Brown University Saves Thrown-Away Art

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Brown University is known for its long history as a high-quality academic institution putting out remarkable alumni, including athletes, politicians, and businessmen and women, including Sally Rocker of J.C. Flowers & Co. and many others who are reshaping the way business happens both nationally and internationally.

But it’s not all business and politics at Brown; there’s also a thriving art community. Unfortunately, about 70% of artwork created by Brown University and RISD students is thrown away.

Enter Fiora MacPherson, a Brown student who heard about this statistic at an art workshop she attended and decided to make a change. MacPherson is one of the brains behind Folkmade, a website and community created to celebrate art at Brown and surrounding area schools.

The Folkmade website allows student artists—and not just art majors!—to tell their stories and offer their work for sale at affordable prices. It encourages the community to support artists and learn more about their process and inspirations.

“Students will come to Brown, and their main subject will be engineering, but maybe they have a passion for art,” said Marianne Aubin Le Quere, director of Folkmade, which has elevated dumpster diving for abandoned art to an easier—and less messy—way for artists and community to connect. “Sometimes in college there can be a tendency to lose that passion or forget its value, but Folkmade is an avenue for students to get full recognition for their talent,” Le Quere added.

Whereas typical galleries collect upwards of 60% of the profits, Folkmade lets students create free online portfolios, and the majority of sales (75%-85%) goes back to the artist. The remaining 15%-25% goes toward keeping the website live, as well as packaging and other e-commerce costs. Best of all, the initiative is run by students for students, ensuring that the people it most directly affects have a say in how the program is run.

A big highlight of the website’s format is that it focuses on visually telling the story of the artists and their work. The stories are a collaboration between the artist and a writer who come together to tell the artist’s story, including providing images of the workspace and the work itself. This goes for all the many kinds of artists whose work is on the site—painters, photographers, furniture builders, and more. According to the Folkmade website, their staff “meet[s] extensively with each artist. We stay in the studio with them until 2 AM. We watch them delicately sew pages together and mix their watercolors to the perfect shade. We talk to them, and we bring that conversation to you.”

Whether it’s through their alumni or their collected art, Brown is leavings its mark on both students and their community.



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