Alternative To What? Alternative Art Economies Summer Sessions

Audience gathered for a poetry reading by Jennifer Bartlett, April 24, 1974.

Audience gathered at Artist Space for a poetry reading by Jennifer Bartlett, April 24, 1974.

What do we mean by Alternative Art Economies? And what are we looking to find an alternative to? The semantic ambiguities that plague the terms autonomy, community, and democracy, also plague the term alternative. Within an art making context, the application of the term alternative can be read as redundant; as the path of an artist is often already perceived as an alternative to a traditional nine to five job.

In various sessions we will try to identify possible alternatives to the legacy economic structures and traditional work models that have been built around art making. What is the purpose of alternative economies in our society and world today and the significance of having these alternatives as we move into the future? Perhaps a re-examination of the history of alternative and traditional models –participants, processes, and outcomes –can form the basis. From there can we do a closer examination of new alternative economies in the arts, post-occupy wall street.

We don’t have the answers, and while our working group has been focusing on this issue for some time and many people have worked along these lines in the past, we call on others to collaborate and build out this course and the following sessions. We are open to exploring this subject through collective and collaborative readings, interviews, walks, field trips, picnics, films and other ideas the group might have.

What do we mean by Alternative Art Economies? And what are we looking to find an alternative to?

[This series has concluded]

Session 1: Sunday, July 6th, 2014
Caution! Alternative Space! Group Material Flyer Sept1981

Artist-Organized Spaces:
Walking + Reading Tour**

4:00pm – Meet in front of Carriage Trade**, 62 Walker St.
5:00pm – Meet in front of Artists Space**, 32 Green St., 3rd fl.

** We are making stops at these locations. 
** These locations are NOT affiliated with Arts & Labor or this Summer Series. Sorry for any confusion.


In this first session we will attempt to trace the history of “alternative spaces.” Through various essays, primary sources, news clipping, chronologies, and personal reflections, we will try to understand the context, possible motors, shifts the landscape, and the people involved and their intentions. It’s also important to note that what we know about alternative spaces is still unfolding…

[more info & readings: session-1-july-6]

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Session #2: Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Art Worker Formations:
Unions, Guilds, & Cooperatives
5:00-7:00pm – Washington Square Park,
at West 4th St. and Washington Square East
(find us on the grass southeast of the fountain)
*Rain location at Think Coffee, 248 Mercer St.

In this second session of Alternative Economie’s (a working group of Arts & Labor) summer series, we will discuss the history of Art Worker Formations (Unions, Guilds & Cooperatives), discuss labor in the culture industry – including past and present collectivization, and consider the common needs of an art worker in the United States and the viability of forming a union to address those needs.

[IMAGE: "Artists Union Membership." Artists As Militant Trade Union Workers during the Great Depression, Gerald M. Moore, Archives of American Art Journal, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1974), pp. 7-10]

[more info & readings: session-2-july-20]

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Session 3: Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Exchange Cafe, Alternative Economies, 2013.Imagining Future Models
4-5:40 p.m. – The Base, 1302 Myrtle Ave at Stockholm St, Brooklyn, NY.
7p.m. – Potluck at 1882 Woodbine, 1882 Woodbine St Ridgewood, NY 11385

“What is the purpose of alternative economies in our society and world today and the significance of having these alternatives as we move into the future?”

How can we reimagine the current economic systems in place so that they are sustainable for artists, workers, and the community? In the third session of Alternative To What?, will brainstorm both possible immediate and long-term alternative models to the current market economy and structures that can benefit the entire community. We encourage participants to come with questions and ideas of how we can collectively transform predominant capitalist hierarchies into economies where everyone has a fair opportunity to benefit and have an equal voice. All ideas of the alternative are welcomed, from the small to radical change…

[more info & readings: session-3-august-10]

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