Have you ever ordered a piece of handmade jewelry from a seller on Etsy? Or used Airbnb to book a weekend getaway in an amazing spot? How about calling a Lyft driver to come pick you up after a freak rainstorm? If the answer is yes, then congratulations — you’re part of the sharing economy. But where do artists fit in? What if you could take that sharing model and apply it to the art world?
After attending the thought-provoking SHARE conference at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre in San Francisco last week, I checked out an event put on by a collaborative online platform called ExchangeWorks at Sandbox Suites in Union Square. ExchangeWorks provides a community for artists and the public to trade art and resources to help each other further their creative practices — original art in exchange for professional services, equipment, housing accommodations, project support, and more.
It’s like a barter-based Kickstarter, but with both parties directly involved in the creative experience!
I met a handful of talented Bay Area art school students, grads and professors, some of whom had work on display at the event — and have robust profiles on the ExchangeWorks site.
I also had the pleasure of speaking with ExchangeWorks Founder and CEO Julia Friedman, who spent years as a gallerist and exhibitions manager before launching the platform. Julia was inspired by the artists she worked with and their procedures in creating and exhibiting their pieces. “I was interested in helping artists solve unique challenges in innovative ways,” she said. Julia started the project to not only generate support for working artists, but also, she says, “to create opportunities for the public to participate in an artistic experience.” Bringing contemporary art to a wider audience is also one of the platform’s goals.
Since its launch in November 2013, people have already accomplished successful exchanges through the community. Earlier this year Pedro Veléz, a Chicago-based artist and EW participant, needed accommodations while working on a weeks-long photo project in New York, and through EW he found a place to stay near his project location. “Not having to worry about lodging expenses in a city as expensive and prohibitive like New York really gave me the stress-free environment I needed,” Velez says in his testimonial. The space not only enabled him to produce his art, but it also inspired his next work. Pedro calls ExchangeWorks “a progressive and groundbreaking new tool” for artists, opening up opportunities for them to produce art, make connections, and flourish in today’s economic landscape.
Could this type of platform be the future of an art-based sharing economy? I hope so.
ExchangeWorks is based in Los Angeles and is currently organizing more exchange events in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Seattle.
For more information about ExchangeWorks and to join the community, visit exchangeworks.co/.