In order to promote affordable high quality opportunities for visual artists all around the globe, in today’s article we’re offering visual artist Hollie Davis (Chicago, U.S.) a space to talk about her project The Connect Residency to which artists still can apply until April 15th, 2023, without country restrictions.
This article was written by Jennifer Gillenwater
upon invitation by Suboart Magazine.
About Hollie Davis and the Connect Residency
Hollie Davis is a studio artist specializing in painting and illustration. She studied Art and Women’s Studies at Denison University and now lives in Chicago, IL, working for the Art Institute of Chicago. Hollie is the founder of the Connect Residency, a remote artist education program for artists all over the world that gives the artists an opportunity to feature their work in a gallery space by the completion of the residency. Being introduced to art at an early age inspired a lot of Hollie’s views on the art world today. Coming from a family of ambitious
and driven art lovers aligns with Hollie’s passion for creating art and creating community within the art world. Hollie wanted to create opportunities for others like her when they weren’t always accessible. She was an active art educator while attending college and Planned Parenthood has even commissioned her work back in 2016. She has curated and shown works in many exhibitions since attending college, being featured in shows all over the world and winning recognition and awards for her artwork.
Hello Hollie, please tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Hollie Davis. I’ve loved art as long as I can remember. When I was 13, I got to study an art history course at the Art Institute of Chicago and that was really one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. In a sense, it really solidified art spaces and artist communities in a safe and encouraging space for people of any background, and that’s what really got me involved. I’ve always drawn and painted and in college, I got to TA for the art department and was flown out for social justice conferences by my school to discuss my artwork. I’ve commissioned work for buyers, one of which was Planned Parenthood in 2016.
I’ve won awards for my artwork and curated shows while in college, and I was primarily a community organizer. I was an Art and Women’s Studies double major, so I always saw art as an intersection of community and action. I always view artists as cultural impact workers. For example, all religious art influences how we view religious figures and spiritual beings. For the past three years, I’ve exhibited every month. In 2022, I exhibited twice a month. I’ve had a solo show in NYC and exhibited in Canada and France. I’ve done residencies, interviews, and been on the news and so that kind of opportunity is few and far between and it shouldn’t be that way. Something personal that happened to me:
When I was in high school, I was in the hospital for 3 months with Crohn’s Disease. It was really severe. When I left the hospital, I was 89 lbs, and I had almost died three times. After that, I wouldn’t have been able to go to college had Obamacare not passed because my disease would have been pre-existing and medical bills would have bankrupted my family. So, I feel like I only got to be an artist because there was a leader in power who created an opportunity for me, so I always thought to myself, if I had the opportunity to help someone like me in the arts, I had to do it; it’s my responsibility. The situation saved my life and allowed me to go to college and I never forgot that.
How did you start the Connect Residency?
As someone who is very aware of opportunities and lack thereof for people historically disenfranchised from the art world, I wanted to create a program that would give people the opportunity to exhibit their work regardless of background and experience level. After 3 years of exhibiting, I felt like I was sick of paying application fees and waiting on galleries to respond to me and by 2008/2009, a lot of galleries closed, yet cities wanted to be known as art cities still but didn’t have the economy for it. So, my approach with the creation of the Connect Residency was that I can pitch to galleries with the idea that they get to take a month off and the connect residency gets to use the space for the month to exhibit art and create programming for that month for them.
It started in January 2022. I started just going to coffee shops in the neighborhood and I noticed there was a new studio. A wellness center in the neighborhood called Joplin Marley Studios. The woman who owned it was in the coffee shop that day. Her name is Meg’n Barba, and we became good friends. I call her the other hot girl Meg! And so, me and Meg’n would chat about the neighborhood and being women who owned small businesses and told her I wanted to start this residency but didn’t have the space. I will be forever indebted to Meg’n because she is the reason it ever really happened.
What is the mission of the program?
The mission is just way more opportunity, way more education, and way more community in the arts. I think right now, at this point in history, the artist is curator, and the curator is artist. With social media and the internet, artists have turned into entrepreneurs who don’t really rely on the gallery anymore for traditional representation. So how do you find your community, and your opportunities when the traditional model is no longer as present? It leaves a lot of artists feeling let down and without a way to show their work. So, my job with the Connect Residency is really getting artists together and providing the space and the network for you to believe in yourself and your work.
Where do you see the program in 5 years?
My goal is to serve 100 artists in 5 years. People from all walks of life and all representations. To truly serve one hundred artists in 5 years. I would love for the exhibition shows to go international and have an international show for those artists. I’d also like to start a social justice Connect Residency for artists. Where every week, one guest is an artist another is an advocate, and the artists would design postcards with their art and have a postcard writing session with the shows. I’d also like to have a partnership with a major art nonprofit or gallery to help us build our awareness and outreach.
Tell us a bit about the guest speakers and how you create those relationships?
I think it’s important when you meet someone you get a business card or add them on LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone to articulate your vision and ask for support. Leaders respect that. It’s about putting yourself out there and valuing relationships that can be mutually beneficial. That’s how I got a lot of the speakers for the Connect Residency to join on. Gary Higgens (NYC, Curator) for example, posted in a Facebook group that he was looking for artists to exhibit and we connected, video chatted, shared work, and had a good time. And then Darren Todd (Portland, Curator), similarly we connected through social media over a post looking for artist to exhibit in his gallery in Portland. And before I knew it, I was in 3 shows there and even connected Gary to get 3 shows there as well. It’s about your authenticity and your persistence because it’s hard to deny someone who does the work.
What has been the biggest challenges?
I think the biggest challenges would be having the appearance and keeping up the image of total confidence when I don’t always know what I’m planning next. When I started this program I wanted to meet other artists to build our community and when you do something new, you put a lot of pressure on yourself and want to be your best for these other artists but I wouldn’t ever put that pressure on them throughout the residency and need to give myself that same respect and decency.
I don’t like to see artists give up on their work, so I need to make sure I’m also putting that support into myself and my work as well. So, time management and not being hard on yourself. To continue being encouraging. It can be a lot. So, you got to stay positive, and I get that from my family. They’ve gone through so much and have taught me the value of persevering and of the relationships you let into your life.
Until April 15th, 2023, artists still have the chance to apply to The Connect Residency via Artconnect. Click here.
To know more about previous years of The Connect Residency, please click here.