Atlanta’s Jennifer Schwartz will be officially out of the art dealing game by the end of the year. In a press statement, Schwartz says that she will be focusing on her newly established nonprofit Crusade for Art, which will fulfill her stated mission of “promoting and developing the careers of photographers and cultivating collectors,” without having to sell anything except her enthusiasm and ideas.
The already heavily branded initiative stems from the Crusade for Collecting Tour that Schwartz made in a VW Bus in April-June 2013. Stopping in 10 cities across the country, she mounted exhibitions and invited local photographers to display their work, which was given away to interested visitors. Schwartz says that doing the tour helped her realize that she could make a greater impact by grouping her various activities under one umbrella instead of doing one-off projects. For the past year, while setting up the nonprofit, she has had financial sponsorship through private and corporate donors.
Schwartz says that when she first opened a gallery focusing on emerging photographers, she soon realized that, more than selling their work, her job was to help them find an audience outside the traditional gallery model. Accordingly, a highlight of Crusade for Art is the annual $10,000 Crusade Engagement Grant, which will be given to “an individual artist or artist group with the most innovative plan for increasing their audience and collector base,” according to CFA’s website. Submissions for that begin in March 2014.
With an emphasis on career development, Crusade for Art features workshops like “Creating Demand for Your Art,” the Art Circle book club, and its own YouTube channel. In addition to fee-based mentoring and consulting, a six-month mentorship program will be available for 10 photographers per year through a merit-based application process.
Crusade will also have its own CSA—Community Supported Art—a riff on community-supported agriculture collectives. Six photographers will each receive $2,500 to create an editioned photograph, funded by the sale of 50 shares, at $350 a pop. In exchange, each shareholder will receive two signed photos three times per year.
Schwartz shuttered her Marietta Street gallery space in 2012 and since then has been periodically mounting shows in a Virginia-Highland location. Her roster has featured a number of artists with ties to the South, such as Louisiana native Kael Alford, University of Georgia professor Michael J. Marshall, SCAD alum Jeff Rich, South Carolina-based Kathleen Robbins, and New Orleans-based Jennifer Shaw.
Schwartz had been among the more innovative dealers trying to keep a physical space open. She kept her price point low and even put a gift registry on her site, but perhaps had the greatest impact through several events launched to attract new collectors. Walk Away With Art, for example, is a cocktail party for which attendees pay $100 to mingle with artists and then take home an original work of art. Similarly, ArtFeast dinners bring together artists, collectors, and a well-known chef.
Those events will continue in Atlanta under the Crusade rubric, as well as at Crusade chapters around the country that are being established by photographers she has worked with. Pittsburgh, Chicago, and one more city are expected to be active in 2014.