- Body painter Josh Counsel at work during a recent RAW showcase
You’ve got an artistic vision burning in your brain that you’ve just got to share with the world. You’ve taken art classes, painstakingly honed your skills and perhaps even completed a degree in your chosen discipline. What comes next? How do you get your work seen?
Plenty of arts organizations have been established to help you get your work out into the arts community. The first iteration of what would become RAW: Natural Born Artists was organized in Los Angeles by fashion designer Heidi Luerra in 2005. RAW has since grown to have a presence in more than 50 cities in America as well as Brisbane, Australia. Cities host monthly showcases, and work is also showcased online, with online voting and judging working up to a national finals competition in mid-January in Los Angeles.
Originally a nonprofit, RAW dropped its nonprofit status when it went nationwide. “We consider ourselves a hybrid of sorts, in that while we are a for-profit company, we retain our same altruistic mission and all of the money coming into the organization goes right back into it in one way or another,” says Molly Waseka, U.S. events director.
This month’s RAW Artists Salt Lake City event is Translations at The Complex on Oct. 24. The environment of the RAW events may seem slightly unusual to those who are used to attending gallery shows. The mood is set by a DJ, and “cocktail attire” is usually suggested to create an atmosphere that mixes an art event with, say, going out to a club.
Artists are required to each sell 20 tickets to the showcase, which is a sticking point for some artists, who also say that the events aren’t promoted properly. Since this month’s Salt Lake City event is all ages, it’s considered a private event, and The Complex doesn’t do any promotion in such cases.
“RAW is fully funded on ticket sales, so [sales] go to a variety of things, including the event production itself, staff payments, venue fees, rentals and our website,” Waseka says. “With ticket sales, we are giving the artists a chance to cover their fee, as well as creating a grass-roots promotion nature.”
And, she says, the nontraditional promotion and atmosphere helps expose new audiences to art.
“The group effort of promotion brings out the most diverse audience one could ask for,” she says. “It creates a scenario where someone who might never attend a gallery show is standing in front of [this] work.”
The 2013 RAWards are also happening through the end of the year. After online voting, Salt Lake City artists in eight categories (accessories, visual art, fashion, hair, makeup, music, photography and performing arts) have been narrowed down to just one to three semifinalists in each category. A showcase of the semifinalists’ work is set for Dec. 3 at The Complex; their work will be judged by Waseka, professional photographer Justin Grant and Salt Lake City Fashion Night Out Director Michelle Church.
Contestants are judged on creativity, originality, professionalism of presentation, skill level and “star quality/wow factor.” The finalists will move on to the nationals, with an industry-specific panel reviewing all 50 U.S. first-place winners. The nine national winners will be announced Dec. 16.
The emphasis is on networking, Waseka says. “The artists are given a number of perks that go beyond the event itself, and we’re working to constantly add value to their involvement,” Waseka says. “Right now, they get photos, video, promotions, the opportunity to showcase in another location for free, and competition for prizes, including promotional packages, gallery placements and consultations with industry professionals.”
Some of the categories in RAW blur the lines between art and fashion, but they also actively encourage thinking outside the lines of traditional genres of art, and considering novel avenues of artistic expression.
“We cater to all types of art,” Waseka says. “We like to push the boundaries. We have shown everything from a chef to an artist that shaves shapes into hair. We’ve shown live tattooers, aerialists and your average photographer. We’re looking for quality, emerging artists, aiming to create an open space for them to share their talents with their community—and the world.”
536 W. 100 South
Thursday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m.
$15 in advance, $20 at the door