One of the greatest challenges of being an independent artist is finding an audience for your work.
If you’ve ever created an artistic product and taken it to market, you know just how difficult this can be. Especially when you’re new or lesser-known in your community.
So what if there were an arts event specifically dedicated to the obscure and unusual? A place where you could show off your work, invite your social network, and support other artists who often don’t get much press?
Milwaukee joined 60 other cities in creating that opportunity last Thursday night . . . with a little help from RAW:natural born artists.
RAW:natural born artists is an independent worldwide artist community created by artists, for artists. The organization is committed to providing independent artists within the first 10 years of their career with the tools, resources and exposure needed to inspire and cultivate creativity.
RAW hosts showcases—which they like to call “circuses of creativity—in cities around the world. In advance of the event, RAW affiliates scour sites like Etsy, Aftcra and other independent craft showcases looking for eye-catching local work. They contact art schools, community art organizations and other groups, as well, seeking unique lesser-known young artists to be part of the event.
What’s the catch? Each artist must sell 20 tickets to the show at $17.95 a piece. They are provided with a unique link that credits their friends’ and families’ ticket purchases to their “account.”
The night of the show, guests from all over town converge on a local event venue to peruse row after row of handmade arts and crafts, enjoy runway-style fashion and makeup demonstrations, and witness live performances of dance, theater and music.
Last Friday, the celebratory spectacle came to Milwaukee.
I was invited to participate in the showcase myself through Heirloom Variety but chose not to because I was unfamiliar with RAW (at that time) and didn’t have time to increase my stock. However, I attended the event on behalf of another artist—and in my opinion, it lived up to expectations as a wonderful showcase of local work and a robust selling market. for independent artists, not to mention an all-around great time. Very much worth the price of admission.
I was also honored to support Crystal Mazur, a local photographer who is a friend and collaborator of my friend Anne Holmes, fearless founder and leader of Midwinter Gaming Convention. Crystal’s intimate, moody portrait photography spanned one of the most prominent walls in the main gallery.
Elsewhere, attendees could find everything from bark and bone jewelry to flower headbands and belts to fine art paintings and glitter makeup design. All the artists were on hand to chat about their work.
While all the art was inspiring and fun to explore (not to mention tempting to purchase!) the best part for me was watching the crowd. Whether friends, family or friends-of-friends (as I was), all seemed relaxed and enjoying themselves. Good people and good art gathered together always makes for an unbeatable combination. Not to mention the inspiration and collaborations that can arise when artists meet each other in the same space!
After all, it comes down to the simple element of exposure. When artists and their work get seen, things can happen. And that’s what RAW:natural born artists seems to be helping artists to do: see and be seen.
A big round of applause for those who stepped into the spotlight.
The next RAW:natural born artists showcase in Milwaukee will take place in August. I hope you’ll join me in supporting lesser-known local creatives who deserve a night in the spotlight.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll even be one of them.
Learn more about the RAW Milwaukee chapter by visiting their site.