November 5, 2015

A new network for visual arts organizations

Common Field
Common Field Covening: “Hand in Glove”, 2015. Photo courtesy of Sean Smuda.

Common Field—a new visual arts organizing network—opens membership to experimental, non-commercial contemporary arts organizations in the U.S. and beyond at

Common Field provides a platform for visual art​s​​ organizations to share resources, methods, tools, and ideas. The networ​​k​ ​​creates opportunities for ​​peer-to-peer learning and exchange ​while amplifying the values and practices of visual arts organiz​ing​ to the world at large. Projects include annual convenings, member-driven chapters, research, toolkits, forums, and advocacy​​.

The artist-run and artist-centered organizations that compose Common Field develop grassroots, responsive practices that reflect the mutability and flexibility of the art-making process itself. These organizations challenge operative social values and invent alternative models for cooperation and collaboration. They support artistic experimentation, innovate ways to engage audiences with contemporary art, and cultivate creativity in the communities in which they work. Despite the impact they have on artists, art worlds, and public culture, experimental visual arts organizations are historically difficult to sustain, and are often unrecognized. In uniting these spaces and projects, Common Field builds visibility and capacity for visual arts organizing today.

Membership is open to self-selecting non-profit, non-commercial, and/or artist-centered visual art organizations—including project and production spaces, collectives, publications, exhibition venues, festivals, residencies, digital organizations, and itinerant projects—as well as independent organizers working across media. Currently, Common Field members can attend annual convenings, create an online profile, post listings for calls, opportunities and services, and participate in geographic and issue-based chapters. Future membership services will include an online forum and an expanded array of toolkits and resources developed with partner organizations. While focused on issues particular to the US context, Common Field welcomes conversation and participation with international networks and peers.

From September 17–20, 2015, Common Field’s Convening, “Hand-in-Glove,” assembled 350+ visual arts organizers from across the United States in Minneapolis–St. Paul, known for its robust ecology of visual arts experimentation and support. Organized by Works Progress Studio and The Soap Factory, the 2015 Convening presented politically pressing discussions and debates by leading arts organizers from across the country, questioning the ethics, values, practices, and presuppositions of what is common, and uncommon, about the field. Common Field’s next Convening will take place in fall 2016 in Miami, co-hosted by a coalition of organizations including Cannonball, Dimensions Variable, Bas Fisher Invitational, Locust Projects, The Miami Rail, and others.

Common Field draws upon the historic precedent of NAAO: The National Association of Artists Organizations (1982–2001) and the Warhol Initiative (1999–2012), each of which brought resources and support to independent alternative art organizations. Following the first “Hand-in-Glove” Convening, organized by Threewalls in 2011, six arts leaders from across the country—Elizabeth Chodos (Ox-bow), Courtney Fink (Southern Exposure), Nat May (Space Gallery), Abigail Satinsky (Threewalls), Stephanie Sherman (Elsewhere), and Shannon Stratton (Threewalls)—set out to form an initiative to support the hybrid practice of visual arts organizing today. In 2013, they assembled 20 founding members to envision the network, including representatives from 186 Carpenter, Cannonball, Central Features, Charlotte Street Foundation, Coleman Center for the Arts, Design Studio for Social Intervention, dflux, Franklin Furnace, Headlands Center for the Arts, The Luminary Center for the Arts, Machine Project, PICA, Press Street, OR Gallery, Recess, Soap Factory, Spaces, Transformer, Vox Populi, and Works Progress. Common Field is now led by two Co-Directors and a Council of 13 national leaders, and is realized through projects and partnerships with a growing membership of 150+ organizations and organizers.

Common Field is funded with generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Hemera Foundation. Supporters of the 2015 Common Field Convening in Minneapolis included The Jerome Foundation, Knight Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation.

To find out more and join Common Field, visit


Common Field: connecting experimental visual arts organizations

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