses survive, keeps restaurant employees working, and provides a safe way for volunteers to serve the community. Learn more about Feed & Fuel, watch their informative video, and donate  if you can.

Feed & Fuel tackles multiple issues—loss of business from xenophobia and shelter-in-place, serving vulnerable elders, and stabilizing food security. And it’s all organized within and by the local community. I love that it’s an effective, responsive social initiative, as well as an aesthetically elegant network of relationships, mutual empowerment, and service.

Chinatown Community Development Corporation is a non-profit 501(c)3 founded in 1977.

Rationale

Another useful set of questions are:

“Given an opportunity…
Do I believe in what this institution does/stands for? Is it the ideal venue for this project/my work? Does my work feel alive in this context? …
Is this opportunity helping me reach the audience I want to reach?…
Is there enough freedom in this opportunity? Is this the best artworld for my work? Is it the most effective use of my time/money/energy? …

Am I being instrumentalized? Am I okay with that?”

Helena Keefe, “Standard Questions for Artists” from Standard Deviation, via ArtPractical.com, June 13, 2013.

My answers to these questions are “no” followed by all “yes” responses. That’s much different than in 2014.

With Hopes for Chinatown/Art for Essential Workers, I’m compelled by:

  • the public accessibility of a street-level storefront window
  • engagement with a community facing economic and public health uncertainties under Covid and shelter-in-place
  • coordination between community-minded organizations
  • the messages’ emphasis on optimism, health, and discrimination
  • the alignment with this neighborhood (a low-income, immigrant community of color), at this urgent time, with me. (Not to trying to toot my own horn, but I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time for this project: I’m Chinese American, and in a position to submit bilingual artworks that amplifies voices from the community.)

So rather than being stumped by a complicit-or-resistant choice, these questions have helped me think through tactics of circumvention, re-distribution, and public benefits. Ultimately, I participated because I think the impact on the local Chinatown community will be a net positive.

Documenting and sharing my thought process—and registering my hesitations openly for other artists to consider and discuss—are also part of this experience. I’m happy to engage with other artists, curators, and thinkers in respectful dialogue about this. If you have questions, please ask. I always prefer open dialogue over silent recriminations or unspoken criticisms.

Standard
Art & Development

A New Bandanna Design: See the Good in People

blue bandanna with calligraphy in teal and white, stating, notice small acts of kindness and connection; see the good in people

See the Good in People, 2020, two-color screenprint on cotton bandanna, 20×20 inches. Available on ChristineWongYap.com.

I have been making bandannas for a few years. I see them as mementos that remind us of our core beliefs and express them to others.
I recognize that recommendations to cover faces in public may freight the timing of the release of this bandanna. I actually designed this bandanna prior to these guidelines.
This text was inspired from an unfortunate personal experience I had in a public space last December. Strangers stopped to help, share sympathy, offer soothing commendations, and accompany me when I had to speak up.
After, my brain kept returning to the physical sensation of the incident, which triggered feelings of loathing, vulnerability, and self-pity. But I deliberately shifted my attention to the kindness of strangers.
This helped me re-write the story from one of misfortune to one of faith in humanity. It also became an experience of self-knowledge: because I changed my negative feelings into positive ones, I felt powerful.
I learned that seeing the good in people is sort of a superpower.
I would be thrilled if this bandanna helped to lessen some of fear and division of our present moment and to increase our awareness of connection and togetherness.
I’ve launched a new Shop page to sell this bandanna, as well as some reprints of previously sold-out bandannas from the Belonging project, and other zines and books.
I’m a working artist. Over the past few weeks, some of my day jobs and freelance gigs have been postponed or canceled. Your support is greatly appreciated. The funds also help me pay Forthrite Printing, the artist-run, small business in Oakland, CA who printed these.
Standard
Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: BRIC ArtFP Exhibition Open Call

BRIC’s ArtFP Exhibition Open Call received over 250 applicants, from which 3 finalists were selected.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////+

Selected images represent 1:83, or 1.2%, of applicants.

See all Art Competition Odds.

Standard