By: Russell Brohier, Executive Director Artists’ Network
Why define the group as a ‘cell’ – Source Wikipedia
“The cell is the structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of an organism that is classified as living, and is often called the building block of life… Vital functions of an organism occur within cells…The word cell comes from the Latin cellula, meaning, a small room. …Each cell is at least somewhat self-contained and self-maintaining: it can take in nutrients, convert these nutrients into energy, carry out specialized functions, and reproduce as necessary. Each cell stores its own set of instructions for carrying out each of these activities.”
Forgive the biological analogy but there is an application of it to what we are attempting to do. Cells are paradoxically independent and dependent structures. They exist and function independently of the larger body that they are sometimes part of, and at the same time are dependent on that entity. Cells divide to grow that larger body. Furthermore, the cell is self-contained and self-maintained, yet it also contributes to the maintenance of the larger body, transmitting information to the body, converting nutrients to energy and so on. So this analogy is very much how the concept of the cell works within the Artists’ Network.
Isolation vs Support – the Artist’s dilemma
As artists we are often creating our work in isolation and with little support. In fact we often have to deal with elements that impinge on us in our production of our art. Be it family obligations, a “real job”, the label that art is a “hobby” all serve to undermine the validity of our efforts. Even if we take the steps to professionalize our practice we have to spend time marketing, preparing to exhibit, exhibiting our own work and following up. All of these take considerable amounts of time and often place us in conflict with other demands on our time. All these take away time and energy in the creation of our art. All of these things, and others, sometimes serve to question if we are in deed doing something worth while, or if the effort is worth it. Regardless of where you are in your art career these questions are inevitably asked, both by others and more importantly by you, the artist.
Artists’ Network Mandate
One of the primary purposes of the Artists’ Network is to help you, the artist, in your efforts to become a better arts professional. To do this we have to not only provide you with some basic tools, but help you answer those questions. The concept of the artist cell is one tool in this approach. The Artists’ Network can not do this for you; you have to take on that responsibility, do the work, and make the effort. The artist cell is a process by which this can be facilitated as long as you make the commitment.
History of Networks within our Group
Bourne out of a Networking Session several years ago called the Artist Career Group (ACG), the cell attempts to recreate this group on several levels for all members who wish to participate. The ACG, were a group of ten artists of varying levels who came together because they all had similar questions about their art practice. Granted, the questions may have been similar, but referred to different stages of their individual careers. The questions you ask at the beginning of your career as an artist persist through out your career. They change to reflect that particular stage of your career and the related circumstance. Thus, it is not as important that you find individuals who are at the same point in their art career, as those who share a similar perspective.
Reciprocal Relationships work well in cells
In fact there can be reciprocal relationships formed. Mentoring goes in both directions. Certainly the more experienced individual can be a mentor to those who are just emerging. However, there is a freshness of perspective, a reminder of neophyte exuberance that can stimulate someone who has been around the artistic block. We can all learn from each other, and that is the primary reason for the cells.
Self Direction Within Each Cell
Within each cell you determine your objective, goals and process. You find what works for you as individual artists and collectively as a cell. You come together to help each other answer the questions you ask of how to make this art practice of yours work, to overcome hurdles that we may have in common and to pursue this artistic life. From the practical to the esoteric you tackle the questions that concern you in a way that you are mutually supportive of each one in your cell. The cell is self-contained and self-maintained. The cell is independent.
Artists’ Network is the Glue
As in any group structure there can be the need for outside resources. From information about certain topics to assistance even in the resolution of issues within the group, the AN will be a resource to turn. Each cell can actually assist other cells. What is working, what your cell needs help with, how you are progressing and where you can find things. Each cell can therefore be linked to every other cell. The Artists’ Network is the larger body. We as an organization can facilitate the sharing of information and the linking of cells together. The forum on the website can help here as well.
To really make this a dynamic process, each cell will select a secretary to report back on the website as to what their cell is doing in general terms. Any information that others might find helpful can be included, and any assistance needed can be stated. Others can then respond. A forum on the website will be dedicated to these purposes.
AN Provides the Framework for Cell Creation
In addition, the Artists’ Network will provide a guide and a series of exercises to help facilitate the first five sessions of your cell. It is the responsibility of the cell to define their direction and purpose. These exercises will not only help you to get to know your fellow cell mates, the direction of your cell, but also get you to define what is important for yourself. These exercises can be repeated every so often to take stock and even redefine the direction of the cell. Just as one objective or goal is achieved you may wish to go through these exercises again to find another objective or goal.
Just as in biology cells divide, so too can the artist cell. There may come a time when some members wish to go a certain direction. This may be a natural progression, an organic process. New members may be added, others may form different connections. It can all be done amicably and to the benefit of all. The Artists’ network can be here to help you through that process as well.
The dependency on the larger body is one of sharing information and resources. The cell is linked to other cells to grow. We all share a desire to be stronger in our art practice and this is a key element to our practice. The cell is a more managed way of us helping other to get there. We can support others through the more manageable structure of the cell while drawing nutrients from the larger body and the collectivity of experiences we have. This is a process of sharing experiences, information, and resources. This is a process of providing mutual support and direction in manageable units. This is a process of networking and making connections with other artists and strengthening your art practice in a variety of ways. It is a process which will work and be fruitful depending on your participation and the energy you put into this initiative. This process is directed by you.
Participation in the Artist Cells is limited to the members of the Artists' Network.
If you are a member you can first log in
and then go to the forum
for more information, the cell modules and to become a member of a cell.