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Itinerant Artist Project

Several years ago, a folksinger suggested that if I wanted to survive as a painter I might have to get used to staying in other people's houses. That was the seed for my idea of an Itinerant Artist Project.

Although the project eventually came to embrace a complex set of interests and motivations, its appeal to me owes a lot to its emulation of the folksinger model: bringing my art into people's lives while having a more or less supportive, interested audience to interact with, day after day. It struck me as - and has proven to be - a welcome contrast to the usual routine that most artists take for granted: working in isolation, then, maybe once a year, meeting a small crowd at an exhibition opening for a few hours. (more...)

There is gift-exchange in my life, to be sure, but even I have never had the nerve to try an experiment as full as the one you undertook. Bravo!

- Lewis Hyde, author of The Gift and Trickster Makes This World

. . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . ... . . . . . . .The original logo (photo by Theo Gray)

The Itinerant Artist Project is a painting-based project with strong public outreach and performance dimensions. It involves locating (by various means) a series of voluntary "hosts" around the USA, touring by car from host to host, and at each stop painting several small location paintings, offering one in exchange for the hospitality provided (room, board and occasional conversation for 2-5 days).

Among other things, the project explores the function of art as gift and the effect of a gift economy on productivity. The first phase was done in five main installments, covering six months during the years 2000-2006.

The second phase, beginning with the 2007 tour, has focused more on sharing IAP art and ideas with a larger audience, through talks, exhibits, and collaboration with the media to get the story out. Increasingly I organize tours and extended residencies around speaking and exhibiting opportunities. At the same time I have been experimenting with more local-scale touring: concentrating on seeing a small region, city or town from several vantage points. Notable in this respect was a 10-stop tour of my hometown, Rochester, NY, called ROC-ART. Future tours may include US borderlands, with travel extending into Canada and possibly Mexico for cultural and geographic contrast.

The IAP has been pivotal for my development as an artist. Besides giving me new ways to think about my role as a painter, and as a mediator between art and place and public, the touring has stimulated unexpected productivity, and the resulting artwork has drawn local and national attention through a number of articles, exhibits and presentations.

While the art road trips and short residencies that I have undertaken over the past several years are at the heart of the IAP, the project now also includes a large set of paintings and experiences from which I've assembled traveling exhibits, public multi-media presentations, art talks, and the beginnings of a book. There's even a line of prints and greeting cards that reproduce some of the paintings I've done during my travels.

Although the touring itself is based on the principle of gift exchange and is therefore largely self-supporting and largely removed from the market economy, sales of paintings (sometimes to hosts who want more than one), prints and cards are necessary to cover inevitable project expenses and to keep me going the rest of the time. Purchases, sponsorship, commissions, and patronage of any kind are all greatly appreciated.

It is my hope, however, that viewers of my art and visitors to this website will, first and foremost, simply find interest, enjoyment, and something to think about in what they find.

For more information, follow the various links on this page, or email: jim @ jimmott.com


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