Interview with Isabell Sliwinski - Culturally
Why do you think art is such a powerful and expressive tool?
I believe art is for everyone and by everyone. Artistic culture serves as a repository for the documentation of our time and how we will be remembered; thus, Gen Z's contributions to the arts are crucial to the positive development of history. Art has the potential to utilize emotions to influence expression, culture, and imagination. Art includes global perspectives acting as a social vehicle to change the perceptions of existence. Art, performance, and writing will not be ignored.
To all aspiring artists: regardless of which path life takes you, never stop creating, and never change your personal brand to fit society’s standards. Your art is your voice; use it to inspire your community, inspire nations, and inspire yourself.
What does art mean to you?
As a lifelong artist and performer, my heart lies on the canvas or the stage. Whether I am performing with my dance company or composing a song, the premise of creative exploration is revitalizing. The arts are avenues of intellectual and individual development that allow us to share our stories and personal truths. Now as an arts entrepreneur, I am driven by my experiences in museum work and arts education, which was rooted in practices as a painter, dancer, choreographer, singer, musician, actress, and stager. I found my home in storytelling 14 years ago--at a local dance studio. The arts are... an outlet of peace, self-expression, a way to refocus your energy, a lifestyle, an investment in your development, a way to bare your soul, an addiction, a reflection of your identity, a way to find a purpose.
What seems to be the biggest stigma surrounding art and how do you think it can be fixed?
The biggest stigma surrounding art remains the same as it was in the Middle Ages: elitism. When you think of art, it’s the Renaissance, Van Gogh, Monet, the Louvre, and these prestigious institutions that although widely known, are mainly branding to the affluent and negate the proletariat that is often depicted in these works. However, the juxtaposition lies in the “starving artist” that emerged during the modernist movement that has contributed to the shift of mass consumerism to elitism and market markups. If something is not widely accessible or appears conceptual such as contemporary art, although people are inherently interested, the intellectual and financial burdens diminish its importance primarily in a childhood academic setting. School programs are cut, and creative careers are not encouraged. Now, the artists that are able to sell their works are still “exclusive” and governed by Western art ideologies, for they comprise a pool of white, affluent college graduates who have access to technology and marketing training to have a comparative advantage over the market.
Artists don’t see success in sales as they are pressured to sell to prove their worth as an artist, without networking or exhibiting first. In order to break down this hegemony of power dynamics in modern art, dealings of historical works, or even hobby creations, Culturally works to eliminate the hierarchy which complexifies artistic consumption. Our solution: proliferate accessibility and representation simultaneously through digital and community means.
We offer free exhibition opportunities with no submission or exposition costs, and we market their work on our website and social media to an extensive international network in 50+ countries. We have 360-degree 3-D view gallery rooms in which artists can see their work on these virtual walls and be inspired to one day have their art on the walls of the MET. Through networking events, solo exhibitions, community galleries, and children’s galleries with schools, our goal is to connect artists who then start working with each other and share each other's market. This contributes to that final sale and the launch of the artist's career, or the sought-after ‘validation’ from being included in an artistic community. Thus, this principle applies to everyone: those who do art for fun, those looking for a career, established professionals, etc.
By having 1,000 works on view on our website--growing every day--and 62 countries represented, people are able to gain exposure to art collections from novice to professional works and aspire to continue creating. We actively seek out new members and Artists in Residence and love to directly reach out to emerging or aspiring artists. This way, there is an automatic avenue of inclusivity and accessibility for that person. With museums closed nowadays, they’re able to get this free, interactive, and multicultural inclusive experience at home.
Are there any specific social injustices that Culturally has been fighting?
We work to combat the scarcity of arts education in low socioeconomic areas or underrepresented communities internationally, along with the diminished representation from such cohorts that are rich in culture but lack outlets. For instance, we have developed a ballet mentorship program--Ballet Beyond Boundaries--for underserved children in Colombia. They’re virtually taught by a professional dancer and have open-audience performance opportunities. We have worked with art school application assistance, mentorships, course creation, and piloted arts curriculum integrations under middle/high school and children’s organization partnerships in underserved communities in South America, the Middle East, Africa, and around the world. These regions have fascinating cultures and artistic heritages that deserve to be widely recognized by fostering youth arts education, for they may grow up telling their stories.
Our outreach efforts work toward eliminating the lack of community integration with seniors and children in a hospital or assisted care setting to co-create experiences supporting neurological exercise through art and creativity. Artistic documentation is very primal, yet, it’s now very elitist; their unique stories are being silenced and art can be a medium to spread awareness of their situations or share their voice of life experience. Through video lessons, cards, and projects such as creating soft sculptures designed by children, we’re able to get students and volunteers engaging with them to boost morale and erase stigmas.
We believe representation and awareness matter, so Culturally hosts themed arts contests with submissions depicting racial injustice; immigration prejudice; culture, tradition, and heritage; and disparities in education, economics, climate, sociodemographics, healthcare, and perception of self. We widely promote artist statements and open forum discussions.
Which event hosted by Culturally has stood out to you the most and why?
The first virtual art gala we hosted in October 2020 was definitely a turning point for our discovery of the importance of constant community events in addition to the classes we host. This was still peak Covid, so people from our internal network and external submissions were so eager to contribute and participate. Although our goal was an intimate unveiling of the ‘Stories of our Time’ exhibition, we still had 6 continents and 10 countries represented amongst just 15 people. We got to learn about their inspiration--immigration stories, family depictions, career highlights, and more--to begin building a sense of community in our platform as like-minded people were able to see each other face-to-face and interact from across the world.
That sense of global unity is something that’s seen through music and film but often neglected in art as it’s not widely accessible as mass consumption media. In-person art events are often limited to institution patrons or by-invitation-only, so we now host monthly open events such as open mics, art exhibitions, dance performances, music concerts, speed-networking, and more with new participants to increase arts accessibility in a virtual setting.