My Facebook account blew up on November 9, during the last few minutes of the Locate Arts Kickstarter campaign. When the digital smoke cleared, the organization had cleared their $50,000 goal, raising $53,033 from 277 backers.
Locate Arts is the brainchild of two Tennesseans who’ve identified missing links in the state’s art infrastructure that the organization is poised to fill. In addition to a centralized, daily updated website of statewide art venue listings, exhibition schedules, and an artist’s registry, Locate Arts also plans to organize a statewide gallery night as well as a Tennessee Biennial. The site is set to launch in early 2016 with the gallery night to follow later in the year. The biennial will require more planning and won’t be a reality until at least 2017. The sequential rolling-out of these plans is indicative of their connectedness, and if you had to sum up Locate Arts in a word, that word would be “communication.”
“We’re finalizing the website right now. We’re designing it and we’ll update it daily. With our listings and our artist’s registry, our goal is to be inclusive more than exclusive,” says Brian R. Jobe who’s an artist and educator in Knoxville, but was raised in Memphis. Jobe is the co-founder of Locate Arts along with his wife Carri, who’s a painter and a native Nashvillian. “We think there is a robust community across the state and communicating the volume of that stuff is what we’re trying to accomplish.”
In addition to their time in Tennessee, the couple has lived in Texas and New York in their pursuits of education and work, and Locate Arts is inspired by similar projects the couple has seen in other states.
“There’s a website in Texas called Glasstire.com. They host critical writing as well as gallery listings. When I was in grad school in San Antonio, we saw the impact a site like that can have,” says Jobe. “People in San Antonio were very familiar with what was going on in Austin and Dallas. It reframed the art conversation at a statewide level.”
An organization of Texas artists founded the Texas Biennial in 2005, and Locate Arts has taken inspiration from their example as well. Of course building and editing a website is one thing, but creating a biennial art event is another.
“Right now it’s a loose concept. I think the very earliest year it could occur is 2017,” says Jobe. “We’re thinking about connecting with an established curator to put together a show that would be approximately half Tennessee artists and half national and international artists. The idea would be to show the seamless integration of Tennessee work with work from beyond the state. The details are loose right now and everything is subject to the board talking about this.”
In the next few months, Locate Arts plans to launch its site and program the statewide gallery night as a kind of coming-out event for the new resource and for the organization. But, more importantly, it hopes to begin to bring that statewide context and communication to creative communities all over Tennessee.
“As we’ve gone through the state and held our forums, the message we get is that the connections between the scenes in these cities aren’t that strong, and art communities feel cut-off from one another from one city to the next,” says Jobe. “An alternative space in Knoxville might exist in a world by itself, but when it’s contextualized in the statewide scene as a whole it becomes part of a bigger dialogue. It’s about shoring up these lines of communication and pouring cement over the gravel so that more can be built on the foundations that are already here.” And combining the creative focus of scenes from around the state could have impact beyond the creative communities themselves.
“This is a state with four medium-to-large cites with their engines already turning,” says Jobe. “This gives us an opportunity to present a unified front to the rest of the world that’s related to tourism, art sales, and Tennessee’s reputation as a nationally recognized art scene.”
With the trend of real estate speculators literally tearing down art scenes in cities like Nashville, this is the kind of development that Tennessee’s creative communities will be likely to get behind.
Find out more about being included on the Locate Arts website and supporting their project at www.locatearts.org