As a creative it can be difficult to balance perfecting your craft, earning a living wage, and connecting with like-minded individuals. With the 2020 pandemic putting a halt to regular human interaction for over a year, now more than ever, artists need spaces to convene virtually.
We did some digging, so you don’t have to, and found five online art collectives whose common mission is to be the dot connector between you and your next project or collaborator.
Described on their website as an online learning community, Skillshare was launched in 2012 with just 25 courses. Today, however, you’d have to add three zeros to that number to properly convey the amount of available classes, according to Business Insider. Unlike other online learning platforms, Skillshare focuses on project-based learning for a more interactive approach.
“On Skillshare, millions of members come together to find inspiration and take the next step in their creative journey,” says their Linkedin.
Subscriptions are offered at $15 and $32 a month with the former being billed as a one-time $180 fee, but don’t fret if you’re leery of online learning; the site offers a 7-day free trial. Categories range from animation to creative writing with courses like Creative Nonfiction: Write Truth With Style offered under the latter.
In 2020, the platform introduced the "Groups" feature which allows members to connect with other creatives, exchange ideas, and elevate their skills through creative prompts and engaging dialogue. Members can use the “Discover Groups” tool to browse the catalog from their homepage. Within those groups, work is shared, feedback is exchanged, and moderated discussions are led á la social media platform Clubhouse.
Founded in 2016 as a community-building organization and creative agency, The Creative Collective NYC’s original mission of carving out spaces for people of color still rings true. In 2017, founder Imani Ellis started CultureCon, a clever play on the wildly successful gaming conference ComiCon, as a one-stop-shop for networking, panel discussions, and resources for Black and Brown creatives. 2019’s conference, which was headlined by veteran actress and comedian Tracee Ellis Ross and former Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief and daytime talk show host, Elaine Welteroth, brought out more than 2,000 attendees.
By early 2020, an Atlanta CultureCon was announced and nearly sold out before Ellis and team had to pull the plug due to the looming coronavirus pandemic.
As part of their new direction following a year of mandated lockdowns, Creative Curriculum was launched in March 2021 and offered master classes taught by top industry leaders focusing on creative innovation and professional growth. 2021 also saw the launch of CultureCon At Home which drew over 20,000 attendees over the course of the week-long digital conference. Ticketed guests had access to virtual panel discussions like financial literacy and social media marketing as well as skill-building workshops; one of which featured a podcast pitch competition. Attendees also got to sit in on celebrity lead discussions including a fireside chat presented by Showtime with Academy Award-winning actress Regina King.
The collective also uses its social media accounts as a tool for followers to learn about jobs in a multitude of creative fields. The creative agency has worked with brands like HBO, Nike, and Target and serves to bridge the gap between those top brands and their Black and Brown consumers.
In 2014 web designer/digital entrepreneur/comedian Jennifer Puno launched ilovecreatives.com as a hub to connect creatives living what she refers to as “that slashie life.” In other words, individuals who wear many creative hats, which are also known as multi-hyphenate.
The site offers tools like Instagram content planning, access to freelance accountants, and a list of creative jobs. Online courses are available starting at $499 and feature classes on video editing and Instagram Content Planning. Users can also subscribe to the Wednesday newsletter that offers additional gigs/events and is billed as a “Craigslist for creatives.”
35s and 45s is an art collective that started as a one-time exhibition celebrating two analog mediums– 35mm film and 45rpm vinyl. Co-founders Egypt Rivera and Brian Davis wanted a space, rid of the politics often associated with galleries, for independent artists to not only show their work but to profit from it without having to divide the pie.
“Our goal was to avoid the mainstream gallery system. We wanted to cultivate a community of our own which is more susceptible to upcoming photographers with a mesh of those who do it professionally,” Rivera says to us over the phone.
The very first exhibition was held in 2018 at a bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and featured a host of talented, emerging New York artists. Including Anthony Blue Jr, Carolyne Teston, and 35s very own Egypt Rivera–who, despite her modesty, is an uber-talented self-taught photographer in her own right.
Fast forward to 2020, the pair knew they had to pivot from their monthly exhibition openings, which had begun to draw hundreds of creatives from all five boroughs, to embrace more of a digital presence. Now with 12 public exhibitions featuring over 550 pieces of art under their belts, 35s and 45s exist almost entirely online as a hub for independent artists to connect and get inspired by interviews, podcasts, and digital exhibitions.
What started out as a Facebook group six years ago quickly grew to a 6,300 member “millennial grassroots community,” as stated by Catie L'Heureux in a 2017 The Cut article. Women identifying (myself included; I joined in 2015), as well as nonbinary creatives, collectively share freelance gigs, full-time creative jobs in addition to helpful tips, hacks, and sometimes even funding and grants.
While most of the members are New York and Los Angeles-based, the group spans multiple countries and uses hashtags to help the “army” navigate the continuous flow of information.
The “house rules” are set by board members Sydney Lowe, Olivia Harris, Ebony Hardin, and Ahdream Smith. They focus mostly on the uniformity of posts, ensuring the page remains not only a useful tool for creatives but also a safe space.