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One Smartphone / One Vote: Brooklyn’s model of community-curating

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The weekend following Go Brooklyn Art’s borough-wide Open Studios event, artists in Boston’s South End studios unbolt their doors for the public. Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 September, from 11am to 6pm, the art-curious are welcome to stroll up and down stairs and in and out of buildings, to chat with artists, to grab a potato chip or two and to leave with an artwork they can love and to cherish from this day forward.

Some interesting conversations developed on Twitter around the Go Brooklyn model. @BigRedandShiny prompted a conversation, using the organizer-approved #GoBrooklynArt hash-tag, that outlasted our own presence on the feed that day (and into the next) and drew plenty of opinionated exchange that has provided us with enriching reading.

Go, according to their website, is a community-curated open studio project. If you feel the word curated is being bandied about again and are not sure what this all means, well, A. you may be right and B. neither are we. As we find out, we may get some tips for this weekend’s version.

Go Brooklyn Art assigned a numerical ID to each participating artist. Go also developed a smartphone app enabling studio visitors to use these IDs to cast votes for the artists whose work they preferred (or for those they knew personally and wanted to give a plug.) A check-in function was programmed and voters who visited over five studios unlocked the next level, gaining the eligibility to nominate up to three artists for a group show at the Brooklyn Museum. Voters also cumulated points according to distance travelled and neighborhoods hit. [aside]This is beginning to sound more like Bravo’s Work of Art, or speed-dating meets strategic trick-or-treating, than a viable curatorial approach. Let’s not be too cynical: crowd-sourcing is happening all around us these days in journalism and photography, so why not in curating? What if the popular vote really does make for an excellent exhibition?

Fundamentally though, we wondered if this model really works for artists. @BDPNT responded to our question with a link to his thoughts:

“Why is everyone so eager to mash art and community together? In this day and age of diminished arts education and funding, a seemingly ubiquitous requirement of grants these days is that the art and applicant also provide some sort of service to the community.”

@nick_b_painting replied

“Love what @BDPNT is saying here: ‘requires the artist to contort their practice into some sharable event’ always frustrating.”

Former BR&S Editor Matthew Gamber asked ‘Are artists pawns in an event where they should be beneficiaries? […] The larger game of gentrification; who benefits: certainly not artists. Reactions included @flatfileboston’s “community I hope” and @crholland’s “I think it’s risky to give gentrification so much agency.” Enthusiastic and experienced @museumnerd clamored “#gobrooklynart was a huge success!”

So, what do our readers think? Do open studio events become more engaging with this kind of community participation? Is the museum exhibition at the end of a stick a motivating factor for artists or a gimmick to encourage involvement? We want to hear from you. Does Boston need this type of venture?


South End Open Studios run Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 September from 11am to 6pm

Studios are located at:
• Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street
• 450 Harrison Avenue, 535 Albany Street
• 35/59 Wareham Street and 46 Waltham Street

Free & open to the public / MBTA orange line to Back Bay
United South End Artists

Logo courtesy of Go Art Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of Google Streetview

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About Author

Stephanie Cardon is a cross-disciplinary artist from France and the United States and is the former executive editor at Big Red & Shiny. She works as a Visiting Lecturer at Massachusetts College of Art & Design and is a 2013 recipient of the Art Writing Workshop from the AICA-USA and Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program.

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