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Collective Provides Artwork By Subscription

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Elizabeth Graeber, an artist with Project Dispatch, creates illustrations for publications all over the D.C. area.
Emily Friedman
Elizabeth Graeber, an artist with Project Dispatch, creates illustrations for publications all over the D.C. area.

Brian Dillon is finishing his Ph.D. in linguistics and Jorge Guzman works for the federal government. They're art collectors, though they would never call themselves that.

"I'm not an art person...I'm not like very familiar with the art scene," Dillon says.

A friend of theirs had a subscription to Project Dispatch -- a program created by two graduates of the Corcoran College of Art and Design -- and the guys thought it was an interesting concept.

"We didn't really think about, our subscription is going to be supporting these local artists...kinda just liked it and said 'let's do this!'" Guzman says.

They've been liking most of the stuff they get.

"There was one that we weren't very thrilled about. Maybe this wasn't one we liked, but maybe the next one we will," Guzman says.

April is the final month of their subscription, so by now they know the drill.

"It's always a little nerve-wracking because you're kind of anxious to rip it open but you don't want to damage the art," Dillon says.

Although they don't know it yet, the artwork Dillon and Guzman will receive in April is from an illustrator named Elizabeth Graeber.

In her studio/living room in Glover Park, she draws two birds –- one for Dillon and one for Guzman.

"I have my paper and my book of North American birds, to draw from. I'm just happy to be drawing, and that people like it so they want to buy it," Graeber says.

After drawing, Graeber packages up the drawings and ships them off. Though Dillon and Guzman live just across town, Project Dispatch has subscribers all over the country. Twenty to 30 subscriptions go out each month, and that's helping artists like Graeber make a name for themselves.

"I think what they're doing is the next big thing. It solves a very real problem in the lives of artists, which is how to get your work out there...and this is kind of the ground floor of that," says Andy Grundberg, former art critic for The New York Times.

Grundberg is now dean of undergraduate studies at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. One question remains, however: Is it a sensible investment?

"I'm saying it's an investment in the future of contemporary art, not necessarily an investment in your own bank account," he says.

That $50 piece might be worth more one day, Grundberg says, but it's not likely.

"All contemporary art collectors put their money on some people, with the expectation that with the right support and the right nurturing their work is gonna get better, get a wider audience and become more valuable. What you're doing is supporting artists who may pan out to be the great artists of the next generation," he says.

So Project Dispatch is about the art, but it's just as much about the experience: tearing open a package and seeing what's inside. Guzman and Dillon are excited by the newest arrival.

"There are matching bird prints! That's really phenomenal," Dillon says.

And just like that, these non-art collectors add another two pieces to their collection.

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