Critical Mass launches an artist-in-residence program with Shantell Martin

The program will provide support for artists vulnerable to exploitation in the ad industry.

Digital experience agency Critical Mass has partnered with visual artist Shantell Martin to launch an artist-in-residence program. 

The program, which aims to ensure artists are treated equitably in the ad industry, emerged from an organic conversation between Martin, who is a visual artist known for her large black and white paintings, and Critical Mass chief creative officer Val Carlson. 

Earlier this year, Martin visited the agency to join a discussion regarding the lack of support for artists and artist exploitation in advertising. Martin, who has collaborated with brands and artists including Adidas, Puma and Kendrick Lamar, suggested Critical Mass launch the program to lead the conversation in this space.

Critical Mass will support Martin exclusively and address artist-brand exploitation by evaluating equity in contract negotiations, intellectual property rights and developing standards for creative collaboration.

Critical Mass will also invest in monthly creative projects between Martin and brands centered around fine arts, design, philosophy and technology. After completing the program, Martin will work with Critical Mass to select the next artist-in-residence.

“One of the central themes that we're looking at is that [advertising] can do better,” Carlson said. “There are a lot of contracts and IP issues that pop up for independent artists that sometimes are not in the best interest of the artists themselves.” 

Critical Mass will also host an artist-in-residence (A.I.R) roundtable on November 4, where advertising leaders and artists can learn and talk through issues with current business relationships.

The conversation will serve as a jumping-off point for new standards and initiatives.

We want to bring positivity, transparency and kindness to elevate the future of artist collaborations,” Martin said in an email. “Agencies and institutions have immense power for positive change if they genuinely put good intent and practices behind the projects they create and the way they work with artists.” 


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