Monday, June 9, 2014

Who are the Tastemakers?

A little play on the word tastemaker....
I recently listened to a radio interview with Pharrell Williams.  You've probably heard his song, Happy on the radio in recent weeks.  (Here's a link to his video if you haven't.) Pharrell Williams has been in the music business for decades as a singer, writer and producer and yet, when praised for the success of his song, Happy, he remarked that the success didn't come his way simply because he had a good song.  He had great fans, the support of a major recording studio and.... the "tastemakers".  Who are the tastemakers? Well, in the music world, Williams said that the DJs were the taste makers.  They were the ones who decided what songs to play and when.  They decided to support new songs.  Without the support of the DJs, Happy might not be enjoying the success it is now, no matter how good it is.

That struck a chord with me (no pun intended).  So many artists across genres owe their success to a tastemaker.  In music, I believe Williams is right to credit the DJs.  In fashion, magazine editors spot talent both on and off the runway.  In traditional art circles, it's a prominent gallerist or museum curator who has confidence in the importance of an artist's work and sways public opinion.

Who are the fiber art tastemakers?

I believe that the Snydermans of the Snyderman-Works gallery in Philadelphia have "found" innovative, ground-breaking fiber artists, as well as those from other genres.  They've brought fiber art to the public via their gallery.  Jason Pollen, former Surface Design Association (SDA), comes to mind. During his years at the helm of SDA I believe he gave voice to many innovators in the fiber art field via the Surface Design journals and exhibitions.  I am sure there are others.  However, I wonder if we -- fiber artists as an artistic group -- are lacking in champions.  There is a LOT of great fiber art, but not many folks who are seeing it. 

Who are our tastemakers?

How do we find tastemakers to bring our art to the public eye?


Kristin L said...

Why can't we share the same taste makers as traditional art? I think that once one gets to the level of creating work at the level any taste maker might notice, then we do ourselves a disservice by staying isolated in our safe little fiber (or even worse, art quilt) community. Specific communities are great door openers, but maybe we need to work harder to make art that is as viable in any gallery as any other artwork, be it painting, mixed media, sculpture, video, performance, photography, etc.

kathy loomis said...

Fiber art has tastemakers -- jurors of major shows such as Quilt National, bloggers who write about fiber artists other than themselves, Martha Sielman with her books, editors of the SAQA and SDA magazines, the people who decide who will teach at QSDS. But our tastemakers speak only to the small fiber art community.

The difference is that we have no huge audience who listens to the DJs or reads the fashion magazines, thus our tastemakers don't have a wide reach.