Every artist wants his or her artwork to be enjoyed by the masses. Some might struggle to achieve this, while others call it quits after repeated failure to introduce their works to a wider audience.
In Jakarta, however, artists have found a way to keep themselves afloat in the field through collective arts, whereby art community groups work hand-in-hand with other groups in producing works, raising money to fund projects and managing exhibitions to promote their works.
Convinced that up-and-coming artists in the country need to get on board with this method, they established Gudskul Contemporary Art and Ecosystem Studies, an informal art school encouraging artists to develop art communities and work with each other to stand the test of time.
“We teach the up-and-coming artists how to work collectively with others in a community, as we believe the power of collaboration is important for Indonesia’s art scene to survive in the long term, ” says Marcellina Dwi Kencana Putri, manager of Gudskul.
Gudskul, which is located in Jagakarsa, South Jakarta, has operated since November 2018, teaching students about collective arts in a one-year-study programme starting in September every year. The school is managed by Gudskul Ecosystem, an art collective created by three art communities in Jakarta: ruangrupa, Serrum and Studio Grafis Huru Hara.
The students, nine young artists from cities across the country, learn about creating and managing art communities as they study 11 subjects, including collective culture in society, collective sustainability study and developing collective arts in society. Such subjects are not taught at any formal art school. The lessons are applicable to any genre, be it fine arts, multimedia arts, graphic design or three-dimensional arts.
“We’re not handing them modules or any written teaching materials about specific art forms, but we teach them skills that are going to be useful when they work as artists, which is creating and maintaining art communities, ” says Marcellina.
Aside from enrolling up-and-coming artists, the school also provides short courses for the public from 7pm to 9pm from Monday to Friday. The participants can learn about design, exhibition management, photography and creative writing.
“We have (had many people from the public sign up for) our short courses, with backgrounds ranging from civil servants to white-collar workers. This is part of our effort to promote collective art, which is the main characteristic of Jakarta’s art scene, ” she says, adding that the admission fee for each course was Rp 2 million (RM590) for eight sessions over a two-month period.
Moreover, the founders of the school believe that the idea of the collective arts system should be promoted nationwide, as it had transformed Jakarta’s art scene from just producing arts to a promising business opportunity.
Arman Arief Rahman, the fundraising coordinator of Gudskul Ecosystem, said the success story of collective arts in the city had begun in 2015, when three communities – ruangrupa, Serrum and Forum Lenteng – established a common workshop by renting Gudang Sarinah, a warehouse in Pancoran, South Jakarta, managed by state-owned enterprise PT Sarinah.
Initially, those communities gathered together under one roof to share the rent, as each community had endured financial difficulties due to the increasing cost of renting art studios.
However, the communities later realised that each group has different art expertise that was useful to create a joint venture company specialising in providing art services. The company, called PT Ruang Usaha Kreatif, was established in 2016 with services ranging from art handling services and performing client-based art projects to providing two venues at Gudang Sarinah to be leased.
Those businesses, he added, had earned them revenue to support their living as artists.
“We have found so many benefits with the collective arts system. The collaborative work not only benefits us on the business side but also helps us succeed in keeping Jakarta’s art scene alive as we in successfully holding Jakarta Biennale and many exhibitions together, ” says Arman.
However, in 2018, Sarinah did not grant them an extension to rent Gudang Sarinah anymore, forcing them to seek another place in Jakarta to be able to still work collectively.
They finally found a vacant plot in Jagakarsa to establish a new art ecosystem with money they had collected during three years of working collectively. As they moved to a new space, the communities decided to change their business focus.
“Back in Gudang Sarinah, our businesses gravitated toward organising events, but now, in Jagakarsa, we decided to focus on educating the public and artists about the collective arts system, because it works for us, ” he says.
“By establishing the school, we want students coming from outside of Jakarta to also develop their own art communities in their respective places. I can say that the school is like a pesantren (Islamic boarding school) for artists, ” adds Arman.
Noorlintang Suminar, a 27-year old artist and alumni of Gudskul, said she had reaped many benefits from a one-year-study program at the school from 2018 to 2019 and was now able to hold an art exhibition, which gave her the confidence to establish an art studio.
“I also met many artists at the school, and that has expanded my connections. Therefore, I can ask for their help whenever I want to create an art project in the future, ” she says. – The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network