Hand-in-Glove kicks off today! Rachel Gorman reports on the itinerant conference and its goals.
Lately it seems like I am constantly in a conversation about “the future of St. Claude.” What at one time might have been called a creative community experiment has, in recent years, become a well-established Arts District: influential enough to be referenced as the regular (if geographically narrow) shorthand for New Orleans’ exploding contemporary visual arts scene. But with St. Claude’s previously inconceivable success now a given (and the rewards of future development more palpable than ever), attention has been increasingly focused on how to maintain momentum in the face of new challenges.
Everyone phrases concerns differently: artists pass through New Orleans but don’t settle here; national press outlets, and especially art magazines, don’t pay close enough attention to the work; there isn’t a large enough collector base to support it. But these concerns ultimately boil down to William S. Burroughs’ famous quote—“When you stop growing, you start dying.” St. Claude’s artist collectives, and the city’s contemporary arts community at large, has got to find a way to grow, adapt, change—anything but die.
To that end, collective representatives Bob Snead and Gracie Goodrich (Antenna/Press Street), Sophie Lvoff and Tameka Norris (Good Children), and Angela Berry and Brooke Pickett (The Front) have helped organize Hand-in-Glove New Orleans, a three-day forum and series of events taking place this weekend. Initially organized by threewalls in Chicago in 2011, the itinerant conference was created in order to “start a national conversation on creative activity happening outside of traditional institutions.” Now in its second iteration, Hand-in-Glove provides a solution-oriented platform for grassroots organizations and arts spaces to come together and address commonly held concerns. Though Chicago and New Orleans’ arts communities face distinct challenges, New Orleans-based co-organizer Sophie Lvoff sees “parallels” between the two scenes, recognizing that “dialogue between like-minded spaces” could promote community collaboration and exchange of best practices.
Hand-in-Glove New Orleans kicks off today, October 17, with a keynote address from Martha Wilson, a pioneering feminist artist and gallery director well-versed in the obstacles alternative spaces (both brick-and-mortar and online) face in promoting themselves and the grassroots arts movement of which they are a part. The conference includes two panel discussions featuring local and national experts on the topics "Ways of Being" and "Strategies of Sustainability," as well as a number of other activities, each meant to explore and inspire a spirit of engagement. Collaboration is at the core of the weekend: an exhibition opening of work by Alyssa Dennis at Parse on Friday doubles as a pick-up location for the next round of THE DROP, while a Works Progress dinner at the Joan Mitchell Center on Saturday provides an informal setting that organizers hope will further strengthen bonds over food, so that participants are more willing to work together down the line to raise public awareness about art in New Orleans.
Providing forums to explore ideas and build coalitions is only part of the equation. Lvoff is excited that Hand-in-Glove is drawing visitors from arts organizations around the country, some for the first time, to New Orleans. Organizers have planned multiple led and self-guided tours of art spaces in the city with the explicit intention of giving “out-of-town people a chance to come and see what is happening here, to let people know that we are here,” Lvoff said, drumming up interest in New Orleans that she hopes will extend beyond time spent within the city limits.
Hand-in-Glove takes place October 17-20 at various locations in New Orleans. For a full list of events, visit hand-in-glove.org.