Here's Why It's Great to Join a Creative Collective

Talking to SUGAR CITY and Wham City Comedy about producing at rapid speeds and creating both viral and secret content right in our backyards.

by Lorelei Ramirez
Nov 13 2015, 7:55pm

Sugar City. Courtesy of the Collective

Art collectives have been around for a long period of time, informing and shaping cultural movements and incubating some of the most influential artists of their times (think: The Kitchen and MoMa PS1 before institutionalization). Here are two art collectives that are producing at rapid speeds and creating both viral and secret content and are right in your backyard.

SUGAR CITY of Buffalo, NY

SUGAR CITY is an art collective out of Buffalo, New York. It's a primary location for the Buffalo alternative scene, providing homes for “those who can not obtain spaces from traditional sources.” “For me it comes down to the idea of being as inclusive and open as possible,” says Pat Kewley, an artist, comedian and programmer at Sugar City. “Having my first art show there, the friendliness, supportiveness, sense of community, and creativity immediately clicked with me”.


Live show at Sugar City. Courtesy of the collective

Founded back in 2008 “with open-mic-style art and music shows in their attic,” they feature artists that often feel left out of their local scenes. Hosting shows all over Buffalo—including a city-approved all night arts festival in the subway system—they soon found a permanent residence.

Having previously been a series of bars, restaurants, and at one point Buffalo's go-to gay bar, their new home resonates with this collective’s personal history. “I really like being in a spot with so much history, and it ended up becoming this haven for so many different kinds of marginalized people," Kewley explains. "After doing this for so long, it’s finally beginning to feel like we’re part of the fabric of the city.” 

Sugar City has been financially self sustaining over the last 7 years and completely volunteer based and will soon expand to include artist residencies and studios.

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Spread from “The History of Sugar City” packet. Courtesy of Sugar City

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WHAM CITY COMEDY. Photograph by Mike Morgan

WHAM CITY COMEDY of Baltimore, Maryland

You may be familiar with Unedited Footage of a Bear, the mind-altering Adult Swim video that went viral and continues to garner attention. Behind this are the collective minds of Wham City Comedy, hailing from Baltimore, Maryland: Robby Rackleff, Alan Resnick and Ben O'Brien. It's a sub-collective of Wham City which started in 2004 and showcased the likes of Dan Deacon, Ed Schrader, Jimmy Joe Roche, and a number of others. “We all come from a video art and performance background and we all work on combining the two into larger character studies or mythologies. We're very grounded in themes: technology, spiritualism, politics, history,’’ explains Rackleff.

With no real art “home” of their own, these three travel and produce content, wrangling in artists and comedians in tours and shows. “Baltimore is our home, but we are always quick to take chances and change our perspective," explains Rackleff. "Some of our best experiences come from temporary relocations. Different audiences offer different challenges and opportunities. But Baltimore has a special energy.” 

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Photo by Clarissa Villondo

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”We think of ourselves more as artists than comedians, though we exist more in the world of comedy, performing in showcases, rock clubs, and festivals as opposed to solely in galleries,” says Ben O' Brien. Living proof that collectives house some of the best opportunities for collaboration and mixtures of genre’s, Wham City Comedy exemplifies the importance of a collective.

“​It would've been impossible for me to do by myself what we've been able to do as a collective. I get to work with two geniuses and pretend I'm a genius, too—it's fucking awesome.”

Click here to learn more about SUGAR CITY, and here to learn more about Wham City Comedy. 


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Performance Art
video art
alan resnick
ben obrien
Pat Kewley
Robby Rackleff