I graduated with a BFA from Cooper Union in the winter of 2007. At that time, I worked a lot of odd jobs, ranging from graphic design to service work gigs, to working part-time as a research and studio assistant for Natalie Jeremijenko. I also had a job working the night shift from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. where I was required to stay awake all night and monitor a studio space by walking around every hour, on the hour, and making sure people were working safely. I had a computer in my office, so when I wasn’t monitoring the studio, I spent a lot of time reading, listening to things, sewing, and thinking about what to do after school. One night in 2008, I read about a grant called Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists (or ERPA, for short), funded by a non-profit called The Field. They described the grant in the following ways:
ERPA grows from the premise that the traditional non-profit model of fundraising does not support the majority of performing artists in New York City. This lack of financial solvency leads to early departures from New York, early departures from art-making, and ultimately, a diminishment of New York’s vibrancy and vitality. ERPA aims to combat these challenges by asking artists to conceive dynamic solutions for financial stability, and giving them the tools, resources, and cash to help develop their ideas. As its name implies, ERPA aims to thus revitalize performing artists’ and arts organizations’ economic lives for long-term impact.
After listening to the “information sessions” that The Field made accessible online, I decided to try to apply for the grant, and to convince The Field that I was a performing artist, even though I went to school to study visual art. What follows is the first successful grant that I wrote, at age 23, right out of school. This got me $5,000, a mentorship from Jennifer Wright Cook, and meetings with a cohort of professional artists who supported me and believed in my idea. This also allowed me to convince four other people to join me in creating a multi-year project.
In American culture, especially if you are owning-class and/or white, you’re told that success is self-reliance. It means making enough money so you can buy help, you don’t have to ask anyone for anything. And it makes two kinds of people: we see people who have a lot of needs, and then people who have succeeded, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and who might be charitable towards these other people. This image of assumed need over here and success and self reliance over there is something we want to do away with altogether.
— Caroline Woolard, at an event with Jen Abrams in 2013
ARTISTIC STATEMENT — CAROLINE WOOLARD NOVEMBER 5, 2008
+ ABOUT ME:
+ CV IN PARAGRAPH FORM:
+ ABOUT MY WORK:
+ ABOUT ME: I endeavor to exist as both a rigorous artist and decent human being, moving daily with curiosity, generosity, and integrity. I attempt to find a wide audience for an ever-expanding notion of art, pushing for creative dissatisfaction: plausible alternatives to the monotonous routine.
+ CV IN PARAGRAPH FORM: Born on an island in RI and based in NY, Caroline Woolard received a BFA from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 2006. As a Research Scholar at NYU’s Environmental Health Clinic, a Research Assistant at Mildred’s Lane, and an Artist in Residence at the Brecht Forum, Woolard investigates the construction of subjectivity in architecture, art, and design. Woolard’s interventions are presented publicly in the urban environment and have been affiliated with psychogeographic events like Conflux in NY, Cryptic Providence in RI, and Unoccupied Spaces in Montreal. These interventions enter the public imagination and have been investigated by TimeOut NY and Wallpaper* Magazine. Caroline Woolard is the recipient of a MacDowell Colony Residency, a Watermill Residency, a Pilchuck Scholarship, the Leon Levy Foundation Grant, and The Elliot Lash Award for Excellence in Sculpture. Her work has been shown at the Newport Art Museum in RI, Jackson Gallery in GA, Oxbow Gallery in MI, and The Bruce High Quality Foundation in NY.
+ ABOUT MY WORK: In 2004, I moved to the edge of a discipline (sculpture) and peered into the abyss of another (dance). My interdisciplinary work combines sculptural tools and bodies, pushing boundaries with creative dissatisfaction, what Helen Cixous describes as “the possibility of taking a mountain into one’s arms.” I create platforms for experience in public space. I subvert domestic objects like chairs and lights to cultivate collective curiosity. I explore the space between people and architecture: making a place for the body amidst gigantic buildings on the street of NY and finding new ways to occupy pedestrian space. My sculptures are often tools for action, implying protagonists in an unknown narrative. Currently, I am developing a performance with Linda Austin inspired by the absurd wonder of human factors engineering: I witness and record her as she uses my swings, megaphones, curtains, light bulbs, and utility dresses as I choreograph a new work for Watermill in March.
+ IN 5 YEARS:
+ INNOVATIVE SOLUTION:
+ SUPPORT: I am employed by Cooper Union as a studio monitor, where I work the night shift. I am also “supported” by residencies like the MacDowell Colony and Watermill and by mentors that I met in school or introduced myself to. I also receive small payments for the pedagogical assistance I give to Morgan Puett at Mildred’s Lane in PA, Richard Reiss at Artist As Citizen in NY, and Natalie Jeremijenko at the Environmental Health Clinic in NY.
+ IN 5 YEARS: I hope to have settled into one or two long term projects (2-5 years) with a community. I hope to find the best structure for public participation and financial self sufficiency: will it be public art projects with community invested stocks? Will it be a new kind of “house party” that enables community solidarity without the obligatory hierarchy of institutionalized artist heroes? Will it be a design firm or an alternative restaurant as a parallel revenue stream alongside my artistic practice?
