This week an original, 23-story work of art replaced the Sprint billboard in Times Square. The piece, according to The New York Times, was made by a substitute teacher from Allentown, PA who won a contest on ArtistsWanted.org. The site has not set out to become a charity for artists, but rather a business, and plans to make a profit off of connecting artistic talent to an audience. Investors are already pouring in large sums of money to the web site and others like it, which claim to democratize culture by creating a market for those who think their work is worthy of being displayed.
However, the ever-increasing spread of technology has sprung the question of what makes someone an artist if anyone with an iPhone can be a photographer or designer. Mukti Khaire, associate professor at Harvard Business School, told the Times that, “The fact that the Web creates opportunities for discovery and showing that nothing else could on that scale — I think it does change who gets to be an artist. It may not change the definition, but it widens the funnel.”
Artists Wanted was started four years ago by founders William Etundi Jr. and Jason Goodman, founder of Third Ward, Brooklyn-based art and design collective. The two hosted artist events and competitions, and eventually raised $1.5 million from investors to launch the site. The company now has 14 employees, and plans to host four competitions a year where the site’s community chooses the artwork they deem best. The business model is a mixture of free and paid services. users can post their work for free, but must pay for more extensive access to the site. In January the site had 41,000 visitors and by April had accumulated 208,000, and already boasts a revenue of $1.3 million.