This year we’re celebrating TEN years of The Phoenix Fridas! This is an art collective I founded back in 2004 with some other friends as a way to celebrate the inspiration we have from Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. There were only two or three of us back then, then we grew to four. We got together, each with a tote bag of supplies, and we crafted away the hours making mixed media art while sharing life lessons and personal tales. We had no expectations back then, just to get together to craft. In our first month or so, we “tried” to vend at our first event. Turns out the place we chose had closed for business the day before. We quickly made posters, set up our tables on the sidewalk and hollered at cars driving by: “CRAFT SHHOOOWW!”
Within the year, our little group grew. We worked on community art events and made collaborative installations and were even invited to appear on a national sewing show!
Our collaborative piece for a local art show.
Over the course of the years, some members moved away or dropped out. Those of us who were left noticed we had something in common aside from our love of Frida – were all Latina. A lot was going on in the country with immigration, negative Chicano/Mexican/Latino stereotypes, etc. We decided to give our group a sense of purpose and make it a Latina art collective. Our mission became to show diversity among Latina creatives and to show represent Phoenix and Arizona! It’s weird how new members come in, it happens very organically.
Ten years is a long time in the making, and it feels we have finally hit our stride. I encourage you to think about forming your own art collective themed to whatever calls your spirit! It’s a very rewarding experience because it allows you to step away from your routine to work with other creative people and help each other shine. For example – Check this new group – The Borderland Fridas! Here is their web site too!
OK, Here are our tips on starting and keeping an art collective thriving!
1. Have a mission statement/goal for your group. Do you just want to get together to craft for inspiration, or do you want to do events as well? Know what you want out of the group before you start so you’ll know what kind of members to recruit.
2. Have 2-4 core members to be the steering committee, so to say, especially if your group grows. Make sure everyone is on the same page as far as expectations and time involved. As far as recruiting members, keep in mind, the bigger the group, the harder it is to manage.
3. Have diversity. What I love about our group is that we represent a wide span of ages, backgrounds, art genres, skill levels and styles. It’s not only about being a fabulous artist or crafter, it’s also about having good energy, enthusiasm and more. We found it works best for everyone when there is a good mix. For example, we have a painter, a sewer/foodie, a beader, a rockabilly artist, mixed media, general crafter, a musician! In addition, our roles serve double duty as photographers, show curators, graphic designers, public relations agent, writers, bloggers, event coordinator, grant writer, etc. We take turns doing spoken word or public speaking. Everyone has a chance to step up. It feels like The Apprentice, especially during bigger events! And know that sometimes members don’t quite work out and that’s totally fine. We’ve had about 10 members who left the group at some point in time, due to moving, time constraints or once they see all we do, they never come back for a second meeting, lol!
Diana Calderon our newest Frida (two years) is moving on because of a new job in Texas. We’re so sad to see her go, she is a very talented artist! She says about her experience, “I like the welcoming, empowerment to be unique individuals, while learning from each other to be better selves.”
4. Housekeeping. At first I didn’t want our group to have formal meeting notes. I had those at my day job, blech. BUT, if you take your group serious, it is a smart idea to document everything for follow ups and to stay on track. Phoenix Frida Veronica Verdugo-Lomei, says to have an overall agenda for short and long-term goals, events, meet-ups. Also a list of what the group needs to polish up on (example: social media skills), and recap meetings after events.
5. Adapt with technology. Make sure all your members are comfortable with social media, even if you have to coach them. The internet offers so many free resources for promotion, use them to your advantage. We use a private Facebook group to house all our conversations, files, photos and more. It helps us stay organized and keeps us all in touch. In fact, I would make it mandatory that each member at least have a Facebook account.
6. Branding. Once you have your name and logo, put it all out there. Start with a Facebook page, then if you are ambitious, add a blog or Twitter, Pinterest and/or Instagram. NOTE: Only do these if you plan to keep them updated frequently! For your Fb page, make all members admins so they can each contribute.
7. Be realistic. At first we made too many plans throughout the year. Not everyone could contribute and a lot of times the same people ended up running everything all the time. Now we have it down to one premiere event a year and 2-3 smaller ones. This eases a LOT of pressure and give us room to prepare.
8. Support and teach each other. Chances are, all your members have their own businesses. Share their content, support each other separate and apart. “I like that we have a commitment to each other. We all put our best effort into the group,” says Gloria Martinez-Casillas. Also, because you will have a diverse group, have each member takes turns teaching other members a new skill. Monique Sanderson-Mata says, “The promotion of each other, hosting events together, mentorship is the number #1!” ALSO – don’t only support your fellow group members, support fellow artists as well. Use your group page to help other groups too!
9. Look for ways to contribute to your community. Every year we have some sort of fundraiser built into an event. From making a ball gown from scratch and auctioning it off to having silent auctions of our art, we’ve done a lot and it feels great.
10. Have fun, build relationships! Every so often, have a get together to just hang out, not to organize anything. We have private Phoenix Frida craft parties called La Crafty Noche, where we set a side a night to eat snacks, talk, share life updates, and CRAFT to learn a new skill or technique. We haven’t had one in a while, so we are due!
We hope this inspires you to start your own art collective in your town. It really is a lot of fun! We just had our annual Frida birthday party and exhibit and more than 1600 people attended!