Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Phish Supporting Artists

by Karen Mahoney of City by the Sea Ceramics

Summer is here, which means I will be spending some days doing one of my favorite things- seeing Phish live. Aside from making my favorite music, I love them for supporting independent artists. I want to share with you a few of the many supportive things Phish does for creative people like us.

For each show they play, they commission a design from a printmaker. Each artist creates a limited run of prints to be sold at merchandise booths at the show. Collecting these prints has become huge in the Phish community, evident by people lining up for hours to get into the show, not to get a good seat, but to ensure they go home with a coveted print, as they always sell out.

About 15 years ago the band began to have artist Jim Pollock design images for their concert tickets that are ordered directly from the band. These days, tickets are still available from the band through a pre-sale lottery, and they continue to be decorated with images created by many different artists, something you won't get on your tickets when purchased from Ticketmaster.

Vermont sculptor Lars Fisk, whose work you can see on view at the DeCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA, created a piece for the album Round Room. His ball sculptures are instantly recognizable. He has also worked with the band as a creative director for their festivals.

Artist Alyce Santoro had one of her sonic fabric pieces worn and used onstage in 2004. Using the tape from cassettes, she wove a fabric that emits sound when swiped with the head of a tape player.

At their festivals, Phish has always made art a staple of the event, creating an area for attendees to explore between sets of music. I've seen incredible fire sculptures, life size styrofoam cars 30 feet up in a tree, and interactive exhibits where they invite viewers to create with 10,000 rolls of masking tape in a forest.

Perhaps the most direct way Phish helps artists early in their careers is with the Seven Below Arts Initiative. It was formed to "foster artistic development and support arts education in the state of Vermont", offering residency programs for artists in a time where funds are disappearing. The effort is a collaboration with Burlington City Arts and is open to artists from anywhere, not just Vermont or New England.

Is there a way that your favorite band support artists in similar ways?

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