July 31, 2012 by molliveroneal
An Interview by Molly O’Connor
Twenty-five year-old artist Savannah Mitchell holds a Bachelor of Art in Psychology and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art (specialization in Painting and Ceramics) from the University of Oklahoma. She is a library enthusiast and has been working for the Metropolitan Library System is some capacity or other for the last 7 years. Savannah grew up in south Oklahoma City, but has also lived in Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Alabama. She defines herself as “a huge nerd and a self-proclaimed crazy cat lady.”
But Savannah is also the creative maven who founded an ingenious, grassroots project known as The Small Art Exchange, a project that was started in June of 2011.
What is the Small Art Exchange?
Savannah Mitchell: Small Art Exchange is an eclectic group of self-proclaimed artists of all kinds– painters, knitters, sculptors, ceramicists, doodlers. Every couple of months, an event is created in which each participant is paired with another participant– and the two make and exchange small art pieces.
Why did you start it?
SM: Small Art Exchange was created to give an incentive to continue making art post-graduation. I was also simultaneously moving across the country and wanted to keep in touch with my art community
How many people participate?
SM: There are 69 members of the Small Art Exchange group and up to 29 have participated at one time.
Where do the participating artists live?
SM: Most of the artists are in Oklahoma (as the group was formed out of University of Oklahoma Art graduates), but there are several in various states throughout the US and a handful of international participants. We have regular participants in Japan and Mexico.
Did you ever think it would grow as much as it has in terms of the number of participants?
SM: The turn-out for each event has been similar each time, but it’s always exciting when people I don’t know end up on my lists.
What have been the benefits of creating an online network of artists through the small art exchange?
SM: Artists have an incentive (aside from money) to create art; deadlines give artists a bit of a sense of urgency (but not too much– we don’t actually meet deadlines); the group keeps people discussing art; FREE ART
What have you learned through the process of creating such an innovative project?
SM: I’ve gotten to observe the art-making process of other artists and really take pleasure in the fact that SAE participants may not be making art at all without the group.
Has the SAE been easy to start, organize, facilitate, etc?
SM: For the most part, it’s been relatively easy. I do have to let go a bit and realize that I can’t micromanage every member and force them to complete their art on time (or at all). It can be frustrating, but there’s only so much I can control the actions of strangers.
What advice would you give to other new and emerging arts leaders and artists in Oklahoma who are starting out with their art careers?
SM: Don’t take your art-making too seriously. Every once in a while, I run into an artist who won’t participate in SAE because their art is “too valuable to give away for free”. If you view your art only as a money-making tool, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to create for yourself and explore. Exchanging art with others isn’t a waste of time– even SAE is a forum for your art to be seen.