The first few years as an artist are tough. It's hard to get your name out there and get people to pay attention to you.
But RAW: Natural Born Artists, a four-year-old international program designed to help artists who are just beginning their careers, gives new artists the opportunity to show their work.
Amber Keller, RAW: Omaha director and past RAW participant, has helped to get the program started here.
Keller first got involved after she packed up her car with her art supplies and explored different parts of the West for five months. She spent some time in Austin, Texas, and had the opportunity to show her work there in a 2011 showcase.
After showing her work in Australia last year, Keller has returned to her home state and is determined to propel the art scene here further.
“I know there is amazing talent in Nebraska, and I feel like we get overlooked way too many times,” Keller said.
Artists apply to be a part of the RAW program. But Keller also seeks out of many of the artists who participate.
She peruses online sites such as Model Mayhem and Facebook as well as various newspapers and magazines to find artists for the showcases, which are held every other month. She reaches out to the artists, lets them know what RAW is all about and asks them to submit a biography and some samples of their work to the website. Keller than evaluates the work and determines whether they would be a good fit for a RAW showcase.
Everyone who is selected to participate receives head shots, images of their work and performance and an edited video interview. Artists who participate must sell tickets for their first show.
Thirty-four artists will be represented at the showcase tonight at Sokol Auditorium. All kinds of art will be featured in the live show, including an LED hula-hooper, musicians, a comedian and a poet. A visual showcase will be set up, featuring the work of several area photographers, a sculptor, accessories designers and fine artists. The night will conclude with a runway show featuring two fashion designers, a hair designer and a special-effects makeup artist.
Once artists show at a RAW showcase in their home state, they are allowed to show their work at a showcase elsewhere, in cities including Houston, Atlanta and more than 80 other locations worldwide that participate in RAW.
This was a perk for Kaity Rathman, a fashion designer and senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who showed her work at the first RAW: Omaha showcase on April 10. She says she is hoping to take advantage of this opportunity in a bigger city such as Los Angeles or New York City so that she can reach out to a bigger client base.
Reginald Adonis LeFlore II of Omaha is a visual artist who also showed in April. He has already lined up another showcase in Wicker Park in Chicago for this August.
Bands can take advantage of the RAW opportunity as well. John Claus of local rock band Cannonista says the group hopes that playing showcases in other states will help it to get to know people in other bands who will in turn help it get more shows.
For some area artists, RAW has been a springboard to larger successes. At the last showcase, special effects makeup artist Janvier Antoinette Orrante transformed a model into Freddy Krueger and turned a few more into zombies. One of the models posted images of herself in Orrante's makeup, and people began commenting on the photo and showing interest in the special effects work. Many more took business cards at the event.
Orrante said she already has gotten offers to do makeup for a local indie film. At least 30 people have booked her for the week of Halloween.
“I'm pretty sure I'm going to be living off coffee in October — that's thanks to RAW, too,” Orrante said.
Keller said what she wants most from RAW is for the program to encourage collaboration between artists and really show the world what Omaha is about: “more than cows and corn.”
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