Whether you embrace design contests or shun them as spec work in disguise, take a look at Talenthouse. The online mecca of creative opportunities helps companies collaborate with up and comers in the areas of art and design, photography, film, fashion, music and dance. Billed as "a place to participate in unique projects with artists and brands, collaborate, gain recognition and compensation," Talenthouse has partnered with companies ranging from Adidas and Nine West to the English National Ballet and the Stan Lee Foundation. Among the "life-changing opportunities" currently on offer: create artwork for Paul McCartney (yes, that Paul McCartney), design an animated logo for Brett Ratner's Rat Entertainment, and assist photographer Austin Hargrave on a celebrity shoot.
Desperate for a summer getaway? Escape instantly with Globe Genie, created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student Joseph G. McMichael. Through the magic of Google Maps and its cache of streetview photos, his site transports you to a random place in the world: a field of flowers outside of Strasbourg, stunning Capetown vistas, a driveway in Huntsville, Alabama. Narrow your virtual destination options by selecting a particular continent (we hear Antartica's nice this time of year) before clicking "Teleport." Travelers who bore easily can set the site to refresh automatically every few seconds. Bon voyage!
A picture's worth 1,000 words, but what if it's an awkward stock photo? Behold a blog devoted to these bizarre images, from an infant dressed in an eyeball costume to a blurry shot of a naked man and a chimp in an oceanside footrace (keyword: Survival of the Fittest?). Created by Chicago-based graphic designer Mark Hauge, Awkward Stock Photos is a bare-bones, ad-free Tumblr that offers up one wacky image a day, allowing visitors to supply their own punchlines. In culling the stock photo universe for suitably strange specimens, he keeps an eye out for the utterly useless. "These photos are so weird, and there's no point to them except for what they are. They could almost be seen as artwork," Hauge has said. "I could see some of them being in an art gallery. They just exist for themselves. It's sad and it's happy at the same time."
Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a digital LED billboard transformed into a larger-than-life glowing artwork! This is the work not of Superman but of the Billboard Art Project, a nonprofit that works to acquire digital billboards normally used for advertising and temporarily repurposes them as roadside galleries. Launched last fall in Richmond, Virginia, the organization has lined up a slate of upcoming shows in cities including Chicago, New Orleans and Duluth. The electronic canvases morph every six to 10 seconds, so the Project is always looking for new artists. (Instructions for applying are on the website.) "The Billboard Art Project takes art out of its normal confines and clusters and allows for the marvelous inadvertent discovery that wakes people from the mundane," says founder David Morrison. "While there are certainly limitations of what artists can put up on the billboard relative to public decency and the protection of corporate relationships, the possibilities for participants really are endless."
A Netflix-style service for art? That's the idea behind Artsicle, a New York-based startup that has jumped on the "art for everyone" bandwagon with a web-based service that allows collectors to select original artworks and try them at home for as little as $50. After 30 days, renters can choose to purchase the piece or return it for another. "We believe in supporting today’s artists today, as they grow their careers," say founders Alexis Tryon and Scott Carleton of their focus on emerging, local artists. The rental service is currently limited to New Yorkers (sales are available nationwide), but expansion is afoot as the Artisicle team refines the beta version of its site.
It's a question that creative types encounter frequently, and the answer? Well, it depends. New York-based designer and illustrator Jessica Hische helps you reach an informed decision with her handy online flowchart, "Should I Work for Free?" Using only css and html (for speedy loading and Google-powered translation into 52 languages), she assists site visitors in analyzing their particular situation, whether the potential payment-free project is for a legitimate business, a charity or non-profit, your friend, or your mom. (That last one is an automatic yes.) Start from the middle of the chart and work outwards by answering yes or no questions -- Will they give you creative freedom? Are you masochistic? -- until you reach a clear answer, delivered with a morsel of parting advice from Hische.