the collaboration

A 4 year BFA will teach you many things: how to think for your self, how to take criticism,  how to be constructive, how to be productive, how to manage your time, how to think critically, how to creatively challenge yourself…and so on. Beyond this, and the long list of items I did not mention,  I can’t help but realize one very important thing that school did not as much teach, as it did suggest, which is: to collaborate.

  1. The action of working with someone to produce or create something.
  2. Something produced or created in this way

Now, if I have learned anything, it is that collaboration only truly works to one’s benefit it they are working with equally minded and talented artists.  I’ve had enough group projects with useless, yes useless, people that it is safe to say many of us have cringed at the thought of working with others.  However, the loveliest thing about a 4 year BFA is that it gives you the opportunity to network, and after some weeding out, you truly become surrounded with intelligent,  creative and brilliant artists.  I am happy to say, for myself, that I have come to this extraordinary place where I am finally immersed by truly like-minded artists, who I respect more than anyone, because frankly, we get each other.

Now, back to this collaboration nonsense, my first semester of my fourth year, after being constructively pushed by my instructor, I knew I had to do something different in the studio.  Something that was more than just a painting.  So after heavy research, writing and exploring I decided that an installation would best represent my developing concepts and narratives.  Things were in full swing, the ideas were flowing, I was getting exciting feedback and honestly,  I was feeling quite confident, because I knew that even though I wasn’t sure what the final outcome would be,  it felt right.   For the first time in, maybe ever (?), the art felt like it was really me.  So, I had the idea, the story, a collection of growing materials and a large space booked.  Yet as things progressed, I realized I potentially could not fill this space on my own.

For the last year, I had befriended and admired artist Carson Long.  Although his work, in respect, is different than my own, our conversations regarding art and ideas were bang on.  And that’s when I knew he would be the perfect artist to “share the space with”.   Yet after great discussion of the actual space, the realization that perhaps he could instead assist me in creating my larger idea was born.  So with that, a collaboration was formed.

As our minds played off one another,  I realized I again wanted more.  I mean really,  if your going big, why not go all out?  What did more mean?  I wasn’t sure at the time, but once I faced my little demons (the ones who make you blind to the most obvious of solutions), I knew I wanted Sound.  Noise.  Music. It wasn’t clear, but I knew I needed it.  One of the 5 senses, a new element, one which would help aid in creating an environment and space.  Problem.  How do I go about sound?  It sounds easy right? (that was an unintended pun, ha)!  So after some musing and wandering, again I realized I know this great artist who uses sound, why not just get his help?  Result, add to the collaboration!  And with the magical help of Matthew Waites, sound was given life to this ever evolving installation.

Wrapping this experience up,  I am proud to say that the decision to work with a couple other artists was extremely eye opening, beneficial and good old fashion FUN.  They not only assisted me, but they really brought their own life to the piece.  It became something I could not have done on my own.  It was better because of them. I also discovered the pure satisfaction of making something which I could share with others, that in its self become very precious. (You can view the Installation “The Longest Walk Home” in my Altermodern Article)

You see, each artist truly specializes in a few aspects of art, maybe its color theory, conceptual theory, material knowledge, maybe they draw hands better than anyone you know – all artists have certain skills that really put them above the rest.  So what I am getting at is, although it is beneficial for one to push themselves and try everything, you can’t be the best at everything – so, collaborate.

This is why art collectives, artist run centers, and group studios are flourishing.  Artists today, in 2013, are really understanding that if you pool equal resources, skills and creative ideas everyone benefits artistically and financially,  and the chances of succeeding are SO much higher.  Artists need each other. We need to work together. We need community.   With one week left of my degree, the overwhelming reality that my easily accessible community is coming to an end, is quite heartbreaking.  However,  the community does not end, unless you let it end.  You just have to work harder, a lot harder.  Ok very hard.  But it’ll be worth it.  With no clarity towards the next year,  I can only say that I look forward to collaborating with some of the many amazing artists I’ve met, and that I will also continue to contribute to the ever growing arts community in Calgary and area (and you know eventually the world)!

On an ending note,  the images below are of  the Fina 450 Artist Book: What I Must Do Next, now part of the Luke Lindoe Permanent Collection. It is a collaborative book project done by my Fina 450 class, we all had to create a 2 page spread thematically revolving around “what I must do next”, whether short or long term goals.  This, in its smallest form, is a group of different artists coming together to make something beautiful.  It is amazing because each page simply works off one another, and with the use of so many artists, it develops a uniqueness unattainable if it were done by just one artist.

So for any artist, whether you are moving onto your next project, or maybe you are in a rut, try collaborating.  Look around, be thoughtful and realistic, and make it happen. Have faith in the process and see some amazing results, results that you can not achieve on your own.

Danielle Folkerts



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