Seeds Of Change.
Before RZN8, Art Conspiracy Executive Director Todd McCaulay Talks About The Future Of ArtCon.
By Cory on Friday August 24 2012 at 2:24 PM
Since 2005, local arts-based non-profit Art Conspiracy has been bringing together Dallas artists, musicians, art lovers and philanthropists together for annual grassroots events aimed at raising funds for local art-based programs and groups. In that time, they've raised over $110,000 for groups such as Today Marks the Beginning's MasterPEACE program, Resolana, Preservation LINK, La Reunion TX and the St. Anthony Community Center.
But before their big ArtCon events that happen every fall, the folks behind the non-profit hold smaller shows at the end of the summer in order to raise the seed money that will help transform a historic, under-utilized building into an art gallery and event space in November.
As such, ArtCon will be holding RZN8, their 8th annual Seed event, at Life in Deep Ellum tomorrow night. As part of the 8-bit-themed event, musicians Datahowler, Kirby Brown, Spookeasy and Home by Hovercraft will perform, and local artists will be auctioning off pieces starting at just $20.
In advance of the RZN8 event, we spoke with ArtCon co-executive director Todd McCaulay about changes to this year's Seed event and to this fall's big Art Conspiracy fundraiser now that he's in charge.
How long have you been involved with Art Conspiracy?
I've been involved since 2009. I worked the door one year for the volunteer coordinator at that time. Then, the following year, that volunteer coordinator decided to step out of her role and I went into volunteer coordination. I was doing that up until this year when I was promoted to co-executive director.
What kind of responsibilities come with that promotion?
ArtCon, functionally, is broken down into two parts: We have a governance board with about 15 members now, and we have an operations board executive team. Erik Glissmann, my co-director, and myself basically manage that team. That team's responsibility is literally just to put on the shows. So we're operations, basically. We take our direction in broad strokes from the board.
How will this weekend's RZN8 event differ from past years' Seed events?
Seed, initially, was created for us to get the seed money to become a 501(c)(3). Ever since that first year, it became apparent that, in order to put on bigger and better ArtCons in the fall, we needed an influx of money, because we found ourselves having to dip personally into our own pockets to make it happen.
The idea was put out there that we hold a Seed money event to get us some capital for the fall.
This year's is a little different from most Seeds in the sense that I think we're putting more into it this year than we have in the past. It is really becoming a second show, not just a seed money show. It's starting to grow into its own entity. The art you normally see at ArtCon is made within a 24-hour period and is on 18-by-18 pieces of plywood, generally speaking. For the Seed event, we supply the artists with a prop, or a piece of inspiration that they're to integrate into their pieces. This year, we're using speakers. In the past, we've done everything from coffee cans to lamps, clocks and garden gnomes.
In this event, what you see a lot more of is functional artwork. It's curated, and generally a lot more time is put into it. It really is becoming its own beast at this point. Even though it's purpose remains the same, we are finding ourselves with a little bit of a different focus.
Along that same line, how does this year's ArtCon look to differ from past years?
Our organization is evolving a bit. For this year's ArtCon, we're hitting the ground earlier, we're thinking harder and we're doing more ahead of time than we ever have in the past for either Seed or ArtCon. We restructured our executive team. We created several new posts for executive team, as well as creating five new board member slots. We're becoming a larger organization, and we're becoming a more mature organization.
What people are going to see at ArtCon 8 as opposed to ArtCon 7 is a generalized evolution. It'll be an evolution now, and we hope to continue that evolution year in and year out.
Really, we put on two shows a year and we want to grow into our own shoes. So we're starting to think bigger and we're starting to think more in-depth. I think, over time, that level of maturity is bringing forth new opportunities and ideas for us to try new things. I think you'll see some interesting surprises at ArtCon 8.
What are some of these things that you think you'll grow into? What are some of these new directions you are thinking of going in?
Right now, we're still dealing with a lot of feasibility, but the whole quality of event will be better. We're thinking of doing some pilot programs of other ways of showing art. We're trying to involve technology a lot more heavily at ArtCon than we have in the past. We've used QR codes and made virtual programs in the past, but we're really trying to take it a level further this year. We're going to try to completely automate that process if we can.
This year, we're really making a push towards making sure more of Dallas knows what Art Conspiracy is, and sort of bringing up a groundswell there. Hopefully, there will be more conspiratorial trickery in the marketing this year, which is always fun for us.
We've always enjoyed that aspect of the organization.
Why is it important for people in Dallas to support RZN8 and ArtCon?
There are other art non-profits out there, but I think the thing that really differentiates Art Conspiracy from other art non-profits is that none of our money is ever intended to leave Dallas. Secondly, we are completely non-profit. We don't pay our people. We are completely volunteer-based. Third, we are eight years in, which for an arts-based non-profit is sort of a big deal. Lastly, we have the support of the people, and people seem to want this.
Not only do we help artists who are maybe newer to the scene get recognition, but we're fostering a grassroots groundswell of support for arts in Dallas. I think that's a very noble secondary characteristic of ArtCon.
RZN8 kicks off at 7 p.m. on Saturday night at Life in Deep Ellum. Cover is $10.