Kristine Schomaker is consistantly working to expand her Shoebox community to support artists
If you’re an artist, or an art lover, in Los Angeles, you’ve probably heard of Shoebox. The organization serves artists in a variety of ways, and it’s now expanding and offering new service options. Founder and artist Kristine Schomaker describes how Shoebox has progressed and evolved since she began the company in 2014 – always based on the needs of artists.
“As an artist myself, going to openings, seeing art, talking with artists, I can see what artists need and want,” she says. “We started out doing more PR for artists and events. Then we became a support network for artists. I am strong in research and organization, so being able to
offer resources and tools to artists to help them in their careers was a no-brainer.” As an educator well-recognized as a natural leader, she was also able to offer her experience to artists through workshops.
Shoebox at the Inglewood Open Studios 2021
While Shoebox has previously offered a single package for group and individual one-on-one meetings, the company’s new offerings provide a split, so that artists can have the option to be part of the community Schomaker has founded in one of three ways: through group meetings, individual meetings, or a combination of both.
“From the beginning of Shoebox, I have struggled with the idea of balancing my own cost of living and wages with the fees that we charge artists for our services. I want to work with all artists, but most don’t have the budget for those extra services like professional development,” Schomaker notes. “We have built a robust community of artists and are always looking for ways to [and] for our artists to build their communities, collaborate, and network. We believe that we lift each other up by supporting each other.”
Splitting services into smaller chunks offers more flexibility for artists. Shoebox will continue to offer free workshops, a free peer mentor exchange, and a low-cost subscription to their ongoing Call for Art list.
Schomaker shares, “When I see how something I said has helped members get
into shows or get grants or press, it is heartwarming. The new membership is a form of service. By offering a lower cost membership to bring in more artists, I feel I am also giving back to artists who have given me so much through their expression, stories, and love.”
Schomaker decided that 2023 was the year to reach more artists and support them, with more opportunities and fewer pandemic restrictions. Schomaker is excited about the possibilities for artists, “So they can jump back into the artworld with full force.”
Schomaker calls Shoebox group meetings inspiring. “We share experiences, ask and answer questions, learn new things, meet new art professionals, and learn the ins and outs of the art world. It is always a joy with lots of laughter…[and] sometimes tears when one of our artists is struggling.”
But even in that struggle, the artist is not alone, with the Shoebox community offering support and empowerment through both their one-on-one meetings and group meetings. They want to share this support with more artists, and now they can, Shoemaker attests.
“Since everything we do is on Zoom, we are working on building our audience outside of Los Angeles and Southern California. This will help all artists build a greater network for new opportunities.” Serving as facilitators and advocates for artists, the company’s overall goal is helping artists to succeed in whatever way that success looks like for them, and continue the Shoebox commitment to “love, support, generosity, reciprocity, and ideas. We are idea people,” Schomaker stresses.
The organization helps artists to realize that gallery representation is not the be all and end all and assists artists in collaborating with and supporting each other. “Support begets support,” she says. “When we help others, it comes back in ways we can’t even imagine. Our greatest gift is to be able to watch artists find their place in the art world and thrive. We have worked with over 200 artists, and it always makes me smile to see their shows, press, sales, and new work. It is a thrill to know we had a little hand in that.” She notes that “We don’t believe in competition. The only one you are competing with is yourself.”
Helping artists move past the idea of rejection and build the confidence to find the right place for them in the art world is important to Schomaker. She has worked intensely on figuring out her next steps for Shoebox, and how she could support artists while keeping costs low.
Photo from Perceive Me at California State University Los Angeles January 2020
Shoebox’s Artist Support Membership includes a meeting every Saturday at 10 a.m. to hear art
world speakers, and participate in topic workshops, a critique/incubator meeting, and an open forum support meeting. “We also offer a biweekly call for art list, a private Facebook group, a
studio visit exchange with another member artist and we share our artists work and events on our social media,” Schomaker says. “For those who want to participate, we will also pair our artists with an accountability partner. Artists can also do one-on-one consultations, on either a per-meeting basis or as a package of 6 meetings.” And artists can sign up for a combination of both the artist support membership and the one-on-one meetings, a powerful pairing which is how the company solely worked with artists until now.
Offering artists a greater variety of resources, tools, and choices, Schomaker focuses on helping artists to see the “larger, broader world of art beyond art fairs and galleries, [such as] online platforms, performance spaces, public art commissions, alternative art spaces, co-ops, art
groups and organizations, and more.” Helping artists expand their practice and see their work differently allows them to realize other options for “telling their story and getting their message out there.”
For 2023, Shoebox offers their Artist Support Membership, one-on-one meetings,
exhibition PR, a peer mentorship exchange, call for art subscription and free monthly workshops. They also run Shoebox Projects, their alternative art space, which hosts virtual exhibitions.
“I have fallen in love with working with artists. It is a pleasure to be able to help shape their careers, their art practice, and their future,” Schomaker says.
To take advantage of the new offerings at Shoebox, artists can check out their website, https://shoeboxarts.com/, and look under the “Work with Us” tab. Artists can also contact Shoebox for a free 20-minute consultation for more information and to hear about their discounts and sliding scale options.
Cover photo by Baha Danesh