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Sarah and John reflect on the first year of PBS Digital Studios' The Art Assignment, and talk about viewer-submitted responses to the question: What does the Art Assignment mean to you? We are so grateful for all of those who responded and who participate in the Art Assignment community.

Many thanks to all the fine people who make this series possible: PBS Digital Studios and Matthew Vree, Mark Olsen, Brandon Brungard, Molly Schwartz, Dana Schechter, Jason Weidner, Zulaiha Razak, Stan Muller, Elise Lockwood, and Meredith Danko.

Don't forget to follow us elsewhere for the full Art Assignment experience:
Tumblr: http://theartassignment.com
Our Response Tumblr: http://all.theartassignment.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/artassignment
Instagram: http://instagram.com/theartassignment/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/theartassignment
and don't forget Reddit!: http://www.reddit.com/r/TheArtAssignment/

John: Hey, Sarah, you know, today is the one year anniversary of The Art Assignment.

Sarah: So exciting, what should we do about it?

John: Well, first off, I got party poppers.  

Sarah: Oh, okay.  That seems appropriate.

John: Ready?  One, two, BOOP!

Sarah: So for our first anniversary, we wanted to ask you guys a question, and that's what The Art Assignment means to you.

John: And we got so many wonderful responses, we wanted to share some of them today, and also think about what The Art Assignment means to us and talk to you about the future of The Art Assignment.

Sarah: Many of you said that what you realized through The Art Assignment is that art is not just painting or drawing or sculpture, that it's much broader than that.  

John: Yeah, like one person said that, "Art is not alien or for the elected few," and I know that when I started learning about contemporary art, that's kinda how I felt.  I felt like an outsider in this very insular world.

Sarah: Mmhmm.

John: And I, I like--I hope, anyway, that The Art Assignment has opened that insular world up to lots of people who otherwise wouldn't have access to it.  

Sarah: And you've only been introduced to like 23 or 24 artists so far, and there's so many more ways of working, so I'm excited to keep this going and to keep introducing you guys to more artists and for me to keep meeting new artists to keep broadening my own understanding of what art is.

John: So there's gonna be a season 2?

Sarah: Uh-huh!

John: I thought we were waiting until the end of the show to announce that.

Sarah: Well.

John: Another person said that The Art Assignment has shown them that art can be made and appreciated by anyone, and I have to say, Sarah, that while I have been appreciating art since, uh, you know, we met, I haven't been making it.  This is really my first experience with being a maker of things, and I really have enjoyed it.

Sarah: Another thing you guys mentioned was that the show is for artists and non-artists alike.

John: A lot of people have talked about even if they don't do the art assignments, it's still interesting to learn about our history or to have a window into the world of art-making from an artist's perspective.

Sarah: Well, and watching can be participatory, like, reading, commenting, um, responding to other peoples' assignments.

John: The most important thing, uh, to me, and something that we heard a lot is that The Art Assignment has become a community.  The Art Assignment community has really sort of reinvigorated my faith in the internet and in internet communities, because it's just, uh, it's a great group of people making really interesting stuff together.

Sarah: Others of you mentioned that the show has made you realize that for a lot of your life, you're either lumped into the category of artist or artsy person or scientist, or science-oriented person, and this show kind of shows you how being a science-person can inform your artistic practice or vice versa.

John: Another thing we heard from a lot of people is that The Art Assignment has been a way to like, cross-pollinate their online and offline worlds.  So often, for those of us who are residents of the internet, um, you feel like your online life is one life, and your offline life is another, and those Venn diagrams don't really touch, and The Art Assignment sort of forces your online life into the real world, and also, ideally, forces your real world life into the internet.

Sarah: Some of you talked about how The Art Assignment for you is not a competition, and I was really glad to hear that.

John: Yeah, there was a--one woman, Scarlett, who wrote that she liked The Art Assignment because she "always gets good grades".

Sarah: Yeah!  We're pretty, pretty loose.

John: Yeah, everybody gets an A.

Sarah: Yeah.

John: Good work.  Good first year.  Year 2 might hand out some B's.

Sarah: We're gonna--we're gonna raise the stakes a little.

John: Yeah, things are gonna get a little harder.  When asked what The Art Assignment has meant to them over the past year, an astonishing number of people used the word "terrifying."

Sarah: Right, that some of the assignments made them terrified.  A lot of people talked about how um, either they are introverted and it helped them sort of get out of the house a little bit, but I also really enjoyed people who said that they feel very comfortable in their lives, and what some of the art assignments have done is to make them feel less comfortable.

John: Yeah, there's something wonderful about being a little bit uncomfortable.

Sarah: Right.

John: I think if you go through your whole life comfortable, you're sort of doing something wrong.

Sarah: Right.

John: Um, and it's good to be challenged.  That's one of the great things that art can do for us.  Some people who responded also pointed out that The Art Assignment is about more than art.

Sarah: Right, I mean, xenolilly said that, "The Art Assignment means an intellectual challenge."

John: Yeah.

Sarah: And I really appreciate that, 'cause that's actually what I like about art.  I like that it causes me to learn about new things, learn about the way other people think, and the way other people approach problems, through the artists and through you guys.  I go to the artists, I ask them to make you an assignment, and I'm always surprised by what they come up with, and then I'm surprised by what you guys do.

John: And as for us, we've learned so much this year.

Sarah: So much, I mean, I've learned to appreciate the beauty of the .gif.

John: Yeah, I have learned the phrase "turtles all the way down," which has become maybe the most important phrase in my entire life.

Sarah: Yeah, and now I really appreciate screens when they're turned off.

John: Oh my God, they've become so beautiful, I stare at them, and I'm like, oh, look, it's an off.  I love offs!  Through The One That Got Away, I learned how intimate the phone call has become in the digital age.

Sarah: And I learned that many people are willing to make a rug and it's so great to see how you guys continue to work on them and how they continue to grow.  Most of all, this year, I've learned that it's not necessarily art that I like, but it's what art leads me to.  I've been able to see what you guys do and see how you think about things, and it's really broadened my perspective.

John: So, we wanna thank all of you, we also wanna thank everybody who's worked on The Art Assignment this past year, our amazing director and producer Mark.  

Sarah: Our incredible animators, Molly Schwartz and Dana Schechter.

John: And Brandon Brungard, who does such brilliant editing for The Art Assignment.

Sarah: Oh, and the wonderful team at PBS Digital Studios, especially our producer, Matt Vree.  And many thanks to all these fine people who work to make this show great.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for you guys, and I'm really excited to work with you guys for the next year and present some new assignments.

John: And let us know in the comments what The Art Assignment has meant to you this past year, what you'd like to see in the next year.  Thank you again so much for being part of this community, and as we say in my hometown--

Sarah: No, no, no, no, no.  We don't have a sign-off.  The Art Assignment thing is to not have a sign-off.  

John: Alright.

Sarah: Thank you guys.

John: Don't forget to be awesome!

Sarah: (Laughs) NO!  

John: (Laughs)