Art Collectives in the Twin Cities

Local artists turn to collaboration in less-than-glamorous times.

PHOTO COURTESY LANDLAND

PHOTO COURTESY LANDLAND

Mark Brenden

Art and the economy have always maintained a symbiotic relationship, where a Warhol print could keep a swinging art collector surrounded in glitzy, white powder excess until the next came along. But in this new era of lowered expectations, many artists have come to a similar conclusion âÄî all for one and one for all. No, they have not been sponsored by Three Musketeers candy bars, but instead, theyâÄôre working together. Be it as a result of the Great Recession or simply because artists of a feather flock together, art collectives have been a rising trend. The advantages of banding together are extensive: instant feedback, creative collaboration, financial help and divided studio costs. âÄúThe economy is definitely part of the reason this is happening,âÄù Project Director of mnartists.org Scott Stulen said. âÄúThereâÄôs no money out there, so why not band together and make something happen with your combined resources that cannot happen alone?âÄù There is another pertinent distinction between the âÄò80s and âÄò90s and our 21st century culture that makes banding together more reasonable and more accessible: the Internet. âÄúThe ability to organize in a cheap and efficient way [like Facebook and Twitter] âÄî a way that is not just putting up a flyer on the bulletin board of the coffee shop âÄî is really powerful,âÄù Stulen said. Joining a collective is not only a practical step for like-minded artists but itâÄôs also an unselfish one. In a collective, artists forgo personal authorship for communal authorship. And the same goes for their paychecks. âÄúThereâÄôs something generational about it. The younger generations tend to want to work [collectively],âÄù Stulen said. A&E has compiled a laundry list of the best arts collectives in our cites. Landland Art Collectives need not always be big in numbers. Local collective Landland, comprised of talent-rich illustrators Dan Black and Jessica Seamans, makes due with two âÄî creating and printing as a duo. The twosome does most of their work in collaboration with musicians, providing vibrant visuals to highlight the soundscapes of such high-profile clients as Why?, Gospel Gossip, Cursive, Private Dancer, Iron & Wine and more. They lend their vivacious illustrations and screen-prints to posters for rock shows, band T-shirts and record sleeves. With that connection to the music scene, they have even started a record label wherein they are putting out vinyls and, of course, doing all the artwork. For this dexterous duo, joining forces was a confidence boost more than anything. âÄúJess and I both donâÄôt always have faith in our [individual creative] processes,âÄù Black said. âÄúFor me itâÄôs amazing to have someone I can bounce off of constantly. If IâÄôm doing something IâÄôm not completely comfortable with, I can get instant feedback from somebody thatâÄôs been there throughout the whole process.âÄù He added, âÄúIf I was working individually I might settle more easily and not push things as far. It helps to have another human being around to gang up on this stuff.âÄù Black is moving to Philadelphia in August to chase his grad school-bound fiancée and has plans to relocate the collective to the City of Brotherly Love. But, rest assured, they donâÄôt plan to burn any bridges with the City of Lakes. âÄúThereâÄôs no way,âÄù Black insisted. âÄúI picture myself coming back a lot. I have a lot of strong ties to that place. ItâÄôll always be there, right?âÄù Northside Arts Collective Unique in its humanitarian, community-building approach to art, Northside Arts Collective of North Minneapolis is the Red Cross of art collectives. âÄúWe were formed around the idea that artists are part a community,âÄù Northside Board Chairwoman Beverly Roberts said. âÄúArtists are not just about painting a pretty picture; artists are about problem-solving and support in their community âÄî telling the story of their community.âÄù Though they do paint pretty pictures, Northside stays true to its message. The collective is dedicated to improving the community of North Minneapolis by providing health care, education, housing and commerce to its inhabitants. On the Northside horizons awaits the fifth annual Northside arts crawl, FLOW, coming in July. Redblackbrown Redblackbrown is an Internet-savvy design and illustration collective of three boys and three girls whose individual artistic visions, when combined, are as baroquely entwined as their moniker. On top of day jobs in print and interactive design, this sprightly sextet is diverse and industrious with their collective work. With an enthusiastically up-to-date blog and a first-rate Web site, the wondrous PR opportunity that is the World Wide Web is not lost on this art clan. âÄúThe Internet is what keeps us going, because we are able to get constant feedback,âÄù Redblackbrown Co-Founder Zara Gonzalez said. The collective creates an annual calendar series (each artist handling two months) with ambrosial drawings of flowers, birds, bikes and hot-air balloons. Gonzalez also has an ambitious individual project done on over 150 Post-It notes, each of which she decorates with goofy monsters that would be a comfort to have under your bed. Gonzalez views the rising trend of art collectives as a positive competition. âÄúI like to think of it as this gang war where you have all these rival design and art gangs popping up all over the place to make the world prettier.âÄù Indeed, this gang packs acrylics, not heat. Others: Burlesque of North America Vets of the Northeast art scene and owners of First Amendment Arts gallery, Burlesque of North America has made screen-printed album sleeves, concert posters and T-shirts for hot shots like Arcade Fire, Rhymesayers and The Melvins. The Rain Collective With 16 painters aboard, the Rain Collective is one of the larger collectives in terms of size âÄî as well as in talent. These technically sound old pros do most of their work the traditional way: showing in galleries across the city. New Land of Milk and Honey An art collective and a living commune, creativity is the legal tender in the Land of Milk and Honey. Educate yourself on this collective with our February profile in the online Daily archives. 1419 Young, innovative, industrious and creatively endowed, 1419 Washington Ave. S hosts such artistic shindigs as music, art, theater, sleepovers and coloring book parties.