Prompters: Anthony Garcia and Raymundo Muñoz, Birdseed Collective
On Medium, “ On Collective Terms: Possibilities and Responsibilities
” By Leilani Lynch, in response to Tilt West’s roundtable on Artist Collectives and Collaboration
Artist Collectives and Collaboration
Art-making (and art-showing) can be hard work, especially for an individual artist. Considering all the needs for studio and exhibition space, promotion and networking, tools, materials, skills, and finding creative opportunities, being a working artist can be a tall order for anyone. Many hands can make heavy work lighter, however, while still allowing for individual expression and personal creative and professional development. Through a strength-in-numbers approach, forming and/or joining an artist collective is a natural and rewarding solution to satisfying many of these needs. Definitions vary, but the Tate Museum loosely defines an art collective as “a group of artists working together to achieve a common objective…united by shared ideologies, aesthetics, and/or political beliefs.”
What constitutes a typical artist collective? Is formal membership, hierarchy, or organization necessary? What isn’t an artist collective?
Oftentimes proximity is the key factor (or at least starting ingredient) in the formation of artist collectives. Some groups are born out of educational institutions such as Denver’s Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. In such settings, students learn, collaborate, and share space and resources over the course of their respective degree programs. Communal studio spaces as well can provide a close working environment where the fluid exchange of ideas can occur easily and frequently. While many of these spaces are temporary (such as Zuni49 in North Denver), the seeds for collective organization can be organically sown. Other groups blossom from gallery-based relationships, particularly galleries that specialize in a particular artistic genre or medium. Helikon Gallery (now closed), for instance, offered a haven for digital illustrators that was unique and much needed in Denver. The digital installation group Bearwarp developed from that particular breeding ground. Still others spring up out of geographical associations. Graffiti writing crews often form based on the writers’ neighborhood where they reside. Going beyond territorial origins, however, more refined crews often coalesce from a closeness of styles and ability that include national and international members. Or consider the Denver Digital Land Grab collective that organizes and operates in both physical and virtual spaces via augmented reality technology.
How important is physical proximity to forming and maintaining an artist collective? What other kinds of closeness matter?
While artist collectives offer a practical fix for obtaining physical resources (e.g. volume/bulk purchasing, split rent, tool sharing, etc.), perhaps the most exciting benefit is the possibility of collaboration. The extent to which members combine forces varies greatly. For instance, collaborations might include one-offs with distinct contributions, or group shows that might be thematically linked, or an entire body of work where the lines of authorship are blurred and individual contributions unrecognizable. Aside from growing an artist’s audience base, collaboration can open up new avenues of creative expression while expanding one’s already well-worn paths. As much as artist collectives can enlist individual members to produce collaborative works, collaboration can extend well beyond the collective. On the more informal side, collective-to-collective collaborations might involve a visual arts group linking up with an experimental music collective for a one-night event. On the other side of the spectrum, a collective might be commissioned by the city to create murals to beautify neighborhood dumpsters.
What kinds of projects benefit most from collaborating? How do members achieve a balance between individual and collective goals? Beyond project completion, what kinds of new relationships might intra- and inter-collective collaborating foster?
Additional Readings & Resources
- What is an Art collective? | Tate
Anthony Garcia Sr. was born and raised in Denver. He is the co-founder and executive director of Birdseed Collective, a Denver-based nonprofit that makes a positive impact in local communities through programs and projects with innovative arts and humanities offerings. He is a painter and mural artist, a former artist-in-residence at RedLine Contemporary Art, a 2022 Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Fellow, and co-founder/co-curator of Alto Gallery in Denver.
Raymundo Muñoz was born and raised in El Paso, TX, but has made Colorado his home since 1999. He received education at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and University of Colorado-Denver, where he received a B.S. in biology. Art was always more his thing, though, and now devotes his life to making it and promoting it. He’s a self-taught linocut printmaker, musician, writer, and photographer, but does enjoy other drawing-based media and sculpture.
Raymundo shows in various spaces around town and is the director/co-founder/co-curator at Alto Gallery. He’s an active board member of Birdseed Collective, a local 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to improving the lives of surrounding communities through arts, education, and food programs. Above all, Raymundo is guided by the simple principle that art is a bridge, and that its greatest function is to connect people across time and space.