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Uploaded:2020-07-09
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After more than 6 years and 220+ videos, it's time for The Art Assignment take a break, slow down production, and reassess what educational art content should look like in 2020 and beyond. Sarah Urist Green talks about what she's learned while making this channel and what she'd like to do next (after sleeping for a while).

Thanks to our Grandmasters of the Arts Divide By Zero Collection and David Golden, and to all of our patrons, especially Anthony Chivetta, Rich Clarey, Iain Eudailey, Tom Forwood, Patrick Hanna, Andrew Huynh, Eve Leonard, Audrey Mak Tung, David Moore, Jane Quale, Gabriel Civita Ramirez, Andrew Sheeler, Boris Silantiev, Josh Thomas, Constance Urist, and Roberta Zaphiriou. We are more grateful for you than you'll ever know!

To continue to support our channel, visit: http://www.patreon.com/artassignment, and subscribe for new episodes of The Art Assignment every... now and then.
Today, I'm making an announcement about the future of this channel, and in the process, I'm gonna tell you what I've learned about spending the last six years making more than 200 videos about art and art history on YouTube, and I'm gonna be more honest about it than I probably should.

One thing I've learned is that I have "vocal fry".  Some people complain about this in the comments, but just as many or more people tell me they find my voice comforting.  Now, this may sound trivial, but it's related to a much more important thing I've learned: none of us who are in front of the camera and delivering content are value-neutral, even if we try.  With a topic as subjective as art, I've felt like I've needed to be the one voicing the content that I've written. 

Many people assist in researching our videos.  There are very talented directors and editors who play a huge role in shaping them and a number of others work behind the scenes, but it's been me deciding what the videos are about, writing scripts, choosing who we're gonna talk to, selecting the images you see, and standing behind opinions when they're offered.  With the support of PBS and the production company I work with, Complexly, I've had the freedom to explore the art and ideas that I think are the most relevant to our time and also the ability to listen to what you think, respond to it, and generate new content about that.

I don't actually enjoy being on camera, but individual, authentic voices have always been at the core of what makes YouTube great, and I've been glad to be able to lend my own voice in the hopes of making art and art history more accessible.  Over time, I've learned to appreciate the specificity of my own point of view, but also its limitations.  I'm a person who's more interested in art from the 1960s than the 1560s.  I have a deeper background in art from North America than South America.  Making this channel has been a hugely rewarding way to stretch beyond my formal education and natural inclinations, but any channel on YouTube and indeed, any experience, is shaped by bias and perspective, both the content itself and the way that each of us interprets and responds to it.  

The fact that my voice sounds grating to some and comforting to  others is a reminder of that.  I've also learned that these biases are often reinforced by the recommendation algorithms that govern the platforms we frequent.  Whether we want to or not, we citizens of the internet work in collaboration with these algorithms to curate information feeds for ourselves, and even if our feeds feel objective, they never are.  

The Art Assignment isn't and has never been the history of art or an introduction to the art world, it's always been my history of art and a glimpse into my art world.  I hope that's been part of what makes it good, but it's also part of what makes it limited, subjective, and necessarily incomplete.  The more videos we make, the more aware I am of the vast amount we haven't covered.  Trying to make content on this platform that is both educational and also clickable can be a challenging task with many pitfalls.  We've used what I think of as a (?~3:04) technique, making a huge variety of kinds and formats of episodes to see what might possibly stick.  

In doing so, we've discovered that more people click on names of art movements they've already heard of, artworks they've seen before, and already famous artists, mostly male.  More people watch when I do a hot take about those rare moments when art hits the wider news, like a Banksy stunt or a banana duct taped to a wall.  

I've also learned what YouTube viewers are less likely to click on, which is artists they've never heard of, artworks they haven't seen before, and topics that don't court controversy or outrage.  This says something about the YouTube algorithm, but it also says something about what kinds of information we're all drawn to online.  Who wants to watch an educational video when you can watch the Try Guys eat 400 dumplings?  Seriously.  I just watched it.  It's great.

But because I know what tends to get clicked on more and watched for longer stretches, I've been more likely to try to serve that to you.  Not all the time, of course, but even when served in moderation, that's not really good for art history.  It reinforces dominant narratives and offers up the same boring old menu of famous artists again and again.  However, I've also learned that you all are willing to dive down lesser known and unexpected rabbit holes of research and bear with me as I simultaneously cook poorly and attempt to understand the eating and cooking lives of artists.  

You've taught me you're willing to reconsider art and artists you didn't think you liked, and you've tried approaches to art that are far outside of your comfort zones and made beautiful and vulnerable work in response.  You've tackled really difficult questions with me and been willing to linger in grey zones and leave questions unanswered.  I mean, we've never even established a definition of art on this channel.  

Because of your capacity for the abstract and lesser known, we've been able to keep going all these years, and with the incomparable backing of PBS, we've been able to make content not just for the most people, but for an open-minded and discerning audience like you, but here's the thing.  

I'm exhausted.  That burnout that seems to eventually reach everybody on YouTube has crept up on me, too.  I've decided to listen to the voice in my head that's been telling me for a while that it's time to take a break and refill the creative tank.  We have a couple more videos in production that I'm excited to share in the coming weeks, but then we're gonna be stepping back for a while.  

You'll still find me on social media, and I'm planning on putting out new videos on this channel every now and then, but I'm gonna be devoting more of my time to thinking more slowly about what art history and art education could and should look like in 2020 and beyond.  I'm looking forward to doing the things I'm already doing, reading, researching, looking at art, making art, and talking to people, but not on a bi-weekly production timeline, and I'll still be out promoting the trove of existing videos on this channel and the assignments that will be here for you on YouTube and in the book You Are An Artist.  

These past six years of making The Art Assignment have been an amazing ride.  We've taken you with us to many places around the world, introduced you to a wide range of inspiring artists, and presented you with a broad array of art and ideas.  What we've started here, I'll be continuing on other platforms and out in the world.  The Art Assignment is a YouTube channel, but it's also much more than that.  It's a wide ranging initiative that seeks new ways to present art and art history through the lens of what's happening today.  That's all still gonna happen--just less on YouTube.

I'm so grateful for all you who've been part of this community.  There are plenty of toxic spaces on the internet, but ours has been one of thoughtfulness and generosity.  Most of the time.  While I'm critical of YouTube, I also love it, and it's been an extreme pleasure to engage in serious and meaningful discussions with you.  So it isn't a goodbye, really.  It's more of the first step in broadening the conversation.  What does your art world look like that's not reflected in the content you see?  What does your art history look like, and what do you think it should look like in the future?  Let's talk about it in the comments and other places, too.

Thanks to all of our Patrons for supporting The Art Assignment, especially our grandmasters of the arts, David Golden and Divide By Zero Collection.  

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