Sat Mar 5, 2022 – 5:00 pm | Hendricks Arts Center
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ART IS NOT A MIRROR HELD UP TO REALITY, BUT A HAMMER WITH WHICH TO SHAPE IT—Bertolt Brecht
Against the backdrop of a culture in crisis, THE ART OF MAKING IT (former working title BEGINNING OF THE END) follows a diverse cast of young artists at defining moments in their careers to explore whether the art world ecosystem meant to nurture them is actually failing them. Are we at risk of losing the creative voices of a new generation as universities, galleries and museums are facing cataclysmic changes ? Or are we on the verge of rewriting history, expanding access and making art more accessible for all as outdated models are being rethought?
Embracing the conundrum of how artists must be in the market, but not of it, IN THE MAKING is both a cautionary tale about what America stands to lose if we don’t rethink how we value artists, and a love letter to those who persevere in their artistic practice in spite of the extraordinary odds against ever achieving a sustainable career.
After receiving an MFA from Stanford University in documentary filmmaking, I moved to New York to forge a career focused on telling stories about art and artists and experienced firsthand the challenges MFA graduates often face: the difficulty of earning enough income to pay off student loan debt; the scarcity of teaching positions; and the amount of sacrifice required to balance being an artist with making a living. Dividing my time between filmmaking and a career as an independent curator, I’ve committed myself to creating opportunities for emerging artists who may have otherwise gone unrecognized. This story is the culmination of my life’s passionate connection to this work.
I spent my first few years in New York producing a feature documentary about the history of Wonder Woman that explored how representations of female power have and have not changed over time. In the film, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and I examined the need for women to have a more equal role in controlling the means of production in order to ensure that portrayals of female strength reflect the ideals of women. The film aired on PBS, won several awards and had a robust educational distribution. I then turned my attention back to the world of emerging artists as an outgrowth of my interest in the power of storytelling and the importance of who is shaping the narrative. In the years since I graduated, MFA programs had become ubiquitous and tuitions had skyrocketed. With the growth of the online marketplace and the rise of the art fair, the contemporary art market was experiencing seismic shifts, while smaller galleries—the longstanding “first step” in the career of emerging artists—were shriveling on the vine. With no clear path to finding “representation,” I began to wonder how today’s artists were navigating this upended art world. Was an expensive higher education a prerequisite for entering the art world? How were artists “making it”, and what did “making it” even mean? Through a curator friend, I was introduced to producer and art patron Debi Wisch who had recently produced The Price of Everything, a documentary feature about the art market directed by Nathaniel Kahn that premiered at Sundance and was broadcast on HBO. While the film focused on the careers of successful “art stars”, Debi felt they had missed an opportunity to explore the world of undiscovered artists – those with great talent, yet lacking connections and credentials. We realized we shared a vision of a documentary that explored the cultural value of art through the world of today’s emerging artists. We wondered what their challenges could reveal about our society at large. Little did we know, our film would literally capture the final months of the art world as we know it. Our film finds hope in its inspiring cast whose unique stories remind us of the power of creative acts to transcend circumstance and who, through the boldness of their imagination, show us a better way into the future.
An award-winning filmmaker, author and curator, Kelcey received an MFA in Documentary Film from Stanford University. As a director, her short documentaries have screened at SXSW (Letter), Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Film Festival (Gentle Creatures), and True/False (Ghost in the Material). As a producer, her feature documentary credits include Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines (SXSW premiere, Independent Lens broadcast) and Words of Witness (Berlinale premiere, Al Jazeera America broadcast). Kelcey’s fiction has appeared in storySouth and Border Crossing; her art writing has been published by Hamptons Art Hub, Portray Magazine and Salomon Contemporary, and her nonfiction has been published in New Voices from Stanford (Stanford University Press) and Persistence of Vision (Austin Film Society). Kelcey has lectured at Pratt, Barnard, The New School and NYU Tisch. She also runs Iron Gate East, an exhibition series based in the Hamptons, inspired by her pioneering gallery, Iron Gate Studios, which she co-founded in Austin in 2003.