10x10x10xTieton Juror Spotlight on Sean Elwood

10x10x10xTieton yet again hosts exceptional jurors who represent a wide perspective of art, craft, curating, and community engagement. Meet one of the 2018 jurors, Sean Elwood, former Director of Programs & Initiatives at the Creative Capitol Foundation in New York.

To help you get to know him a little better, we invited Sean to share about themselves. 

Don't forget, submissions are due June 15! Submit your work today.


Can you share with us a little about Creative Capital and your experience working there?

Creative Capital was launched in 1999. I joined the staff in 2000 as the grants officer and worked there through a number of jobs until my retirement as director of programs & initiatives on the first of July, 2017. During those 17 years I had the opportunity to work (at different levels of engagement) with over 400 artists across every creative discipline. Creative Capital awards money for a project, but then also stays attached to those projects as they develop, providing advice, opportunities to improve professional development skills, and facilitate access to networks of artists and other professionals in positions to provide opportunities to the artists we were trying to help.

I had come from the visual arts world by way of both my education (as a painter) and through my professional career to that point, so there was a fairly steep learning curve involved as I began to work with performing artists, filmmakers and writers. But by luck, or the coincidence of the historical moment, it turned out that those disciplinary “silos” have begun to break down and a majority of the projects we were supporting were blurring the lines of how they were going to manifest themselves, while at the same time, many of the concerns and issues (the content) were being shared across the different disciplines. 

I learned a lot from both my entering into the different artistic approaches, and by trying to perfect our responses to those approaches to be more effective in our ability to help. The generosity and intelligence of the artists with whom I worked provided me with a wonderful education.


How does a funding and advisory opportunity for artists like Creative Capital enhance local economies? Our national economy?

At the beginning of Creative Capital particularly, I know we were aware of Richard Florida’s whole notion of the “creative economy” and how it could positively benefit cities, states or geographical regions. Creative people can certainly help envigorate an economy. But our focus was more on providing the tools that might help an individual artist or collaborative team better support themselves. . .that is, how they could learn to better sustain their artistic career over a lifetime. With greater or lesser success, that was what we tried to do. Artists in order to make their work need a variety of skills that they may not to be taught in art school. With more artists competing for limited support and increasingly fragmented audiences, we tried to help focus of how they could better find both. 


As the National Endowment for the Arts and other government-funded arts/cultural projects are often contentious funding areas with certain administrations, what do you suggest to artists, art organizations and anyone in the creative field seeking funding and support?

The National Endowment combined with every other pubic or private funding source in the United States does not, nor have they ever, (or will they ever) provide a logical, sequential (let alone adequate) means of support for the arts and/or artists. So to make oneself more competitive in a more competitive world, one needs to be more than a talented and committed artist (or artworker). You need to become a better speaker, writer, and planner. You will need to learn how to make and follow budgets; learn about copyright laws; how to read a contract; maintain an archive and/or inventory of your work; and make out a will. You will need to understand and keep up with the technological developments in your field. Learn about marketing, branding, promotion, and advertising. Define what “success” means to you. Set some goals and write them down. None of these are particularly glamorous. And many artists don’t think these things are appropriate skills for an authentic creative person. But if you want to make work for life, you will need to know something about all of the above, even if you are lucky enough to have someone else doing these things for you, you will need to know enough to tell those people what to do. 


Why jury a small arts show like 10x10?

Because it is a challenge.  In all likelihood there will be more good work than we’ll be able to display. Some people will be sore. We will feel badly that more works couldn’t be shown. We will have to admit that this is a somewhat subjective process. We will have to admit that a day earlier, or a day later, we might have made different choices.  But I’m curious to see the work that will come in. I will see things I’ve never seen, by artists I’ve never heard of (and some I have). I’ll learn something about the region, the times, and maybe even something about myself.

What is the significance of “small” art?

The fact that you limit the size means the artists will have to adjust, they will be playing tennis with a net (they probably don’t usually limit their work to this size, or necessarily to the medium they’ll use for this show). I suspect the works will be a little more personal because they’re small. Small works are not as institutional, they are less public, they are, by their nature, more intimate.


What will you be looking for in submissions?

I don't know what, specifically, I'm looking for, but I'll know it when I see it. There will be beautiful things and un-beautiful things, clever objects and silly ones. . .all can be compelling, and all will be represented in the exhibition.

Generally, I’ll be looking for artworks that are well realized, that embody beauty, and/or intelligence, that are of this time, or are timeless. . .any or all of the above. I hope to be surprised, challenged and to walk away after our selections feeling tired, but knowing that I’ve discovered something new to my experience, and that we have created an exhibition worth seeing and talking about.