We usually start a long-term project with a specific goal or set of expectations in mind.
Rarely does the project turn out the way we thought it would. More often than not, it’s better than we had imagined.
But before we can get to the point of admitting that the change might have actually led to an improvement in the original plan, we have to struggle.
We question our assumptions.
It becomes clear that we need to ask for more help or more money. In essence, we recognize we can’t continue working in the same fashion as before. We are forced to adjust to outside forces, like a worldwide pandemic.
About a year and a half ago I had Eve Jacobs-Carnahan on the podcast to talk about her project, Knit Democracy Together (ep. 64), which was developed to discuss the U.S. electoral system within the context of knitting circles. Yes, I said knitting circles. And, yes, this was before the 2020 election.
Together, the craft artists would knit blocks that would contribute to a state capitol building sculpture while they learned about the electoral system that runs our country.
I asked Eve to come back on The Art Biz for an update—to look at how such a long-term project evolves. After all, the fragile ground beneath our electoral system has been convulsing. Surely some things have changed since Eve started her project.
And, yes, things have changed. Eve, through her project, has responded to this surreal moment in our country.
It’s difficult to talk about a project in the middle. It’s no longer fresh. The passion might be waning as things evolve. You realize that what you were once sure of is now more malleable than you had planned on. You’re facing options that you didn’t think you had in the beginning or roadblocks you couldn’t have imagined.
So it’s especially instructive to interview people at various stages of their projects.
I was most interested in talking with Eve at this point about judging the effectiveness of her project because it was created to make a social impact. Is it making a social impact? As you’ll hear, a fellowship Eve received is helping her with this process.
Eve outlines the 5 indicators she is using to measure effectiveness. Even if you don’t have a project focused on making a social impact, these indicators will be useful for appraising the successful reach of your exhibition, event, program, or teaching.
- “It all took on a new significance.” Eve’s project changed after the 2020 election. (4:27)
- The reasons behind improvements in the knitting circle. (8:11)
- The mindset shift that created positive changes to the project format. (10:02)
- Eve’s preparation helped secure her fellowship. (11:41)
- Collaboration changes and letting go of tight control over the project. (13:28)
- The topics that the project covers now are not the same as the initial intended ones. (19:25)
- 5 indicators to measure effectiveness in any project. (24:44)
- Applying these tools to measure other areas of success. (31:40)
- A look at what’s coming next for Eve. (36:40)
- The evolution of Eve’s expanded exhibition. (39:11)
- The Art Biz ep. 64: Knit Democracy Together (first interview with Eve)
- Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering book
- National Arts Strategies Creative Community Fellows
- New England Foundation for the Arts Public Art Grants
- LBJ speech introducing Voting Rights Act in 1965
Eve Jacobs-Carnahan Quotes
- “I have definitely let go of some control, and that’s been good.”
- “I realized that I wasn’t going to be as effective by myself.”
- “I’m talking about what people can do to help strengthen the system so we don’t have chaos, all while knitting.”
- “Change can happen step by step, stitch by stitch and with many people working together.”
- “Artists who want to do social impact work definitely can be using these tools.”
- “Think about the people you know, think about your relationships with them, and be willing to ask for help.”
About My Guest
Eve Jacobs-Carnahan makes mixed media knitted sculpture exploring democracy. She uses the comforting quality of yarn and the charming attraction of birds to tell allegorical stories.
Eve’s work appears in Astounding Knits! 101 Spectacular Knitted Creations and Daring Feats by Lela Nargi and garnered First Place in National Fiber Directions 2015 at the Wichita Center for the Arts. She was named a Creative Community Fellow: New England by National Arts Strategies in 2021.
Eve knit away stress while earning a B.A. in History with Honors from Swarthmore College and a J.D. from the University of Chicago. She lives in Vermont.
Follow Eve on Instagram: ejcarnahan