Collaborating with a local artist for your TEDx event
After deciding that we wanted to make having an art installation a priority at our event — TEDxConcordiaUPortland — we began the process of looking for an artist who was local and would be able to work within TED’s license guidelines. Luckily, I was able to locate Blaine Fontana through a curator I had worked with in the past.
Even if you aren’t heavily involved in your city’s art scene it’s still possible to bring in a great local-level talent to work with. TEDxConcordiaUPortland wanted an artist who would be able to represent the feel of our event, which was based on great ideas happening in Portland, so we began looking for an artist who was able to represent Portland culture.
The first step is deciding what type of work or artist would fit with your event’s voice. If you aren’t terribly familiar with you city’s art scene, you can begin by simply asking around at galleries, or even e-mailing them. Many cities have some sort of monthly art walk that would be perfect to talk with curators about potential artist that would fit into your events scope. People in the art scene tend to be familiar with TED and will want to help you, as a TEDx Organizer, promote the local art scene.
After discussing our ideas for artistic involvement with our chosen artist Blaine Fontana, we realized that the best fit for us would be to create an installation as our stage’s backdrop. An onstage installation worked our perfectly for us but isn’t the only option for a TEDx event. An artist could create an installation elsewhere on your grounds, a mural, design your events guidebook cover or bring in smaller pieces (or previous work) to be displayed during conversation breaks that would work with your time and space constraints.
Blaine Fontana took on a very large role for us (not every artistic involvement need to bethat big though) and we made sure to dialogue with him throughout the process of his installation building and the planning of the event. Without that sort of communication I don’t think the project would have turned out nearly as well. This can also be good to keep your artist aware of deadlines and expectations and make them feel like they are actively involved in the planning of your event, which, in our case, Blaine was.
It’s important to be flexible. Initially I wanted our artistic involvement to be something that wasn’t logistically possible for our space. Not being able to do that paved the way for the onstage installation, which worked out better than anyone could have imagined.
The onstage installation worked out for us because it allowed us to showcase Blaine Fontana’s work that he tied in amazingly well to the feel of the event and, as an added bonus, if we choose to use it again in future events, it would also create an instantly recognizable backdrop for videos of other events.
A few other tidbits that could help you in your search:
- Be clear about expectations and start the artist involvement search early in the planning stage.
- If you don’t have any idea what you’re looking for it’s ok! Artists are creative and can help you find ways to bring out the voice in your event even if you’re not sure what the concept may look like.
- Make sure your artist has some recommendations or has done previous work with deadlines attached (curators would be great to ask about these sorts of things); many artists can be flaky and my try to take on a task that’s bigger than they initially thought.
- If the artist is doing to an interpretation of your event’s logo that may appear in a video it’s important to let an artist know ahead of time what TED’s guidelines are for logo work.
- Many artists aren’t rich, and by taking on a task for a TEDx event they’re eating into the time and effort they would otherwise use to make a living; credit them whenever possible.
Written by Ira LaFontaine, planning team member for TEDxConcordiaUPortland