Faced with dwindling membership and evaporating funding, museums across the country are slashing staffs and cutting back on programming--and, in some cases, like at MOCA in Los Angeles, eliminating the position of architecture and design curator Brooke Hodge and canceling an entire upcoming exhibition focusing on architect Thom Mayne's firm Morphosis. In these tough times, the L.A.-based cultural agency ForYourArt has been delivering the visibility, events and community to the art world that some museums and galleries just can't afford.
For two years ForYourArt has been producing its smartly-designed, comprehensive seasonal guides to Los Angeles culture, luring the curious to unexplored corners of a suddenly-booming art and architecture scene. This year ForYourArt coordinated its second city-wide Los Angeles Art Weekend and created a public art map for Los Angeles. But their job as cultural concierges doesn't end there, according to founder Bettina Korek, who used to work at one of L.A.'s other major museums, LACMA. "Art attendance was actually down last year, but with the economy the way it is people are so much more open to working together," she says, just having returned to L.A. from New York, where ForYourArt coordinated volunteers to plant a new garden by Fritz Haeg near the newly-opened High Line. "Museums should be able to focus on what they do best, especially with smaller staffs. We want to know how we can be a part of the collaboration, bringing attention to their work, and getting corporations involved."
That's why ForYourArt is just as well-known for co-hosting glitzy book signings for Valentino as it is for sponsoring conferences like the blogging-and-the built-environment confab Postopolis! LA. Partnerships with corporate sponsors allow them to act as intermediaries for marketing dollars, matching them up with appropriate and highly-visible events and exhibitions, like the Danger Mouse/Sparklehorse/David Lynch collaboration Dark Night of the Soul. "That was a great example of taking a one-off project with a gallery where we helped get that show out where it could encourage new relationships for the commercial world," says Korek.
ForYourArt recently ventured outside of Los Angeles to create a guide to the art and design events of Miami last winter, and they've recently launched their first New York [PDF] and Chicago [PDF] maps, with features like interviews on why art matters with Wynton Marsalis. While some might see still see art-going as something only for cool kids feeding off trust funds, Korek thinks ForYourArt is cultivating a new breed of art patronage--one that's more akin to civic responsibility. "Patronage isn't just about giving money, it's also about giving causes attention," she says. ForYourArt works to break down the elite notions of art by pushing it outside gallery walls, like the volunteer-based urban redevelopment-focused Watts House Project in South L.A. "We just try to know about everything that's going on," Korek says. "And then we work to bring all these people together."