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The Social Distance Art Project:

Origin and Expectations

· art

by Natasha Alexander

» In March of this year, I co-founded The Social Distance Art Project (TSDAP) with five other 2020 graduates: Alex Appleby and Jasmine McKnight of York St John University, Julia Pomeroy of Leeds Arts University and Emma Trevor of Newcastle University.

TSDAP was created in the wake of The Coronavirus Pandemic to accommodate digital promotion for graduates in the absence of physical degree shows. From this modest beginning the project quickly grew into a group of almost 500 artists, predominantly from the UK. Platforms such as ours have made apparent a need that predates and will succeed Social Distancing, namely, to move away from older models of career development in the arts, whereby, in the absence of any support structure or community, recently graduated and emerging artists are typically left to themselves to navigate the complex transition from student to professional. In an industry increasingly difficult to break into, the collective momentum of the past several months must be built upon and new structures must be devised under this premise.

Post graduation, the art student sees the communal structures, in which shared studios, peer critique and social interaction are readily available, vanish abruptly. The new graduate, already consumed by the fear of an uncertain future, is in a suspended state of isolation. Yet, evidence suggests that being in the company of like-minded individuals contributes to health, happiness and success, both in and out of the industry. Young and emerging artists are in need of a model that reflects this need for shared community, with whom they recognise similar goals. Not only has this method alleviated current anxieties for those who have participated in this venture, it has and continues to encourage productivity and contribute to a unique spread of opportunities.

Working collectively is by no means a recent concept, but the harnessing of digital methods in this way is presenting itself as a necessary step in enabling progression in the arts. Additionally, access to global art registration and sales, like that offered by the SHIM Art Network and their democratisation of the Artsy platform - currently the world’s largest art registration e-commerce site, accommodate the vital expansion of an artist’s audience. Furthermore, this being a framework that is built upon community, far-reaching exposure can be achieved without the need for International Travel, impossible now due to the restrictions imposed by the Pandemic but also, moving forward, environmentally and commercially unsustainable. Those contributing to this new model of shared identity groups may never have a physical encounter with one another, but still engage with the entire group representation at exhibitions and art fairs across the world.

By no means were these issues quick to present themselves, in fact, they are the product of decades without change. Likewise, no simplistic solution can arise overnight. Over the coming months, I shall be writing monthly articles to introduce some of the methods SHIM and TSDAP intend to work upon together. As I share my thoughts, I look forward to hearing and learning from you the ways in which we can improve our connections with one another. Together, my hope is that we may build a new model for the art world, more equal and diverse than the one already in existence.

Natasha Alexander recently completed a BA in Fine Art at York St John University. She is 22 years old and lives and works in the UK.

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