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Artist Created Flash Mobs

by Moshe Mikanovsky on 8/11/2011 8:53:34 AM

This article  is by Moshe Mikanovsky, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  An emerging artist searching his way in the art world, he loves to share what he learns.  With over 20 years of technology experience, Moshe combines his technological background and his passion for the arts with the goal of "working his dream".  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.


Are you familiar with the flash mob phenomena? If not, you are probably not using YouTube too often or haven't seen it on Facebook.


In the past few years, flash mobs were used to move us, sell us products, surprise some super-host-show divas, and lots of other things in between. It is quite cool to see how tens or hundreds of people start singing and dancing out of nowhere, in public parks, street corners or train stations. If you really don’t know what I am talking about, check out few of these links:

Why did I start telling you about this?  Because of a great idea I wanted to share with you.


My friend and mentor, artist Gary Smith, who is constantly looking for ways to not only enrich his own art practice, but also to connect with his students and give them opportunities to create, has come up with this brilliant idea! In addition to his regular Sunday figure drawing classes, summer art escapes and plein air painting sessions at the Toronto Islands, Gary started recently his “Flash Painting sessions”.


Here is how it works – a day or two before Gary plans to have such a session, he sends an email to his newsletter list, the one dedicated for his students and artists he is associated with. In this email he will detail where he will be painting, when, and how to get there.

There is no cost, no materials provided, and no teaching involved. Only the togetherness and spirit of creation. And it works.


So far Gary has had four or five sessions. Since I have a day job, I didn’t have a chance to join him on most of them, but the last one was made just for me, after I “complained” that I can’t join during the day. This last one was after work, at the Eaton Centre mall, which is one of the largest malls in Toronto, situated in the heart of downtown.


It was an amazing experience. Although there was not a mob of artists there (in fact, this one drew the least people, only Gary and I. Maybe after hours is not such a good idea, after all, for other artists), it was great getting people's reaction to what we were up to.


Especially the kids, but also the adults, liked to peek behind our shoulders, look at what we are drawing or painting, and stop by to ask some questions. You can see some pictures from that session on my blog.


In previous sessions, Gary took his followers to several street corners in the city for urban paintings and also to an Indian and yoga festival on the Toronto Islands’ parks. As a follow up, he always sends out emails to the group with comments from the previous flash session, photos of some of the paintings he made, ideas for future work, and some stories from the session.


I love the way that Gary publishes this to his contact list and the fact that he took a current hype concept, the Flash Mob videos, and used it in his own context, creating something new and exciting for us artists and students. I hope that he will continue this initiative and will grow it with many followers, so it will be a real mob of artists, “attacking” a location, painting and drawing it to our heart's content. Who knows, maybe there is a show coming up from that...


Do you have a similar experience or brilliant idea you would like to share? Write in the comments, or let me know and I will be more than happy to chat with you and write about your story/experience/idea.





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Topics: art marketing | creativity | exposure tips | FineArtViews | inspiration | Moshe Mikanovsky | originality | sell art | social networking 

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I LOVE this idea. Thank you for sharing. A terrific, positive post!

geri degruy
thanks moshe. i really like the idea of grabbing hold of a trend and using it to our own ends. makes so much sense to get in the flow of what is already a fascination and adding our own twist.

Donald Fox
There have been quite a few flash mobs here in Houston generated by different groups within the swing dance communities. Most of them are posted on YouTube. It would be interesting to video a painting flash mob. The video could be very dynamic by cutting back and forth between different paintings and the various stages of progress and also including crowd responses. Thanks for sharing this.

Carol Schmauder
What an interesting idea, Moshe! I have heard of flash mobs but would never have tied and artist event to the idea.

Kathy Chin
Very nice idea! How 'bout tying it in with a flash mob and drawing some of the dancers...or having a specific time limit for the drawing (to make it a "flash,") or add a little music to speed you along! Sounds like a lot of fun!!!

jack white
When I think of flash mobs, the images of London come to mind. I see the flash mobs burning stores and killing people.

I can see young people coming to such an event, but do they buy art? I doubt if many older people, with money would show up at a flash mob. None of our collector base would, for fear of being hurt.

While they make work for an artist with students I don't think they are a way to market art. I like to believe what we make is on a higher level.

