Imagine yourself in the 1800s; you’re an artist in France, and you’ve been invited to a local salon to meet other creatives like yourself. People are moving about, eating, drinking, and sharing conversation as you enter. While there, you learn of an impressionistic painter working on a new brush technique, a musician exploring the capabilities of the evolving piano, and a writer working on a mystery novel. There’s also a conversation about the day’s politics and local gossip. The mood is light and friendly, and you are immediately drawn into the community, exchanging ideas and building friendships.
Flash forward to 2023. If you’re like me and work from home, days can pass without human connection beyond my household and Inbox. Sure, the pandemic has taught us efficiencies and luxuries like Zoom meetings and working in our PJs, but it has also caused professional isolation that bears little resemblance to the community offered by the earlier salons.
This is where Art Party comes in!
Started in February 2019 by Oscar Mireles, former Poet Laureate (2016-20) of the City of Madison and Executive Director of Omega School, and Samantha Becker Crownover, the Executive Director of Bach Dancing & Dynamite and owner of Brisbane House, Art Party-Madison is a monthly Tuesday-night event for artists, arts administrators, and enthusiasts to exchange ideas and socialize outside of their day-to-day activities.
Now, barely a year beyond the pandemic, Art Party has grown into a welcoming space for artists to get out of the studio or office and reclaim connection.
A Gathering Place
The Art Party Facebook page describes the events as “free happy hour gatherings for creative people.” In Oscar’s words, “Samantha and I see Art Party as a way to bring the arts community together on a monthly basis to share ideas, collaborate, and find support. Artists often work alone on their projects and initiatives, and Art Party provides a vehicle for connections with other artists in the community.”
Group members can also share posts on the group page about upcoming events, gallery nights, new works, business news, and employment opportunities. Who doesn’t want free promotion, right?
It’s so much more than networking!
At a recent party, one artist shared with me, ‘It can feel a little like speed-dating for business.’ And though it does have elements of traditional business networking, it’s so much more than that.
Through the events, I’ve met a diverse and creative melting pot of artistic professionals, which has expanded my circle of friends and colleagues in the same field. I’ve had conversations about fundraising, poetry, music, nonprofit management, education, and much more. As someone who works on my own most of the time, these moments provide opportunities to commiserate with others in the arts community about the challenges we face, but more often than not, they remind me why we do what we do.
Recent parties have been hosted at places such as the Madison Central Library, Madison Community Foundation, Wisconsin Union, Art Working, showcasing the wealth of arts-based businesses in Dane County.
We all have our reasons, but for me, I look forward to getting away from my desk and out of my house. The evening events allow me to clear my head from managing a nonprofit arts organization, and having a scheduled activity to share and learn new ideas grounds me in my work and is a highlight of my month.
I hope you’ll join us!
The next Art Party is on November 14th from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Giant Jones Brewing Company; you won’t want to miss it!
-written by Kari Walton, Prairie Music & Arts Executive Director, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts education organization in Sun Prairie