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. If you like making art and reading things, you might want to subscribe to our experimental newsletters, install our Chrome extension, or just come hang out in our Library. We don’t post on Facebook because we decided it’s not a place we like, but we still have a Twitter. We also offer PDF downloads of all our interviews, since reading things offline is often nicer than reading things in-browser.
As Creative Content Director, I focus on producing new programs that expand TCI as a resource, such as our Ask TCI feature, our Reader Wisdom series, and our Worksheet series. 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 internship at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. With a foot in the door, I was able to work my way up the ladder, bouncing from internship to part-time job to full-time job to legit-career job. Thus starts the more professionalized era of my life. 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), being listed as one of TIME’s top 140 Twitter accounts to follow two years in a row, and winning a Gold MUSE award in the Digital Communities category for the engagement campaign, 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 co-curated 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, Complex Magazine, and in my personal newsletter, Pyramidrome. 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 and social media 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 that generated over 50K questions from the Tumblr community.
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 Foundation, which aims to catalyze radically avant-garde ways of thinking, being, and creating by supporting the evolution of wildly untethered, forward-thinking ideas and their creative manifestations. I’m also working toward launching an experimental creative space in the woods, and dreaming up new ways to catalyze contemporary thought.
〰 As they say, stay tuned. 〰