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Hand in Glove: An Introduction and Recommended Reading

—The following is excerpted from an editorial statement for Hand in Glove written by James McAnally, Executive Editor of Temporary Art Review. Artist-centric practices have continued to normalize as a dominant way of working in response to economic necessity, socially-aware apertures and numerous other factors. Hand-in-Glove has been a formative platform for gathering in this emergent field […]


—The following is excerpted from an editorial statement for Hand in Glove written by James McAnally, Executive Editor of Temporary Art Review.

Artist-centric practices have continued to normalize as a dominant way of working in response to economic necessity, socially-aware apertures and numerous other factors. Hand-in-Glove has been a formative platform for gathering in this emergent field since its first iteration, organized by Threewalls in Chicago in 2011. Now, paired with the launch of the nascent Common Field network, it is arriving at a pivotal moment for the field more broadly. Questions of the sustainability of this notoriously precarious activity, paired with latent institutionalization and professionalization within the field, are more pressing than ever as practitioners gather to consider the paradigms and platforms through which we engage.

Hand-in-Glove, in its own words, is “an itinerant gathering created by and for the practitioners in the field of alternative art spaces, projects and organizations” that “will investigate the contexts and conditions of artist-led culture across the country.”

As perhaps the only national gathering consistently focusing on the field of alternative art spaces, projects and organizations, the evolution of Hand-in-Glove also acts as a speculative narrative about the arc of this practice. It is “by and for” the field, offering an opportunity for necessary self-assessment about both its current dynamics and future shape.

The field, such as it is – this artist-centered, alternative terrain – is formalizing. It is inscribed in institutions mobilizing down and taking on more flexible forms, as well as small scale organizations organizing through networks of support. The field is also continually shifting – projects redirecting or shuttering, organizers moving and leaving their positions, questions of sustainability, growth, equity and access always on a precipice. Hand-in-Glove is a meeting point for these complex dynamics, offering a moment of reflection on both its own development since 2011 as well as the evolutions around artist-centric practice over the past several years.

Over the next several weeks, Temporary Art ReviewMn Artists, and Common Field are embarking on collaborative and cross-platform editorial project, a social response to Hand-in-Glove, featuring framing texts on the convening, commissioned essays, and critical responses to this year’s convening, September 17 through 20, in the Twin Cities.

With these conversations, in writing and in person, we’re attempting to open a porous space in which we ask these questions back to ourselves:

What is our common field of practice and how do we advance it?

What are models of growth that don’t use the mechanisms of institutionalization?

Can we articulate our position of artist-centricity in tangible terms?

Are we successfully embodying the kind of art world we wish to see more broadly?


Weigh in with your own thoughts here or in the ongoing conversational threads unspooling over the coming weeks on Temporary Art Review, in their section for the Hand in Glove “Social Response.”

To prepare for the Hand in Glove convening this week, we’ve been reading up, compiling resources and links to landmark articles in this burgeoning field. Below, you’ll find a selection of suggested articles and essays, notable web resources and books, that might help us navigate as we get the lay of the land for this emerging common field.


  • Robert Gard’s landmark essay on arts development in smaller towns as “a laboratory through which the vision for a region is reformulated and extended,” at the forefront of a larger, national renaissance in arts and culture: “The Arts in the Small Community: A National Plan” (aka “The Windmill Book”)
  • A chapter from the book, Building Communities, Not Audiences: The Future of The Arts in the United States, in which Maryo Gard Ewell offers valuable historical context for current trends in community-rooted, socially-engaged art: “Arts-Based Community Development: Where Did We Come From?
  • Burn the Maps” by Art of the Rural founder Matthew Fluharty on redrawing the maps of the cultural center and periphery to account for evolving demographic, cultural, and economic realities in “rural” America (Mn Artists)
  • Lane Relyea with Katy Siegel” on the historical and future implications of DIY, contemporary post-studio practices, and the M.F.A. as a rising art world institution (The Brooklyn Rail)


  • Art Practical’s double-issue on “Valuing Labor in the Arts,” includes a wide-ranging assortment of essays – from writers working in economics, sociology, art history, performance studies, dance, film studies, and literature – which explore the intersections of art, activism, artistic service, compensation and labor.
  • Ben Davis’s “9.5 Theses on Art and Class
  • Sociologist Alison Gerber’s piece on art and the state, “The Nightmare Audit of an Indie Artist.” (Narratively)
  • Marion Fourcade and Kieran Healy’s “Moral Views of Market Society” (The Annual Review of Sociology)
  • From Julia Bryan-Wilson’s book, Art Workers, the essay, “From Artists to Art Workers,” unpacks the implications cultural labor in the political sphere: “art work is no longer confined to describing aesthetic methods, acts of making, or art objects—the traditional referents of the term—but is implicated in artists’ collective working conditions, the demolition of the capitalist art market, and even revolution.”
  • Loren Nosan on carving out new pathways for successful artistic practice, outside the realm of “the immensely powerful consumerist machine” and the institutional and credentialing systems which perpetuate it: “Artists of the World, Unite!” (Galleryell)


  • Critic Ben Davis untangles some of the nuances in the question of what it means to be a political artist today in “A Critique of Social Practice Art” (International Socialist Review)
  • Is Social Practice Gentrifying Community Arts?Bad At Sports’ incisive dispatch from the Creative Time Summit (NYC), The Association of American Cultures (Providence, RI), and Hand in Glove (New Orleans): August – October 2013
  • In “Disasters Align,” Red76 founder Sam Gould makes the case for a rangier sort of socially-engaged art that forgoes easy, art world-friendly categories like “social practice” in favor of articulating a field of practice that embraces more disruptive, unabashedly irrational work and interaction. (Mn Artists)
  • An Xiao Mina writes on the nexus of artists, the internet, and social movements in “An Activism of Affirmation” (
  •  “Fighting Words: A Public Debate on the Relationship Between Social Practice and Arts Institutions”  documents remarks from a lively conversation at Assembly, a social practice gathering held last year in Portland, Ore., compiled by Ariana Jacob, on the question: Does social practice belong in museums?  (Mn Artists)


Monica Sheets offers two suggestions, writing: “These are some oldies but goodies that seem to still be highly relevant regarding the danger for (neoliberal) instrumentalization of artists’ work and socially engaged art’s problematic relationship to the political.”

Seattle’s and/or organization founder, Anne Focke, writes: “In the late 1980s, several hundred people met twice at remote locations on two islands, one on the U.S. east coast and one on the west, to consider “the creative support of the creative artist.” Sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), the first conference was held in May 1986 at Montauk on the eastern tip of Long Island, New York and the second in November 1988 on Orcas Island near the Canadian border in Washington state. These two gatherings brought together artists, arts funders, and dedicated people from organizations that serve artists. For two days (Montauk) or four days (Orcas) they talked, performed, argued, ate together, played together, and tackled critical concerns beyond the arts. They also built life-long friendships and professional relationships and provoked questions that remain today.”

Noteworthy websites and online resources:

Suggestions for further reading:

Many thanks to Maia Murphy, Maria Sykes, Alison Gerber, Shanai Matteson, Colin Kloecker, Andy Sturdevant, James McAnally, Monica Sheets, Abigail Satinsky, Jehra Patrick, Emily Gastineau, Anne Focke, Shawn(ta) Smith Cruz, and Paul Bonin Rodriguez for their contributions to the list.

Conference information:

Hand in Glove 2015 (#HIG2015) will take place September 17 – 20 at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis. For more information on topics, sessions, and related events, visit the convening’s website:

Let’s consider this a working document – please feel free to add your own reading suggestions in the comments.

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