What is the future of creativity? And how will creators find new ways to sustainably make their art with compromise? These were just a few of the many questions explored at FORM Fest, a three-day creative retreat and festival packed with music, art, ideas, architecture, wellness, and community.
Joe Barham is the Creator Partnerships Lead here at Patreon. He was also part of the team that helped shaped Patreon’s collaboration with FORM Fest and helped bring our activations to life. “We were excited to ideate around how we could be supportive and complementary to this really interesting festival,” says Joe. “We really wanted to make sure it was organic and very creator-first.”
For example, Joe and a few of his colleagues worked with a team from Florida called Pulp Arts to build an on-site recording studio space at FORM fest dubbed “The Conservatory,” where artists could connect and create with other artists.
“Putting that in place, we didn’t really know what to expect,” says Joe, who explains that they wanted to create a space that would inspire creativity and connect a few different worlds. The result was pretty special. By the end of the festival, he and other festival attendees got to witness close to 17 different unique collaborations from musicians who wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to work together.
“It did feel otherworldly,” says Joe about witnessing jam sessions between the likes of Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live and Portlandia and Lindsey Jordan from Snail Mail.
In addition to The Conservatory, Patreon also set up a cozy Creator Lounge, that featured a 2020 Vision Booth where festival attendees could record their wishes and visions for the future of our country.
Last but certainly not least, Joe participated in a panel discussion called, “Art and Work: The Future Creativity.” The panel included poet Aja Monet and community organizer Phillip Agnew, founders of Smoke Signals Studio in Miami, Favianna Rodriguez, Executive Director of CultureStrike and independent artist (and Patreon creator) Julia Nunes.
Together, they discussed how they defined art and what it means to be an artist in 2019. The conversation took many turns but a theme that kept coming up was the importance of making art that is meaningful.
“It is really important to stand by your voice,” says Joe. Artistically, if you’re not being true to your voice, whether you’re financially successful or not, this is often what leads to artists to feel unfulfilled, he says.
For example, the panel touched on the connection between art and social justice, and how that relationship can change when an artist becomes more focused on paying the bills or doing something for popularity’s sake.
Many artists feel pulled between different aims, whether it be growing their fanbase, or creating art that’s meaningful and authentic or being able to affect the world through their art, and this can be tricky to navigate, especially as an emerging voice.
For instance, gentrification and the role artists play in it was a topic that came up during the panel. Subsidized housing communities for artists are often created with the good intention of revitalizing urban neighborhoods. However, low-income residents are typically displaced in the process as rents increase and they get priced out of the market.
“All of us agreed that art is one of the most, if not the most, powerful ways and effective ways to create change,” says Joe.
However, with that power comes great responsibility – and some hard choices. As Joe notes, it’s not easy for an artist that’s scraping by to turn down a free place to live, which is why it’s so important that they have the tools to make informed decisions. For example, he says that there’s a need for more programming and educational services for new and young artists to help them navigate some of these trickier parts of this career path.
Compromise was another hot topic covered. For example, while some might interpret having to make the choice between commercial success and staying true to their values as having to compromise on one area to fulfill the other, panelist Aja Monet suggested an alternative way to look at it.
“Compromise is this negative word, but in reality, rather than thinking about it as you compromising your art, think about how you can create new value systems with your art,” Joe says.
At the end of the day, while it’s arguable that creative industries are noisier than they’ve ever been, on the flipside, marketing, promotion and distributing content has never been easier. “You can just post [your art] and it is out there,” he says.
The same goes for earning a living. Everything from buying a home to raising a family is more difficult when you don’t know how much money you’re going to make next month. But with platforms like Patreon, artists can make a predictable, sustainable income and build a deeper relationship with their fans, without relying on inconsistent revenue channels like grants or tours or licensing fees.
“Having that core foundation of super fans who really appreciate your art and there’s a relationship there, is where [Patreon] fits in as one of the solutions that I think is helpful for the future of art and helping creatives create,” says Joe.
So what does the future of creativity look like? It’s a big question with no simple answers. But with the emergence of platforms like Patreon and unique creator-first programming at festivals like FORM Fest, one thing’s pretty clear: it has never been a more exciting time to be an artist.