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BmoreArt Releases Issue 16: Collaboration

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The Collaboration Issue.

I receive ten to twenty emails with the heading “Invitation to Collaborate” on any given day. This barrage of auto-solicitation is a losing whack-a-mole competition—I delete whole batches at a time while dozens more crop up.

Most are tailored to the role of an art magazine, offering “excellent paid content” for our readers or PR requests to cover art exhibitions in far-off places. Sadly, none of these emails bring anything of value to BmoreArt, but they have gotten me thinking: What is collaboration? And how do we know if it’s working?

Everything good in Baltimore is the result of collaboration, right? This is a mantra repeated by all sorts of civic and cultural leaders and I know I have said it myself, in earnest. But what does this actually mean? We dedicated Issue 16 to finding out.

A collaboration entails two distinct entities coming together for an exchange of energy, where the result generated from the combination is greater than the sum of its parts. A good alliance requires trust and establishes a relationship. To be successful, both parties agree on the terms and goals, and benefits are shared equitably.

 

Table of Contents for Issue 16: Collaboration next to the Creative Alliance and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, featuring a new exhibition
Table of Contents for Issue 16: Collaboration next to ad placement by MICA, Baltimore's arts anchor and the reason so many excellent artists live and work here!
In Issue 16, we explore synergistic models in the region, artists whose practice invites others in, organizations who prioritize collective action, and institutional entities willing to elevate local partners.
Cara Ober

Art is often the impetus for collaboration, but becomes secondary in value to the partnership itself, which evolves over time. In a city with limited resources, it can be challenging to select the right partners to work with.

This process is fairly simple when collaborators are evenly matched; it feels good to volunteer your time and share resources under these conditions. But what about when collaborative partners are distinctly different in size, funding, staffing, and resources?

Most collaborations will occur across a power imbalance. These types of partnerships can be transformative, but they can easily become problematic, opaque, and even predatory. The more powerful member can make unilateral and insensitive decisions, while the responsibility of correcting behavior falls upon the lesser entity, which typically has fewer staff members, less time, and needs the relationship more.

I find myself in both collaborative roles all the time at BmoreArt, attempting to convince much larger entities to support the work we are doing and highlighting all the ways they benefit from it while also working to create coverage, programs, and opportunities which elevate smaller arts organizations and highlight individual artists.

Our team works diligently to build trust with our readers and contributors, but the truth is sometimes we fail. Or rather, sometimes I fail, not out of nefarious intent but because I’m out of time, out of energy, and trying to do too damn much.

 

The Rubys Grants supports the arts ecosystem in the region!
Visit Baltimore, you support Baltimore's creative ecosystem in so many ways it's hard to count!
The Walters purchased out back cover for the first time ever!!! Thank you for this gorgeous image!!
The Arts at UMBC: Excellent MFA Program and Gallery!
Our goal for this issue is to encourage successful models of transformative action and to encourage those who can to share resources and enter into collaborative relationships.
Cara Ober

BmoreArt’s beautiful print journals always require us to operate from a space of collaboration and co-creation. In Issue “Sweet” 16, we explore synergistic models in the region, artists whose practice invites others in, organizations who prioritize collective action, and institutional entities willing to elevate local partners.

Our stories include Our Time Kitchen, a woman-centric ghost kitchen that creates a safe space to run a business; Graham Projects on our COVER, whose public art makes our streets safer; Mobtown Ballroom’s dynamic place-making ethos; JHU Sheridan Libraries Artist-in-Residence Nicoletta Daríta de la Brown; Greedy Reads sell-out Water Taxi cruises; Second Chance’s mission to uplift individuals as well as historic things; Elena Volkova’s portrait series which offer stability to displaced communities; the Baltimore Met Gala’s fusion of fashion design and philanthropy; how Made in Baltimore is building a successful market for makers and small business owners; and so many other artists who place collaboration at the center of their practice.

