Validation/Permission/Opportunity: Artists’ Voices Amplified

A Collaborative Exhibition by Jennifer Dalton and Sharon Louden

Berea Arts Council, Berea, KY
July 31 - September 1, 2018

Jennifer Dalton and Sharon Louden discussing the exhibition as part of the ArtistsThrive! summit.

In Validation/Permission/Opportunity artists Jennifer Dalton and Sharon Louden mine the video recordings, audience questions, correspondence and other information Louden collected during her book tour for The Artist as Culture Producer and display their findings as new collaborative works of art.

A collection of essays by 40 visual artists edited by Louden, The Artist as Culture Producer gives a platform to powerful first-person stories of working artists extending their artistic practices outside of their studios. In a wide variety of ways, each artist contributor works within their community to generate new resources and spread opportunity. This book shows the general public how contemporary artists of the 21st century build creative communities and generously contribute to the well-being of others through creative problem-solving and a belief that our fortunes are intertwined. Although there is a prevailing cultural misconception that artists are invisible and mysterious, the truth is that—in addition to their studio endeavors—they frequently lend their talents to educational, civic and non-profit organizations as well as to corporate environments.

Validation/Permission/Opportunity builds on the 14-month schedule of programming that supported the publication of The Artist as Cultural Producer. A central goal of the book and the tour was to de-mythologize the tired cliche' of the singular ‘Artist Hero’ by illuminating dozens of examples of working artists embedded in their communities, countering the notion that contemporary artists should be considered above, outside or below other community members. Book contributors, local artists, critics, non-profit participants, thought leaders, and other members of the general public took part in panel discussions, symposia, casual conversations and town-hall forums, learning about and participating in the vast range of influence that visual artists exert on society. Most of the book’s 40 contributors participated in one or more of the far-flung events, helping to cross-pollinate artists among regions and spread ideas and opportunities. Acting as ‘boots on the ground,’ they met other artists and cultural stakeholders in cities, towns and communities all over the United States as well as in England and Australia.

Nearly every aspect of the conversation tour was documented by video and meticulous record-keeping that created a trove of information. It was during one of those events in 2017—a discussion between Louden and Dalton hosted by 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky—when they sparked the idea to collaborate artistically together with this data. Dalton and Louden worked together to analyze, synthesize and present the knowledge and discoveries gained on this tour through video works, charts, photographs and other visual representations. The goal of this exhibition is to begin sharing the vast information collected on this tour to learn from what artists need, want and can give. 

Opening Reception

All photos by Meg Wilson (unless noted by Vinson Valega)

Berea Visitors Respond to Audience Questions From the Conversation Tour

At several stops on the Conversation Tour for The Artist as Culture Producer, Sharon Louden solicited written questions from attendees that she and her fellow panelists would answer. Some of these questions were incorporated into an element of the exhibition that invited viewers to respond to the questions. All of the responses are shown below.

Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, September 19, 2017, 97 attendees, 27 written questions.
Panelists: Sharon Louden, Hrag Vartanian, Jean Shin, Jane South, Matthew Deleget, and Julia Kunin

Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, September 29, 2017, 52 attendees, 23 written questions.
Panelists: Sharon Louden and Julie Langsam

Pratt MWP, College of Art and Design, Utica, NY, November 10, 2017, 151 attendees, 26 written questions.
Panelists: Sharon Louden and Donna Moran

Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, November 13, 2017, 181 attendees, 23 written questions.
Panelist: Sharon Louden, hosted by Kerry Alan Skarbakka


Davis, Genie, “Artists Thrive: Raising the Value of Artists,” Art and Cake, January 5, 2019