who we are

Virtual Artists Collective began in 2004 as the idea of a composer (Clarice Assad) passionate about connecting audiences with music of quality. It grew in a collaboration between Clarice and a poet (Steven Schroeder) in which a poem turned into a song.

We began to think about how we could make such miracles happen more often, and this led us to the idea of a virtual collective — virtual because we are widely separated geographically, though the internet makes it possible for us to be in touch at the speed of light. Why not use that, we thought, to facilitate the miraculous things that can happen when people connect around the arts we love?

This takes us back to some of the things the internet did best in its earliest days, before it became a commercial venture — increasing access, exchanging ideas, bypassing the Market. And it reconnects us with the much older tradition of guilds through which artists and craftspersons provided mutual support and made themselves visible to communities that appreciated and supported art.

We hope, too, that it revives and transforms a tradition of patronage that makes it possible for artists to devote attention to art. Patronage has been associated with wealth and, sometimes, elitism — as well as consumption. But we envision a patronage that is more widely distributed, in which small is beautiful, local connections are facilitated, and communities are cultivated through celebration and mutual support.

We do put our hope and our hearts in community. Twenty-first century technology that threatens communities can also be instrumental in weaving them together. We trust you’ll join us in this hope and explore the site for new possibilities.

Our focus for the first ten years was on publishing poetry through the vacpoetry series. This resulted in 55 volumes, including collections that brought together poets from southwestern China with poets from the southwestern United States and Chicago, translation projects that resulted in bilingual collections by poets from Lithuania and China, co-publishing projects with the Association of Stories in Macao that resulted in bilingual collections of classical Chinese poetry, and collections by authors from around the world. All of these volumes were selected by a diverse editorial committee operating by consensus and printed using digital technology that makes the books accessible worldwide. [More on the collective and the process of creating these books here…]

Since January 2011, Timberline Press (founded by Clarence Wolfshohl in 1975) has been our fine press imprint. Timberline publishes hand bound letterpress chapbooks — usually poetry — usually 20-30 pages, in limited editions of 50-100 printed by forgetgutenberg in Boston. These books (and some from the “old” Timberline) can be ordered online as long as copies are available. Forthcoming chapbooks are also available for preorder. [More on Timberline here and at forgetgutenberg…]

Over the years, we have also brought poets, visual artists, and musicians together for a variety of live and online collaborations. Some have been gathered under the “spherical tabby” umbrella and are available online. Others were one of a kind events that took place in Chicago, in Shenzhen, in Macao, between Chicago and China, between Chicago and Vilnius, and elsewhere. [More on spherical tabby here.]

Our latest venture is an online journal called All Roads Will Lead You Home. This journal grows out of a collaboration among three poets (Alan Berecka, Ken Hada, and Steven Schroeder) that started in 2012. We see the journal as a way to broaden our circle and reaffirm the commitment to community and collaboration with which we began as a collective that includes musicians, poets, and visual artists. We see it as a space for poetry, music, and visual art as well as reflection on and conversation about the artistic process in and among all three. Watch for more on the journal here. For submission guidelines, visit our submittable site.

We released the first book in our invitation only purple flag series in September 2014. More to come.