Our goal for this issue is to encourage successful models of transformative action and to encourage those who can to share resources and enter into collaborative relationships. We do so in signature BmoreArt style, where gorgeous photography by some of our most talented lens-based artists establishes an iconic vision for each story.

What I love most about the work we do is shining a light on the talent, innovation, and genius that exists here in Baltimore and surrounding areas—but, more and more, being a good steward means scaling this vision down, ‘right-sizing’ to be in line with reality, and managing expectations. It’s so frustrating to have to say no or to give up on certain relationships when they could possibly add so much value to our city, but alliances only work when parties are equally invested.

 

BOPA’s Emerge Baltimore Exhibit at the Bromo Arts Tower curated by Kirk Shannon-Butts
Made in Baltimore Holiday Shop, Classic Movie Houses - The Charles & Senator Theatres, and Classic Catering who helps us significantly in hosting our magazine release parties!
Contributors Page alongside Baltimore Spirits Company, Night Owl Gallery, Everyman Theatre, and Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD

I know we tend to emphasize the subjects of our stories, but I would like to draw your attention to our advertising partners in Issue 16. While this might seem obvious, I need to say it, over and over again: BmoreArt cannot exist without the support of a variety of organizations, institutions, and individuals. This is what advertising IS for us; it’s an ongoing partnership.

Within a traditional commercial setting, advertising is a transactional relationship between someone who wants access to a specific audience and a large publication, one with an entire staff dedicated to selling ads. HOWEVER, our team is made of just four incredible, high-functioning people, with two part-time editors, so for us, these relationships are collaborative and personal.

At BmoreArt, any and all advertising purchases are a vote of confidence in our mission and continued existence. We may be a small publication, but our readers are 100% engaged with the arts and culture, so what we offer is niche, but also–incredibly special and powerful.

We spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to secure support for our publication in this way, and we appreciate SO MUCH the organizations who simply say YES when we ask for their support, whatever form that support takes. For our team, these relationships are vital and we look forward to collaborating with our media partners throughout the year around the shared mission of elevating Baltimore art and culture so that artists and organizations succeed.

Our city needs innovative creative networks and we are all enriched by the artists and organizations forging a path forward. For those organizations who made the choice to support BmoreArt in this way, we cannot thank you enough!

Readers, please send a virtual round of applause to: The Walters Art Museum, BOPA, Visit Baltimore, MICA, UMBC, The Ruby’s, Creative Alliance, Classic Catering, The Reginald Lewis Museum, Made in Baltimore, Everyman Theatre, Night Owl Gallery, Academy Art Museum, Highlandtown Gallery, the American Craft Council, Open Works, the Charles and Senator Theatres, Union Brewing, and Baltimore Spirits Company. Whether you are familiar with these organizations or they are new to you, I encourage you to give them another look and consider the value of choosing to support local and regional organizations who support other organizations.

I see the hard work these entities are doing for the arts and artists in the region and appreciate it. For all those who said NO and chose not to engage with us in this way, we hope you’ll reconsider next time–and mainly because you appreciate what BmoreArt is doing and you want us to continue to do it, and not because we have a specific circulation or the generic  visibility of city busses or billboards.

Collaboration is essential but also inconvenient and messy. It is exactly when relationships are the least convenient that it is most important to honor our commitments and consider what our values are. Partnership requires time: for conversations and communication, for listening and consensus, and to create a space where disagreement can be honored.

These conversations are difficult, but essential, when we operate from a place of learning together. This is where solid relationships are forged and it is only through collaboration, understanding that we cannot achieve our goals separately, that we succeed together.

 

SUBSCRIBE to join our community and receive Issue 16 in the mail. If you want to be invited to our release parties and private events, subscribe at the Artist or Premium Level! If you’re not yet a subscriber, you can head to area booksellers next week to purchase in person! We will deliver them as soon as we can.

 

Open Works maker space is amazing! next to Union Brewing, one of our event sponsors

This story is from Issue 16: Collaboration, available here.

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