FailUp Feature: Local Startup Plays with Art

Two weeks ago FailUp, a virtual platform that connects local entrepreneurs, held an idea contest for the most popular idea on their website. The winner was a freshly-minted startup called TelephoneNOLA.

TelephoneNOLATelephoneNOLA is “inspired by the childhood game of Telephone” according to their FailUp profile, with a vision to become “an interdisciplinary art exchange network connecting local artists and communities with a focus towards place, community, and history of New Orleans.”

The startup was created in the Fall of 2015 by a group of local artists and Tulane University students, including Braham Berg, Matthew Raybon, Kate McCurdy, Kendale Mundy, James Newton, Tyler Gindraux. The team has quickly expanded both in number and diversity to include almost 20 student artists from various academic and artistic fields, as well as an advisory board made up of several local professionals, entrepreneurs, and established artists.

TelephoneNOLA began as a local model of the international art cooperative Telephone, run by Satellite Collective. The children’s game that both organizations are mimicking is simple in nature: “One person comes up with a message and whispers it to another person. That person whispers to the next person,” according to Telephone’s website. “As the whispered message travels through the sequence of players, the message changes, it evolves, it surprises.”

Telephone and TelephoneNOLA play this game with art; the “message” is passed from one artist to the next in the form of a painting, a sculpture, a song, and the next artist creates a poem, a film, a sketch, that moves on to its next creator.

Despite sharing a common initial inspiration, TelephoneNOLA departs from Telephone in both its audience and its approach.

“The Satellite Collective version is mostly online,” says Mathew Raybon, a Tulane University senior and Head of Engagement for TelephoneNOLA. “We want to create more of a physical presence […] and make it an opportunity for more in-person conversations that breed relationships and friendships.”

Team member Carla Scemama adds that “coming from a worldwide “tree” of Telephone, TelephoneNOLA is a specific branch revolving solely around New Orleans. It’s a special opportunity to link the arts in such a distinctive city.”

The TelephoneNOLA team is currently making plans for pop-up art exhibits, architectural walking tours, and interactive art installations. The team is reaching out to potential artists, galleries, and museums who may be interested in working with them.