The AV Center is a nonprofit organization / artist-driven project founded on the principle that art is most powerful when inspired by or attempting to establish a dialogue around social justice issues. The AV Center is a destination for those seeking a forum to witness, present, and participate in artwork that is derived from direct action.
We are first and foremost a support service for artists. We believe fine artists are the true innovators and leaders of culture, we trust in their innate ability to turn problems into solutions. Our artists are given a framework but encouraged to move fluidly within its structure, working closely with community participants to empower and inspire all involved.
What does it mean to "volunteer"?
There are many different meanings, uses, and expectations on this word in modern usage. The word "Volunteer" comes from the latin root "voluntas" which connotes concepts of will, choice, and a gift of peace, among others.
But WAIT! Aren't artists asked to give too much already, without getting paid? Aren't there too many people out there who identify as artists who can't make a living off of their art?
The answer to both these questions is sadly, YES. So why have them volunteer?
The Artist Volunteer Center leverages partnerships and provides artists alternative resources and opportunities to boost their career in the form of art shows, studio space, residencies, professional development, grants, and access to a network of art world professionals.
When an artist becomes a volunteer, the agency, power, and the access that the artist can have changes significantly. Volunteerism becomes a platform for artists to reimagine the world that they want to live in.
This counters the current commodity-based model of the commercial art world, a tightly controlled and class-based system available to only a select few. We are fighting for equity in the arts-- for artists and for communities where the arts are inaccessible.
From an article in Hyperallergic by Senior Editor Jillian Steinhauer, "When asked why he thinks it’s important for artists, specifically, to volunteer," Founder & Director Jason Maas says:
“The unique quality that makes an artist an artist is how their experiences become inspirations... When artists become Artist Volunteers, not only are they provided with opportunities to improve their lives and the lives of others, they are also given new inspirations for art making. This art making inspires others to think and act differently. Who better than artists to be offered such meaningful experiences?”
Generally speaking, our mission is based on getting artists out of their studios to participate in volunteer projects that involve humanitarian work, a mutually beneficial and vastly rewarding venture. By carefully constructing long-term projects with community partners, utilizing horizontal power structures whenever possible, and continuously assessing and refining the project to meet the needs of the artists and the communities, we maximize the impact and agency of all participants. In turn, we offer participating artists the resources and opportunities to help their artwork flourish.
The AV Center’s priority is to nurture the experiences artists have while out in the field into inspiration for the creation of socially-conscious artworks and support the careers of these innovative emerging artists.
Designed to act as a conduit between artists, communities, and opportunities, the AV Center offers access to experts in the advocacy, nonprofit, and fine art fields, while redirecting funding streams to provide an alternative to the commercial gallery track. The AV Center also fulfills the role of mentor and resource center, giving artists a framework for understanding and exploring social issues, as well as navigating the impact this may have on their artistic practice. We provide a pathway for artists seeking hands-on experience and practice in the community organizing setting, resulting in inspirational, boundary-pushing work, and tangible, accessible arts programming in underserved and marginalized communities, thereby raising the cultural consciousness of all involved. In our model, art serves as an advocacy tool and a method by which artists receive greater exposure.
The AV Center’s modus operandi is driven by the following fundamental questions:
How can we get artists out of their studio?
- How will long term, hands-on experience translate into richer artworks?
- How can artists help in ways that non-artists cannot in regards to art and non-art related projects?
- How can we work with individual artists to identify their skills and set them up in a community where they will flourish?
- How can we benefit the lives and careers of artists who choose to dedicate their time to bettering the lives of others?
- How can we create opportunities for different levels of involvement with the AV Center? (i.e. open calls for socially-conscious artwork, open calls for residency programs, etc.)
- How can we redirect funding streams from art collectors and the art market at large to become more interested in art with a cause behind it?
When artists become Artist Volunteers, underserved populations are enriched, and so are the lives and the artwork of the artists involved. It is vital that there is a mechanism in place that can nurture this process. The AVC helps artists help people, and champions artwork that is inspired from this experience.
The Artist Volunteer Center (the AV Center) promotes humanitarian volunteerism by artists, and supports the creation of artwork inspired by volunteer action. The AV Center connects arts and volunteer programs with the purpose of uniting organizations and individuals for the common goal of helping artists help people.
Funding for the Artist Volunteer Center has graciously been provided by:
- The New York City Cultural Agenda Fund
- The Pollination Project
- Arts From The Ashes
- Xaviera Simmons
- The support of many private and anonymous donations
The Artist Volunteer Center is fiscally sponsored by Brooklyn Arts Council.
Founder Jason A. Maas was a full time working artist until Hurricane Sandy flooded the first floor of his Red Hook, Brooklyn studio building in 2012. He joined the relief effort and was stationed out in the Rockaways for the next nine months running volunteer coordination, mucking & gutting homes, and cleaning mold. During this time, he developed systems to bring food to homebound residents, was invited by State Senators to share his first hand accounts at roundtable discussions, and created an outreach program that attracted over 100 college students a day to volunteer their time to gut out, muck out, and remove mold from flood ravaged homes. His experiences completely changed his relationship with his city and his artwork. He founded the Artist Volunteer Center in 2013. With the Artist Volunteer Center, Maas seeks to create a nonprofit / artist project hybrid that blurs the line between arts administration and socially-engaged art making.
Jason is a fourth generation New Yorker and his grandparents met during a dance at Prospect Park in 1942. He does not take for granted that he owes his life to public arts programming in New York City!