Wow! The first time I laid eyes on Showpaper my jaw dropped. It is a beautiful biweekly foldout that features original art on the cover and lists and promotes all-ages DIY music shows in the NYC and tri-state area. The Showpaper non-profit model blends the best of DIY culture with a formal approach. Unlike fliers and picture files, Showpaper creates an artifact of culture in hard copy form to be cherished and collected. Showpaper listings advocate a viable alternative for young people who are adept music connoisseurs and are banned from established venues. The listings are in lofts, garages, houses, alternative spaces and parks.
Maya Hayuk issue 31
The DIY music scene has always included art in the form of zines, handmade objects, and silkscreen show posters. This underground aesthetic is not abandoned with Showpaper but expanded to showcase artists who broaden the idea of community.
Often artwork in the established art world is not accessible. It is shown in formal settings and viewed as a commercial product far removed from the process of the studio. Art is moving beyond the constraints of the gallery. The Internet is changing that accessibility, and artists are reaching out to define themselves differently. Yes!! This is an exciting time to be an artist!
A sampling of Showpaper Artists (Roster) If you have the time or inclination, viewing the diverse artist’s work is quite fascinating but delving into their sites is an informative and eye-opening experience.
The Sumi Ink ClubThe choice of The Sumi Ink Club exemplifies the meeting of art and community. The club's mission is to create a collaborative drawing using ink on paper. Just imagine the state of the world if we all just gathered around a giant coloring book and talked. The Sumi Art Club uses art as a vehicle for communication. The visual results are as delightful as the group’s intent, founded by Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck (AKA Lucky Dragons).
David Horvitz issue 15
David Horvitz documents his visual life daily in photographs. He finds things of interest wherever he might be at a given moment. He displayed a sequential series of photos in contrast and juxtaposition on the cover. It displays a lone figure disappearing in two separate landscapes, each creating a context of scenarios. Check his site for interactive conceptual pieces that the viewer sponsors through donations. Here
Guest curator David Horvitz selected Croatian artist Vlatka Horvat for issue 26. Her cover photo was a part of an installation series that documented the text Here To Stay made out of leaves. The text defies the inevitable disintegration of the leaves while the photograph celebrates its permanence. Her other work in video, text, and drawings creates a context that contradicts and challenges interactions within found and created environments. She turns things upside down, plays with our perception of what is, and calls attention to our vulnerabilities for manipulation and propaganda.
Art and Music a Burgeoning Reciprocal Relationship
The renaissance of culture is now upon us. While commercial enterprises and established institutions will have trouble displaying this burgeoning reciprocal relationship, the grassroots will pave the way. DIY lives and breaths a new life for music and art with Showpaper. Live on!!! Interview via e-mail with Joseph S. Ahearn (The Rats of Nimh), Sleep When Dead NYC, and Showpaper volunteer.
OCM How did the concept develop?
JA We just wanted to list all age shows in a single place and try to break down some of the strange stigmas between the boroughs and states surrounding New York. It started out incredibly simple and, for the most part, has stayed incredibly simple. It's the relationships between all the very different groups, kids, musicians, and spaces that all work together to put on these shows that are vivid and complicated. We just observe and record.
OCM How is Showpaper funded?
JA Showpaper's funded in a bunch of different ways, which form a sort of patchwork quilt of support that barely keeps us warm at night. We throw benefit shows with bands we're friends with who are willing to play for free. We've done one art show and are hoping to do others. We've been lucky to have very generous people at our aid who've thrown benefit shows for us. We've been (lately) trying to push for donations at other shows thrown by people we know (like Todd P), where we can offer some sort of silly, fun service (lemonade, bike wash, popsicles, whatever) as an opportunity for us to talk with people and ask for donations. We're always surprised and happy with the amount people who are willing to donate. At the moment, though, most of our money comes from donations we can get on our knees and beg for (since we're a pending NFP, such donations are tax-deductible - tell your friends!). We have a few pretty significant grants in the waiting too.
OCM Who are the key players in the creation and coordination of Showpaper?
JA Well, Maggie Matela has been working on the paper since it first started and has designed and laid out the cover for almost every issue we've ever done. I haven't worked on Showpaper as long as her. Julian Bennett-Holmes (from the band Fiasco) has also worked on the paper as long as her. He just graduated from high school, just turned 17, and is one of the most serious kids I've met. He usually coordinates collecting the listings, along with Edan Wilbur, who runs e4e1 (Entertainment4Every1), and the two of them, along with a bajillion awesome kids, help run distribution every two weeks. My girlfriend Gabrielle Shaw has been helping cook up benefit show and fundraising ideas lately, as well as helping us with artwork selection. Stephanie Gross is our NFP paperwork girl, and she's been the brains behind getting us the structure we've needed up to this point, and Blair Mosner (who recently moved to San Francisco - boo!) has been helping us with grant writing. Todd P has been pretty instrumental in getting us off the ground and giving us access to all sorts of scenes throughout the tri-state, and connecting us with some of the larger artists. Alaina Stamatis writes the horoscopes and has also been helping with almost anything needed for quite some time.
