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Monday, October 31

Hand In Glove Conference

As opposed to the Future of Music Coalition Summit where all attendees had some sort of twitter-live-updating gadget or another, when I took my seat at the keynote speaker of the Hand in Glove alternative art spaces conference, the abundance of moleskins was overwhelming. Seriously, every size and shape. They intimidated my ring-bound notebook. 

Oct 20-23 was the first Hand-in-Glove conference, which is now set to be a semiannual event, targeted at the "pragmatic realities and imaginative possibilities of organizing exhibitions, re-granting programs, publications, residencies, public programs, platforms for projects, and other programming that challenges traditional formats for the production and reception of art at the grassroots level." 

Read the rest after the jump!

It was fun attending from a different disciplinary perspective. My favorite panel, which was similar to my favorite panel at the Future of Music Coalition, was called Regional Arts Eco-Systems. I love learning what's unique to different cities and how it affects what's successful in those areas. I also just moved back to Chicago after four years and am trying to piece those things together again here as well. The panel at Hand in Glove was made up of representatives from Detroit, St. Louis, Minneapolis/St Paul, and San Francisco. Each panelist was in tune with the needs and trends in their cities, and their projects reflected those.

In Detroit, Kate Daughdrill highlighted the uniqueness of Detroit's ability to have long-term projects. The SOUP (if you don't know what SOUP is, check it out here and see if there's one near you!) in Detroit funded a microgrant to a man to redefinine his own alleyway by making garages spaces for art and communities. Many people in, as well as the city of, Detroit are pretty strapped for money, and Kate noted that it makes the art scene very unique, in that there are a lot of collaborations, developing different tactics, and sharing resources.  In St. Louis, Jean William Chavez observed that though there were many art students, most didn't stick around after they graduated, and he wanted to help foster more of a reason for artists to stay in St. Louis by opening the space BOOTS. The folks from Minneapolis/St Paul noted that many in the twin cities don't buy art, though they love the arts. The organizers, who were trained architects and biologists and had a very interdisciplinary approach to arts organizing, created skill-sharing based events that became quite popular, as well as owning a storefront gallery space where they would just kind of ask, "if you had a big empty storefront gallery space, what would you do?" and then support that. This resulted in events such as a 100-course deconstructed dinner, where a course ended up consisting of a drop of olive oil or three sprigs of arugula, and lasted around 4 hours. 

Another highlight was the Archiving Artist-Run History panel that featured my new badass "I wish she was my mentor/godmother/best friend" figure Martha Wilson of Franklin Furnace in NY (read up on it here ...in short it was originally founded in 1976 as an archive for artist books, and was at the front of the "culture wars" of the 80s and 90s, and also at the forefront of feminist art and expression), as well as Mark Allen, director of one of my personal favorite alternative spaces, Machine Project in LA's Echo Park neighborhood (Machine is known for doing whatever the hell they want to do...lockpicking classes, i made a gourd canteen once, a three-part opera starring an all-dog cast, and their upcoming swanky benefit that is DMV-themed.) Though the panel highlighted ways that the spaces archive their work and events, (Franklin Furnace, after being an extremely cutting edge and successful space for any years, was one of the first art spaces to go completely digital...shutting down the physical space and using the internet as the medium for exploring their exhibitions and interacting), I loved hearing about the actual events and exhibitions that were in each space over the years and how the space itself transformed, which was often tied into the changes in archiving tactics. Peoples be creative out there! 

The creativity of the weekend within the arts scene, and seeing how many ways spaces and artists and curators have shaped and shifted to fit a city's needs, to adapt to societal changes, social changes, and technological changes was the highlight for me. It also made me try to consider ways of making upcoming events at saki more interdisciplinary and tied into different interests. We've been wanting to do more workshops and/or lectures, and I'd also like to see more interactive something-or-other tied into the art exhibition openings from time to time. If you have something you'd like to see at saki, or have a unique skill or interest that you want to share, let us know (info@sakistore.net)! 

Anyways, projects to look into from this conference: Salon Saloon, Soup Network (Sunday Soup, a kickass micro-granting program, is held monthly at Chicago's inCUBATE), BOOTS, and Franklin Furnace.

Oh yea! It was also the release of the PHONEBOOK 3, "a directory of independent art spaces, programming, and projects throughout the United States and a collection of critical essays and practical information written by the people who run them. PHONEBOOK 3 includes artist-run spaces, public programming, unconventional residencies, alternative schools, and community resources; all of the projects that form and support art ecologies across the nation, as well as historical documents marking their past." It's very well done and very well organized...highly recommended!!!!!! 

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