Meet Courtney and Beth. They like art. What's more, they like artists. And Atlanta. So they started Dashboard Co-op, a virtual gallery intended to promote and create more opportunities for local artists. They also throw parties Dash hosts its coming out party Sat., March 20 at the Blue Tower Gallery with music (Jeffrey Butzer & Tom Cheshire, Walker Talbott, Joseph War, DJ Luis Ponce and the Back Pockets), art, dancing, motorcycles and fire(!). (Beth also places in fiction contests.)
Whats Dashboard Co-op and whos behind the wheel?
Courtney Hammond: Dashboard is an arts empowerment cooperative. We work alongside other nonprofits, publications, galleries and artists in an effort to better streamline arts initiatives in Atlanta. By connecting everyone involved and playing the role of mediator, we think well have a stronger influence on the city as a whole.
Beth Malone: Simply put, were an online art gallery that promotes artists to spur creative momentum and, hopefully, lucrative opportunity. Courts a sculptor, Im a writer; were capable people but still have a hard time getting our work recognized, let alone purchased, without help.
We started Dash because we want to help artists support themselves financially through their work. One of the sites artists has already caught the eye of an international collector! Yay Emily! Ok, collector is a loose term. Its my friend Paul who moved to Thailand to smoke weed without hassle. Nonetheless, hes got dough and, after checking out our site, hes giving it to an ATL artist.
What is it about Atlanta that lends itself to the artist co-op? Is it more telling of the city or the times?
Court: I think its both, equally. Beth and I have been in Atlanta for 10 years now and its always felt like the city wanted to expand so badly, as if buttons were popping off its shirt like my uncles fat belly after turkey dinner. The art scene is a roller coaster ride; at one instant we think things are changing and then within a month that movement has died. YOURE MESSING WITH MY EMOTIONS, ATLANTA!
I think a lot of the fluctuation has to do with the thought that our fair city is a start-off city. You survive Atlanta for a few years and then move north Chicago, Philly, New York whatever, just north. I personally like the weather here so I have to make it amazing, for me. Recently, weve come into contact with a load of like-minded people and theyve made us feel like serious change and growth is possible. With stars in our eyes and fast moving hands, we all talk about how to make Atlanta a real competitor in the war of the arts. With a full heart I sleep well at night knowing its going to happen.
Beth: This city is always morphing and growing; shes a little self-conscious, I think, like a 13-year-old who doesnt know where to put her hands. Transplants are moving in, established artists are moving out this constant shift is an obstacle in trying to maintain a vibrant arts community.
That said, I agree with Court, there is fresh energy and static. Co-ops and orgs are being started by a new generation of folks who have grown restless with the lack of community engagement in the arts, but who see resolute potential hiding underneath Atlantas rusty charm. Were collaborating with many of these groups WonderRoot, Pine Magazine, BurnAway to connect artists with the community at-large, in order to produce something truly innovative and sustainable. Well see if she sticks.
Court: Weve started off with a remarkable group of artists. Each of them has a totally different background and it shows in the diversity of the work on our site. We wanted to be completely open to all mediums and, I personally, cant wait to get them all in a room just to see what happens. Baxter Crane paints about dinosaurs eating nursery rhymes and illustrates mice on picket lines. Matt Sigmon makes ready-made furniture to poke fun at our ridiculous consumerism or is he poking at contemporary art I guess its both. James Bridges produces the most dreamlike, whirlwind paintings. Watching him work puts me on auto-pilot.
Beth: We also coerced the Paper Twins, duo guerrilla artists, whose work youve likely seen on DeKalb Ave. Patrick Toups, an intensely dedicated sculptor. I dont actually know what he looks like cause hes always covered in soot. Erica Wilson cryptic badass. Nikki Starz bloody genius. JTav freakin adorable. John Dirga Im speechless. And Tak Masuda, my favorite animator in ATL. Hes become an accountant so he can eventually support his craft. Thats true dedication, pals locking up your soul for five years so one day you can afford to fully explore it.
All in all, we know were got lucky that this group of artists took a chance on us.
How have the obstacles facing emerging artists evolved?
Court: Unfortunately, business is 50 percent, if not more, of becoming a successful artist and sometimes the most creative people dont have those skills. Many of the greatest artists I know the people who produce the most clever and beautiful work are not always the people who can sell themselves, or their work, to buyers, collectors and galleries. As a result a lot of amazing work goes unseen.
Beth: When Court graduated art school she said, I have no clue what to do now, they didnt teach me how to be a promoter and business woman in school. Im screwed. Then we started thinking about all those other kids in art school, the ones that arent the most outgoing or practical, and decided to try and help them out. Thats the crux of Dash.
What can Dashboard do as a virtual gallery that traditional galleries cant to meet those challenges?
Beth: Practically speaking, were accessible. You can come to our gallery whenever you want without moving your bum. We get a lot more traffic. Of course, in that same vein, you cant truly interact with the work through a computer screen, which is why we reach out to traditional galleries to host shows. Court once said, I want to be able to walk right up to a piece and learn something about the creation process. You cant really do that with an online gallery, but if you see something you like online youre more likely to go check it out in person.
Court: Dashboard focuses on playing the middle-man role. We spend our time seeking out talented artists and amazing work that we cant believe isnt being shown anywhere. Then we introduce it to its most fitting gallery. I find that just as much as artists want to be discovered, galleries want to find them. Theres often a disconnect between the two that makes for a power struggle and confuses the whole transaction. Having a mediator helps loads, especially when the mediator loves both parties.
Word is Dashboards throwing a party March 20, with art, dancing, motorcycles and fire, and that our moms and pops are invited
Beth: Its free at Blue Tower Gallery on March 20th. All Dash artists will be on glorious display with lots of great local music from Jeffrey Butzer & Tom Cheshire, Walker Talbott, Joseph War, DJ Luis Ponce and the Back Pockets.
If you had free reign to do one thing for the arts in Atlanta and money/time/politics, etc. werent an issue, what would it be?
Beth: Arts funding for public schools. Kids dont even have their own box of crayons in Kindergarten anymore.
Court: Make everyone slow dance together.
Beth: While keeping eye contact.
Court: Yeah, that would solve a lot of problems.
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