13 September 2020

Ashes to Phoenix: The Second Life Endowment for the Arts Is Announced

As has been widely reported (for example by Inara Pey, so I won't repeat the announcement), Linden Lab approved the foundation of the Second Life Endowment for the Arts (a successor to the Linden Endowment for the Arts) based on a proposal developed by Tansee and Hannington Xeltentat -- and congratulations! A year ago when LEA was collapsing and some people, with Tansee in the lead, began campaigning for some way to save it or modify it, I had some cautionary advice, and it seems one or two of my thoughts were absorbed into the proposal; hopefully my advice will prove foresightful.

Hannington and Tansee will helm SLEA, which is already a good sign. One of LEA's major sources of trouble was that its leadership was composed mostly of artists, which produced conflict out of competing views (not to mention competing personalities) and took a significant number of artists out of the running for LEA sims. Hannington and Tansee, however, have been curating the Hannington Endowment for the Arts. Tansee is also an artist, but any "vanilla" curatorial experience (i.e., without the mishegas of conflicts of interest and the like) counts. Plus the Hannington Endowment for the Arts has a good track record.

At seven sims, SLEA will also be considerably smaller than LEA, thank heavens. LEA frequently approved crap, especially toward the end, because it often received about as many proposals as it had sims. The SLEA residencies range from one to six months, with a few quarter sims, which is an interesting approach that allows (or requires) a lot of turnover; probably that will help lower the stakes for artists who've seldom (if ever) created a large work before.

Vanessa Blaylock, in her own blog post on the announcement, offers two suggestions: (1) have shorter residencies -- no longer than two months -- and thus provide more opportunities to artists; and (2) make the seven sims contiguous as a way to break down the isolation of the works and build artist community. I'm skeptical about both ideas.

Regarding suggestion (1), Vanessa makes a good point: nobody needs a six-month residency, and few need a whole sim. Well, actually Bryn Oh makes all that work, but she's got her own sim. Vanessa's specific suggestion increases the annual opportunities from 40 under SLEA's proposal to 60. However, she doesn't account for a fundamental problem, one which I discussed in my original advice: at least from what have seen in person or announced in notices to the arts groups, unlike ten years ago very few artists focus on 3D builds rather than 2D images. My concern is not that there will be too few opportunities for artists, but that there are too few 3D artists to take the 40 opportunities. Tansee and Hannington have their work cut out for them already. But the length of residencies and the apportionment of the sims is easily modified. I might recommend chopping the six-month residencies down to three months, but that's all for now.

On Vanessa's suggestion (2), community is important, and I've written a couple of posts about it myself. However, making the sims contiguous doesn't (as she assumes) necessarily build community among the artists -- it can also create visual competition. Compare with the SL Birthdays and Burning Life/Burn2 celebrations: complete visual clutter. If those events create community among artists, then great, that's already happening, but I doubt they do. (I wish LL would put all the artists on contiguous regions, actually, because they're the only reason I visit.)

Admittedly, when I was curating Split Screen, most of the time I split the space between two artists -- but I left the decision on coordinating or separating to them. Sometimes they shared the land, once or twice responding to each other's work, but usually they stayed separate and sometimes they split the space vertically as one artist would take the sky (a couple times I wished that they'd chosen that path...). In fact some artists prefer sky builds, such as Cherry Manga (for instance, Danse Macabre). So if someone looks at a neighboring sim and sees empty land, then what? I also had to deal with conflict between artists over windlights, and I wouldn't wish that sort of thing on Hannington and Tansee. To me, allowing the artists to choose seemed to build a little community in the sense of cooperation, and only once did someone demand the whole space (which led that person to get none -- I set the rules).

However, even though Vanessa presents her suggestion as a way to create community among artists, her argument is actually from the perspective of an art enthusiast: make it easier for visitors to see everyone's work. And on that, she's right, sometimes I myself felt frustrated by the isolation.

So overall, my own recommendations to Tansee and Hannington are (1) require a SLEA-provided TP system on every sim to get to the other sims, maybe incorporating a photo of each installation (too bad artists, you have to include it, those are the rules); (2) have open discussions and a flexible approach with the artists on splitting land horizontally or vertically, and even on allocation of prim equivalents (some artists do a lot with a little); (3) have a flexible approach to residency durations as things proceed; (4) keep a bottle of scotch, some weed, or a bottle of Xanax handy, at some point you'll need it; and (5) GET A PUBLICIST! I mean for fuck's sake, LEA was fucking horrible at publicity, which creates more community and happier artists than any other strategy.


  1. Hiya, Dividni!

    So great to hear from you!! Lots of solid and well thought out ideas here! TY!!

    My full response to your response is in the comments back at my original post.

    Thanks for playing tennis with me, Dividni!

    Or... is it ping pong? :D

    1. I noticed you were online once or twice while I've been in-world, but right now I can spend so little time in SL (RL's got me slogging) I've refrained from saying hi -- silly me! I'll try to be neighborly and buzz you sometime, and we can lob tennis balls, ping-pong balls, and falafel balls at each other!