+ INNOVATIVE SOLUTION: In June of this year, I started an LLC and studio space with a group of peers. We built out an 8,000 square foot warehouse and now rent it to 28 incredible people in order to stay in one place for eight years and partially subsidize our own studios. Although studio renovations are commonplace, the large scale collaborative effort that enabled this endeavor seems unusual to me. Each day we learn something new and/or teach a skill to at least one other person. Each person exchanges individual resources for rent: one artist pays part of her rent in vegetables from the farmer’s market where she works, another in web design assistance, and many others in construction labor. We pool many other resources and have group critiques. This peer group is responsible for my intellectual/spiritual well being. I am excited to advise others about our process and will speak at RISD’s professional practice class in 2009.
+ ERPA IDEA/PROJECT:
+ NEW FINANCIAL STREAMS:
+ CONNECTION TO ARTISTIC STATEMENT:
+ ERPA IDEA/PROJECT: Online Network for Peer-to-Peer Artistic Support (P2P-AS) An online network for peer-to-peer artistic support. Artists upload proposals that require more money, space, volunteers, or materials and any interested party can donate the necessary goods. Rather than the ubiquitous online portfolio site of self interested megalomania, which perpetuates a hierarchy with support from above, this website helps artists look to each other for recognition and fulfillment. Here, artists upload project proposals with requests for support (money, space, materials, volunteers, etc.) AND make personal donations to other people’s projects. This network will visualize contemporary trends, create artistic bonds, and foster communication between the public at large and individual artists.
Questions that will be made visible are: Which artist gets the most support from other artists? Do users have more time, money, space, or materials to donate? Do users end up helping the same person that helped them, essentially bartering resources? What longstanding bonds can be made through volunteering? How can peer-to-peer generosity adapt to other fields?
+ NEW FINANCIAL STREAMS: Modeling itself off of websites like kiva.org, craiglist.org, and couchsurfing.com, this website will state that it is also in need of monetary support. Hopefully, artists will donate to the “mothership” as their “satellite” projects are successfully supported.
+ CONNECTION TO ARTISTIC STATEMENT: My projects are often presented in public space because I want to introduce positive alternatives to the status quo in the public imagination. This project presents artists as generous people who are invested in more than egomania. Instead of perpetuating the model of a successful career as a ruthlessly claimed top seat in a competitive pyramid of success, the website will help artists look to each other for recognition and fulfillment. Real world connections will also establish a more densely interconnected fabric of human relations in the creative community. Lastly, artists will learn how to manage volunteers and organize generosity more effectively.
+ FEASIBILITY AND MY GUARANTEE FOR COMPLETION:
+ IMPACT OF ERPA RESOURCES:
+ FEASIBILITY AND MY GUARANTEE FOR COMPLETION: The minimum grant of $5,000 will easily support the server costs and web designer salary. I am in contact with many young web designers who I could hire to complete the project: from Jeffery Warren at MIT’s media lab to Roy Rub of toposgraphics.com and Louise Ma at the New York Times’ design team. Stefan Sagmeister supported my subway swing project and could help me find an excel- lent designer as well. I outsource my projects when specialization is the most effective solution (as I did with the fabrication of my subway swings) and am quite familiar with these contracts from my work for Natalie Jeremijenko at the Environmental Health Clinic. Frankly, this project simply must happen and I am undeterred in finding a way to produce it.
+ IMPACT OF ERPA RESOURCES: I know that simply creating a framework for peer-to-peer generosity is not enough. For example: How effectively will individual artists manage volunteers? ERPA’s human resources are invaluable, as individual experience in sustainable venture philanthropy will help guide the underlying methodology and structure the site with pragmatism and dignity. I suspect that ERPA has web design suggestions and contacts that could provide technical support as well.
+ EXCITEMENT FOR ERPA’S IDEAS AND RESOURCES:
+ REPLICABILITY/SUSTAINABILITY: This website has no foreseen end and could be replicated in any field.
+ EXCITEMENT FOR ERPA’S IDEAS AND RESOURCES: I am inspired by the incredible human resources at ERPA: the network of entrepreneurs (especially women) who are committed to conscious capitalism and social entrepreneurship. Many ideas I’ve had are being carried out by pioneers who spoke at ERPA workshops. Access to this level of self determination and collaborative genius is so exciting that I may have to track these people down individually no matter what.
Ideological note about venues: I am committed to performing in public space. I firmly believe in the importance of spontaneous interruptions in daily life because predictability stifles imagination. Unexpected encounters with high quality performance works in public space enrich the cultural experience of any place. I make certain that participation or viewership is organized respectfully, so that users self nominate and audiences self organize and no one feels obligated to experience the event. Further, my work involves constructing experiences with tools and props that choreograph actions, following a history of interventionist practice and performance art.
Was That You or the House?,
Watermill March 28 (upcoming)
Swinging on the Subway,
the L train
Cooper Union, ongoing