The major of Philadelphia has put a 9 PM curfew on flash mobs, because of all the destruction they are doing to his city. The flash mobs in Detroit have destroyed property. Same for LA. Even the flash mobs in Houston have been destructive, robbing stores. They smash windows, hassle regular folks and cause havoc. The word flash mod doesn't conjure up a good image. Law enforcement all across the country are trying to figure out how to stop flash mobs. They are working with Blackberry and Social Networks to find out where they are going to happen so they can prevent their destruction.

I can't see how a flash mob is positive for the art world. Anytime a mob gets together all reason is left at home.


Sharon Weaver
I think this is a way to engage people and bring a like minded group together but it sounds like a paint out with a different name. Painting in public places can lead to lookers and I have actually sold several painting from paint-outs conducted in public areas.

Sharon Weaver
By all means paint in malls, on the street, where people meet or anywhere in public. Your painting could catch the eye of a buyer.

Jack, you're confusing the current trend of flash mobs with riots. No one is talking about rioting or destroying anything or harming anyone. A flash mob is a pre-organized event where a group of people meet at a designated time and public place to do a type of performance art. It's a quick event only lasting a few minutes, and the people involved disperse immediately after the performance. It is supposed to appear spontaneous even though most are well planned and rehearsed for weeks beforehand, especially the ones that involve choreographed dance.

It is unfortunate that the term 'flash mob' is used because of so many recent destructive events at home and abroad. What Moshe is suggesting is just a fun, group event patterned after the popular public performances being done by groups of people all over the world.

Moshe Mikanovsky
Jack, just to add to Donald's comment - check out Wikipedia for "Flash mob" and the reference over there for it dictionary definition.

I actually think it is fortunate that Flash Mob is used as this term - kind of reminds me the end of days Messianic promise that "their swords will become shovels...". Especially for us as artists - we can stand in the front line of creation and make good out of bad! If the current generation, due to YouTube and all other social media, define "Flash Mob" as the positive thing it is, it just shows the power these tool has to do good. So why not harness it and make even more good?


jack white

Much Obliged. I appreciate your description. Flash mob is not a word I like. We had some friends beat up by a flash mob at the WI state fair. So far no arrest have been made in their case. The man was in the hospital and his wife hurt. They are in their 50ies. The pair were pulled out of their car.

I agree with you there has to be a better name than flash mob.


Donna Robillard
This is a clever to have a paint-out session. It's always a lot of fun just to be around other artists and painting.

Jack, So sorry to hear about your friends. I understand why you wouldn't like the term "Flash mob." I don't like it either, not so much the "flash" part, but the "mob" part. I don't believe that there is any such thing as a good "mob' is there? Lousy term, but wonderful idea, a paint-out. Personally I have never participated in one, but it sounds like something I'd want to try. Can we all think of a snazzy term, more friendly that flash mob but more exciting than paint-out?! I'll start: Paint-frenzy? :D

Diane Overmyer
I think it would be GREAT to have a nation wide call for plein air painting on a set date, perhaps something like September 11. Artists around the country could gather to paint together but also to as a way to commemorate all who died and sacrificed so much that day.

Also, I belong to Indiana Plein Air Painters Association. We have plein air paint outs...very similar to what you are saying...only less spontanious. I really like the idea of just picking a date and place and meeting with whoever can make it to paint together!

Lastly, Jack, I am really sorry to hear about your friends! Believe us, go look at some of the videos on line and you will see that is not at all what Moshe is refering to. And plein air painting is a great way to sell art and build new relationships also!

Brady Allen
We should call it a flash out!

I actually understand both sides on what a flash mob is. Unfortunately, both sides are correct.

There are fun flash mobs and not so fun ones. Not all flash mobs are the singing and dancing kind.

Go to YouTube and search for flash mob violence, or stealing, or robbery, and you will see people using the idea of flash mobs to shoplift, or assault people en masse.

Marsha Hamby Savage
Diane, there is the World Wide Paint Out which is promoted by the International Plein Air Painters and it will happen on Sept. 9, 10 and 11.

And, I agree with not really liking the term "flash mob" ... and it does just sound like a paint out on the spur of the moment. But not such a bad idea to put out a message saying where you would be painting and join in if possible by those receiving the message.

Diane Overmyer
Wow, I hadn't heard about, so I will definitely check it out!! Thanks for passing the info along!


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