But this is just now, the boundaries are constantly shifting and we've never really officially given anyone titles or anything like that. People tend towards what they're interested in helping develop.
OCM Who is curates the cover? Are there a specific criterion for the selection?
JA We had a few guest curators (Brendan Fowler, David Horvitz, Cinders Gallery), but for the most part we've curating all the issues ourselves (the people I outlined above), with priority given to people like Julian and Maggie, who've worked on the paper the longest. We're in the process of having a more standardized selection process since we've been getting a lot more artwork submissions lately, and I think the plan (hopefully starting in September) is to have the whole thing on a 6 issue cycle, with Showpaper selecting a guest curator for to do 3 issues, curating two ourselves, and then having one selected every six issues solely from the submissions. That would allow us to keep the quality from submissions high, allow us to branch out and find new artists through the curators, while at the same time being able to put up the people we want to put up. This has always been how it works, just very informally.
We don't have much criteria, although I personally feel like things that take full advantage of the full-color plates we're paying for at the print warehouse get priority. We like stuff super colorful. Busy and detailed works too, something that'll engage people over multiple viewings, so it won't get boring after the first time they put it in their pockets. Other than that, the field is wide open.
OCM I see you volunteers as interns, your thoughts?
JA Some of the volunteers are definitely interns. We are registered with the Department of Education, as well as having all the other silly paperwork necessary, so we've given out a bunch of school credit to high school and college kids. It'd be unfair to say that was the case with all, or even most, of the people who work on the paper, though. Most of the people who work on the paper are involved in the music scene already, and this is something they're excited to get behind. And there's a lot of different ways people can be involved, from an hour or so every two weeks and some people who are helping with stuff almost every day. Most of the longest and hardest working kids are the one's who receive no credit at all. I only just figured out how to get my school to give me some recognition for this stuff this summer. Outside of the specific roles, there are between 2-10 volunteers who help list all the shows.
We meet at The Silent Barn, or coffee shops in Williamsburg / Bushwick / Park Slope, depending on who's running them that day and whatever is convenient. Distro is done by anywhere between 15-almost 70 kids in this big tangled network. Distro's my favorite part of the whole process, because it's so beautifully chaotic. There's a lot of meeting people in random places and giving them some papers that they'll pass off to another kid, who'll pass it off to another kid, who'll pass it off to another kid, who'll see it for the first time and put it up on his wall. We try to keep track of that handing-off cycle to a point, so we know where the papers go, at least abstractly, but for the most part you have to trust that the kids who think the paper's awesome enough to donate their time to it will know the best places to put it, and just take your hands off.
OCM Have you considered an on-line presence as well as the printed format?
JA Has the thought occurred to us? Sure - but I don't think we ever thought about it as a possibility. We use the Internet for every show we list, but re-posting it all back online would, I think, severely deflate what makes us special. First, because there already are online aggregation sites for shows in New York (OhMyRockness being the biggest) and us trying to compete is not something I'm into. I don't know of a specific other listing site that's doing exactly the same thing (even All Ages NY lists only punk shows, really, in the 5 boroughs, and sometimes lists 16/18+ shows), but I still feel like we're encroaching on different territory.
Second, and more importantly, I feel people would take the art less seriously. This seems like a detail, but it's super big. I think if we had the paper available online, people would stop picking it up. And maybe they'd get their show information a little more streamlined and efficiently, but they also would stop paying much attention to the artist, and I think the full color print is one of the best parts of the paper. I'm a heavy promoter of digital artwork and the Internet, but we really have figured out yet how to give visual artists their just credit on a computer screen.
OCM Aside from art shows and benefits, have you envisioned other ways Showpaper can align art and music?
JA Possible, but nothing that comes suddenly to mind. Showpaper works best, I think, if we don't forget that it is what it is. Everyone involved in the paper are awesome, crazy, motivated individuals that are all foaming at the mouth with weird projects to work on with each other, and if any time spent bonding over Showpaper can be used to support those relationships, great!
The people who make the paper happen are already working to align art and music. If we wanted to stretch the umbrella of Showpaper over those projects these people do, we could, but that would be a misunderstanding. The paper isn't a scene, or a community, or a new perspective on music and art, or any of that. It's just a tool (and hopefully the first of many) that is by and for all of those things.
OCM Anything you want to add?
JA Throw shows that feel like home.