Ten years ago, fashionista, stylist and art lover Heidi Luerra had an idea, a vision really. Noticing not only a disconnect between independent artists and their audiences and potential collectors but also between a range of creative enterprises in design and beauty and potential clients, she set out to conceptualize an interdisciplinary showcase that could start not only to build direct patronage relationships but also to build bridges between artists in different but resonant creative sectors.
But this was not a trade show or a networking event — this was always also a damn good party. And on Wednesday, March 20, in downtown L.A. where it all began, it’s time to throw a proper RAW Artists (once known as Natural Born Artists) birthday.
Over the past decade, RAW Artists showcases have evolved into a curated but egalitarian, participatory platform with local and regional franchise satellites around the country and across the globe. In some 70 cities in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia and the U.K., more than 170,000 creatives have thrown 1,500 one-night events welcoming half a million visitors to micro-festivals combining visual art and photography, performance art, hair, makeup, film, music, fashion and accessory design with cocktails, music and meetups.
They’ve also gone through branding exercises, restructuring, expansion, incorporation and a process of honing and documenting their progressive experiences, which has resulted in a dedicated national support staff as well as films, workshopping and a recently founded professional agency called [FOUND]. There’s also a forthcoming life and career guide for independent working artists in our brave new economic and media environment. The collected wisdom distilled from a decade of empathetic ambitiousness at RAW, like any creative career, results from a universe of successes and failures, listening and experimenting, trusting and verifying, and the, um, let’s say joys, of figuring it out together.
Whether you’ve never heard of RAW or it’s just been a while since you last checked it out, this Wednesday’s celebration at the Exchange nightclub is a good time to drop in. REFLECT will be augmenting the classic, eclectic RAW array of inspired offerings with decade-surveying retrospectives, all-stars and just the smallest bit of well-earned satisfaction in making it all work.
RAW Artists Los Angeles: REFLECT; the Exchange L.A., 618 S. Spring St., downtown; Wed., March 20, 7-11 p.m.; $22.50-$30.