I am an arts-focused strategist, writer, and editor putting the internet to work for creative culture.
Currently, I’m the Creative Content Director at The Creative Independent, a growing resource of emotional and practical guidance for artists of all types. Our logo is a spiral, and our mascot is a snail. Each weekday we publish one resource or interview that aims to illuminate the universal delights and challenges of bringing new creative work into the world. TCI was established in 2016 and is published ads-free by Kickstarter, PBC.
As Creative Content Director, I focus on producing strategic programs that expand TCI as a resource, such as our how-to guides, print publications, and collaborative series with partners like Are.na, Creative Time, and Rhizome. I also collaborate with the TCI team to publish interviews, produce events and partnerships, and look for strategic opportunities to make the site and archive more open, useable, and valuable to its readers. Want to collaborate, or have an idea? My inbox is always open: willa @ thecreativeindependent.com.
How’d I end up doing what I do now? A little history…
I grew up in the woods of Vermont. I lived there, doing Vermont things, until college, when I ventured to New York to attend Vassar. At Vassar, I did college things with a primary focus on Studio Art, English, and Media Studies. My favorite part of college was working for the writer David Means, who had me research the history of hobo vernacular.
After college, I moved to San Francisco on a whim, mostly because—as a person who thrives when I can be isolated in nature at least 75% of the time—the prospect of living in all other major cities terrified me. Once in San Francisco, I spent a few months begging anyone who’d listen to hire me, until I finally got a few gigs. One of them was working for the alternative-reality game/artist cult The Jejune Institute. It’s not a thing anymore, but the New York Times wrote about it. There’s also a movie about it, which I whole-heartedly recommend watching.
Eventually, I got an editorial and content strategy internship at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and was able to work my way up the ladder, eventually landing a legit-career job. In my work managing SFMOMA’s digital engagement (2010–2014), I collaborated on marketing, communications, and content strategy initiatives, and singlehandedly developed the museum’s award-winning social media program. Highlights included hosting what I believe to have been the first-ever Twitter takeover by an institution, establishing SFMOMA’s #SubmissionFriday program (which still runs to this day, with hundreds of thousands of featured artworks), being listed as one of TIME’s top 140 Twitter accounts two years in a row, and winning a Gold MUSE award in the Digital Communities category for our work on Play Artfully.
In 2013, I spoke at SXSW on social media’s effect on curatorial practices, which ignited my interest in the ways that digital networking tools and computer-based practices are catalyzing the evolution of contemporary culture. Motivated to explore this interest further, I spent most of 2014 working as an art & technology-focused freelance strategist, writer, and curator, and had the pleasure of working on projects with the Smithsonian, Electric Objects, and FutureCoast, to name a few.
In 2014 I was also in residence at Gray Area Art + Technology Theater as a founding member of their Cultural Incubator program, for which I worked with artist Morehshin Allahyari to co-curate Chatrooms, a series of public programs exploring how artists are using the internet to push culture forward. Much of my writing from this time was published in SFAQ, The Creators Project, ART21, and Complex Magazine. I have a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from Vassar College, and while in residence at Gray Area, I also pushed my digital art practice further — you can see a selection of my work with 3D animation, experimental video, and immersive installations over here, and see the installation I built for Gray Area’s creative code showcase here.
In 2015, I moved to NYC to join Kickstarter, a Public Benefit Company that exists to help bring ambitious creative ideas to life. I worked as Kickstarter’s Director of Curation & Content for nearly three years, and while there, I built a team of copywriters, editors, and producers from the ground up. Our team’s main prerogative was to develop content strategies and special initiatives to help artists be successful on our platform, and to collaboratively create all of Kickstarter’s brand communications and creative content—everything from newsletters to on-site features, editorial, and content partnerships—seen by millions of people weekly. Always in favor of taking an experimental approach, our team also produced lots of special projects, like an installation in the New Museum’s storefront, and a question-and-answer forum with Bill Nye.
In the last year of my work as Kickstarter’s Curation & Content Director, I spearheaded the development Kickstarter’s creative prompt series, ideating, producing, and overseeing creative direction for initiatives like Make 100, Kickstarter Gold, Projects of Earth, and Commissions, which generated over a thousand new Kickstarter projects, and more than $2million raised for creative projects overall—most of which were in our Arts & Culture categories (Art, Dance, Film, Publishing, and Music).
During my time with Kickstarter, I developed a real interest in evolving the mechanisms by which artists can earn a living through their work, and not only survive as creative practitioners, but thrive. Moving forward, I want to ensure that creative labor is appropriately valued by our society—especially forward-thinking, boundary-pushing creative labor. In service of this mission, I’m working on a new project called The Strange, an in-development, internet-infused creative space in New York’s Catskill Mountains. The Strange is a collaboration with my partner, Daniel, and we’re full-steam ahead to launch our first year of programming in the Spring of 2019. You can follow our progress and subscribe to get updates here.
〰 As they say, stay tuned. 〰