Art can often reflect reality in a manner that the written word cannot. Because of this, Black artists have historically reflected the times while being catalysts for innovative thinking. However, it is not always feasible for them to have the support they need for their art to flourish and often are not given just due. With this in mind, the art collective Black In Color is setting out to change the artistic landscape for these creators.
Black In Color is helping Black artists fill the void of receiving digital exposure with the guarantee of proper compensation. Lola Wood and Candice Tasker created the platform with the mission to maximize the visibility of Black artistic creators through a concise structure that allowed them to simultaneously profit. Born and raised in Washington, DC, Wood is the co-founder of luxury experiential company Wanderluxxe and holiday lifestyle brand Hendrix + Lenox, while Tasker is the founder boutique agency Facets58 which specializes in event production and integrated marketing.
Founded in 2020, Black In Color leverages close relationships with leading curators to connect Black artists to a global network of collectors and art enthusiasts. Online exhibitions, curator “walk-throughs,” and studio visits provide a meaningful access point for the public to engage with artists’ work. Each month, the platform highlights the works of a specific artist and holds programming that relates to their art specifically.
Additionally, as the power of technology makes resources available for all through leveling the playing field, the collective has partnered with Coil, an innovative subscription platform that allows artists and other content creators to get micro-funded for their work. By integrating web monetization micropayments into the existing platform, art lovers alike can contribute to artists’ financial well-being as they learn more about the artists' work.
Below, Tasker and Wood give EBONY an exclusive insight into their Black In Color platform and how it is shifting the culture of art for Black visual artists in 2022.
EBONY: Why is it important for people to see, respect, and acknowledge Black artists?
Lola Wood: I would say that I think it's important from a few perspectives. First, I think visibility is really important for the artists. I'm sure as a creator, it really helps to lends themself to an outlet for self-expression. However, as a community that has experienced a lot of inequity, the awareness of social justice issues are coming to light in a new and expansive way. I think it allows the artist an opportunity to use their work to leverage and create something beautiful. I also think it's important for the average consumer, the way an artist depicts current circumstances reminds us to see and reflect on what is going on in society, especially with individuals outside of the Black community.
How was the Black In Color collective born?
Wood: Black In Color, formerly the Black Artists Collective, was actually a pandemic project for us. Candice and I were working together intending to create programming for a curator who we wanted to celebrate by hosting in-person events. As soon as we went into quarantine, we pivoted and created a series of artist talks that were led by a curator based in the Washington D.C. area. She introduced us to new artists that we weren't familiar with and talked to us about bringing in three artists. She hosted three artist talks with the artists—Janet Taylor Pickett, Maria-Lana Queen and Robin Holder—who talked about their art and how it was inspired by their identities. As we were planning the programming out for this virtual experience, we got the opportunity to apply for a grant which was designed for digital content creators. We thought it would be an interesting idea to create an artist platform which is now blackincolor.com, where we have a virtual art collection as well as touring artists.
Candice Tasker: That's the bare bones of what it is we are doing. We've actually known each other and probably knew each other for about six months to a year before embarking on this journey. It was really exciting. We saw the fruits of our labor for lack of a better term. All of the hard work that we have put in continues to be a labor of love. Even as moms with full-time jobs, we were able to launch our platformand we continue to see what the future holds for it.
We met through my previous position working as an experiential director and we crossed paths collaborating on sponsorship type of work. Lola came to me with this fabulous idea of doing these in-person dinners, honoring and recognizing Black women curators. We were all geared up and ready to go to do these events with sponsors on board, and then boom, COVID struck and we did the pivot. We tested out virtual talks to see what our audience would be like, which were more successful than we anticipated. Then we went on this long journey of getting grants for our current projects and it was quite a process.
How are artists, specifically Black artists able to access and interact with the Black In Color platform? How is it unique from other content-sharing platforms?
Wood: The core of what Black In Color stands for is what makes us different and stand out. When beginning to ideate around this project, we wanted to explore the aspect of equitable compensation and exposure as we learned more about the artists that we were working with. Candice and I learned that the art space generally hasn't been one that allows artists the luxury of financial security—the way that people such as investors and collectors have been able to. Therefore, Black In Color is based on the idea that as people spend time on the site learning more about the featured artist of the month, web monetization will in turn allow the artist to benefit financially.
So, we are experimenting with the idea that as long as people are spending time on our site in these particular areas, they are micro-funding through their subscription to Coil, and creating a different ecosystem for artists. that helps support the artists. Coil is subscription-based platform and is five dollars a month— so less than some of your other streaming services.
Traditionally, we're used to viewing art through institutions such as museums or other physical spaces like art galleries. In your experimentation, how have you found ways to keep the same level of excitement and intentionality of presenting art through digital formats alive?
Tasker: I think, in general, it became very clear to us that there needed to be a new way for people to experience Black artists. This is especially true after being in this pandemic for over two years. The artists we work with are not ones who you'd typically find in a museum or prestigious galleries and that's mainly due to lack of access. Because of that, I think this gives us a different space to work within and occupy. We're exposing people to new artists that they may not have even known about previously. Therefore, not only do people get excited finding out about these new artists, they can feel good about supporting their work through our platform.
Once an artist sells a painting, there is no residual income in comparison to creating a song and having it played on a streaming platform. It may not be a lot of income that they generate from the site but the more people interact with and find them, the more they are able to monetarily benefit.