For Artists, Craigslist Is Both Medium And Message Los Angeles-based collaborators went to the online bulletin board for inspiration — then took to the streets to ask Angelenos what Craigslist has done for them.
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For Artists, Craigslist Is Both Medium And Message

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For Artists, Craigslist Is Both Medium And Message

For Artists, Craigslist Is Both Medium And Message

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

People go to Craigslist in search of all kinds of things - a futon, an apartment, concert tickets, a job, love. Millions around the world use the site. In Los Angeles, some of them are using Craigslist to create art.

As Skye Rohde reports, they're displaying their work along with an online tribute.

SKYE ROHDE: The splash page of ThanksCraig.net is simple - just one line of text.

BLOCK: Wanted: A human connection in an anonymous megalopolis.

ROHDE: Okay, so maybe Los Angeles isn't anonymous exactly, but it is big and diverse. And artist Kate Balug thinks Craigslist has become as much a part of life here as cars and smog and cell phones.

BLOCK: You know, typically people don't talk about Craigslist because it's just - it's almost like breathing, right? You just need something, you go online.

ROHDE: Balug says Craigslist brings Angelenos together in a virtual give-and-take, where wants and needs are met with a click of a mouse button. So Balug has joined together with two other artists to examine the way Craigslist uncovers the shared interests of people who on the surface have little more in common than geography.

BLOCK: Are you having trouble throwing away your old shoes? I want to give your shoes and the stories they carry with them a new home.

BLOCK: I got five people to tell me their stories and give me their shoes. And it was a wide variety, from transgender, artists or dancers, to a designer that was almost homeless who would stand on a corner and advertise his services, and was picked up by some high accounting executive, to a mom; they were her wedding shoes.

BLOCK: I thought it was nice to clear a space in my closet without the guilt of maybe throwing my wedding shoes directly into the garbage. It was nice to imagine them having another life after me that had an artistic bent to it.

ROHDE: On her wedding day, Marybeth O'Donovan had her shoes all set, but not her hair.

BLOCK: So I spent about an hour running around Fifth Avenue, trying to find a hairstylist that was open on a Sunday in June. And it was a bit of a mess.

ROHDE: Balug and two fellow artists, Melanie Wider and Chris Reynolds, initially set up ThanksCraig.net to highlight their work for galleries. Then they created big handmade posters, maybe two-by-three, that they've been pasting up around L.A. Each has one question - what has Craigslist done for you? - and a whole lot of blank space.

BLOCK: So we're at Echo Park and Morton Avenues in Echo Park. And we're in front of an electrical box at a stop sign intersection. So Melanie's our glue person...

ROHDE: The three of them work quickly as buses and cars pass by. They slap up homemade paste on the electrical box, then smooth the poster out over the metal. It's simple, really. There's blank space - the artists want people to fill it up. They want to see how L.A. residents react when given the opportunity to say anything. Sometimes the posters are torn down, and the ones that remain aren't always PG-rated, as Chris Reynolds and Melanie Wider found out one morning.

BLOCK: Thanks for the (bleep) jobs and the crazy roommate. Thanks for the high-quality, ridiculous, cheap (bleep).

BLOCK: It's also very interesting to see that no one's actually signed their name, and I find that to be, you know, that's like...

BLOCK: It's just like Craigslist.

BLOCK: It's just like Craigslist.

ROHDE: Craig Newmark, the Craig, appreciates how the artists are using his site to bring people together.

BLOCK: We need a lot more of that in our culture, because we've grown apart from each other as people.

ROHDE: So can Craigslist be that center that so many people say L.A. lacks? It just might get people thinking about what the word community means to them. And that, the artists say, is the crucial first step.

For NPR News, I'm Skye Rohde.

NORRIS: And you can see a video of Kate Balug's shoe project and more art made with the help of Craigslist at our Web site, npr.org.

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